2014 NFL Rookies Shine in the First Quarter of the Season

Who knew I would be writing this article at the quarter pole and not have any game tape about Johnny Manziel? That is pretty nuts. That being said, so many other rookies have performed well above expectations, and I am excited to see how 2014 closes out.

Teddy Bridgewater

The Vikings are a hot mess this year, thanks to Adrian Peterson’s legal troubles, and injuries to top offensive guys and defense too. In his game and a half of play, Teddy has been stellar, with a 92.7 QB rating, 467 yards and 1 TD. He has yet to throw an interception either, which usually plague rookie QBs. His ankle injury may be of some concern, but he has earned the value he is getting from collectors.

2014 Topps Teddy Bridgewater Photo Variation Auto SP

2014 Elite Teddy Bridgewater On Card Auto RC

2014 Topps Prime Teddy Bridgewater Triple Jumbo Patch Auto Booklet

Allen Hurns

The Jaguars really found a diamond in the rough with Hurns, who is currently sitting at 12 receptions, 254 yards and 3 TDs. On a horrible team with Chad Henne as your QB during the first 3 games, that is pretty impressive. It shouldnt be surprising that Kelvin Benjamin, a first rounder, is leading the rookies in many categories, but it is shocking that number two is Hurns. Collectors have been trying to find the minimal amount of cards that are available for him, and as a result, the value has been through the roof for someone who wasnt drafted.

2014 Bowman Allen Hurns RC Orange Refractor /299

2014 SAGE Hit Allen Hurns Rookie Auto

2014 Bowman Allen Hurns Mini SP

Kelvin Benjamin

Although the Panthers are struggling, he is having quite the start to the season. Newton has been hurt, and that has put the team in a hole, but KB is still doing well. Tied with Hurns for the rookie lead in TDs, his 329 yards leads all rookie receivers. Only Brandin Cooks has more receptions at 23, but he has far fewer yards. Benjamin has shown to be quite the red zone threat, which is a drastic need for the Panthers with no other good receivers on the roster.

2014 Topps Prime Kelvin Benjamin Quad Patch Auto

2014 Topps Finest Kelvin Benjamin Rookie Patch Auto

Blake Bortles

Similar to Hurns, Bortles has jumped from the frying pan and into the fire. The Jaguars are terrible for the umpteenth year in a row, and that hasnt stopped him from playing well above expectations. He has 3 TDs and 476 yards in a game and a half of work, and like Bridgewater, has made the most of what he has been given. He does have 4 picks, but that might be more of a measure of the situations he is in and the quality of his receivers than anything. Collectors are on board regardless, and his future looks bright despite playing for a team in the black hole of hobby value.

2014 Topps Inception Blake Bortles Silver Signatures Auto

2014 Flair Showcase Blake Bortles Auto Patch RC

2014 Topps Prime Blake Bortles Auto Quad Patch

Derek Carr

The only Rookie QB to start from the beginning, Carr has struggled on another terrible team. His QB rating may only be 75.2, but he has put his team in a position to win a few times. Because he has more stats on paper, he is easier to judge, but he will be out for the next few weeks with knee and ankle sprains likely. Collectors have cooled a bit on his cards, but they are still above expectations overall.

2014 Topps Finest Derek Carr Blue Refractor Auto Patch /99

2014 Panini VIP Party Derek Card Prism Refractor Auto

Terrance West

I dont think anyone thought that West would be the rookie we are talking about at this point in the season. He has put up some solid numbers as part of the Browns RB by committee, including 2 TDs. Now that Ben Tate is likely to return, his role could be diminished, but he is worth a shot with the cheap prices out there.

2014 Topps Finest Terrance West Auto Patch Refractor RC

Sammy Watkins

I think Watkins was one of the prospects I have been most excited to watch over the season, as he is prone to making exciting plays look easy. He has 200 yards and 2 TDs, which is a bit below where I think we were expecting, but his upside remains tremendous. That is where collectors are continuing to latch on, as its clear that Sammy has the talent to be great in this league.

2014 Topps Finest Sammy Watkins XFractor Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Panini Certified Sammy Watkins Auto Patch RC

Johnny Manziel

Okay, I cant resist talking about Manziel a little bit, even if he has barely played. I think that he is still the most valuable RC in the class, but his prices have come down a bit. Hoyer is still the top QB on the roster until he isnt, and that might be longer than anyone expected. Manziel will play, dont get me wrong, but I think his impact will be decreased as the season rolls on without him as the starter.

2014 Topps Inception Johnny Manziel Auto Inscription /10

2014 Topps Finest Johnny Manziel Auto Red Refractor

It is crazy how time flies, and I am actually sad that 25% of the NFL season is already over. When all is said and done, one of these guys will be ROY, and its still not clear who that might be. Going to be a lot of fun to see how this shakes out.

Will Redemption Issues Kill Topps Prime?

I am a fan of the design of Topps Prime this year, as I think it is one of the better looking versions of the set that I have seen in a long time. In its run, the cards have all taken relatively the same formula, and Im glad that they are switching it up a bit this year. It looks really good. The issue that is really clear is that Topps Prime should have never been released with THIS many redemptions. There are an absolute ton.

Like mentioned above, there are a lot of really cool cards that may be overlooked due to this problem:

2014 Topps Prime Jadeveon Clowney Auto Booklet Six Piece /10

2014 Topps Prime Brett Favre Auto SSP

2014 Topps Prime Kelvin Benjamin Quad Patch Auto

2014 Topps Prime Giovani Bernard Quad Patch Auto

2014 Topps Prime Jimmy Garropolo Five Piece Booklet Auto Patch

Its worth mentioning that Topps has had relatively no issues with redemptions so far this year, which is a big win in itself. There have been scattered players with cards unsigned in other products, but now that the stickers signed at the Rookie Premiere and the Draft are running out, its beginning to look a bit bleak. More than 10 players are redemptions for Prime.

There is no doubt that Topps is NOT the only one to blame here, as there is no doubt that the players have culpability just like they always do. They have a responsibility through their contracts and the PA to get their shit signed on time. That being said, I doubt Johnny Manziel gives a crap about signing cards at this point, especially when Panini has made it very worth his while to sign more with a focus on their stuff.  Contract or no contract.

My biggest gripe with this whole situation is that there are a lot of reasons to push back the product to wait for some of the stickers to come back, as that would give more completeness to the set. I opened about 4 boxes and ended up with six, you heard that right, SIX redemptions. That should never happen.

Now, Topps has historically had issues with customer service, and if this continues to be as big a problem, its likely those challenges will get worse. Even though they are exiting football (for lack of a better explanation) in 2016, they still need to make money NOW. That doesnt change. That means they have a reason to perform well, and this is not anywhere close to that standard.

So far here is a list of players who have redemptions in Prime:

  • Johnny Manziel
  • Paul Richardson
  • Michael Sam
  • Odell Beckham
  • Le’Veon Bell
  • Carlos Hyde
  • Dri Archer
  • Derek Carr
  • David Fales
  • Logan Thomas
  • Josh Huff
  • Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
  • Jarvis Landry
  • Donte Moncreif
  • Tre Mason
  • Khalil Mack
  • Julio Jones
  • Marqise Lee
  • Marshawn Lynch
  • Earl Thomas

Although some of these players also have live content, but there are a ton of the redemptions floating around because of how many autos these players are scheduled to sign. Lets just hope this is not an issue that continues because it is going to be a VERY long year for Topps if that is the case. It will also wipe out a lot of the great work they are doing in producing some really awesome looking cards.

 

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Topps Prime Football

When you consider that Prime has only been around for a few years and hasnt really changed much, its nice to see that they still look for ways to make it fresh each year. Although I wasnt a huge fan of the readily available parts of the set last year, it wasnt even close to a poor showing. Prime has always been about the many booklets that this product is based around, and this year the rest looks good too.

Here are some of the first cards already up:

2014 Topps Prime Teddy Bridgewater Quad Relic Auto

2014 Topps Prime Julio Jones Auto Quad Relic

My favorite cards that I have seen so far are quad patch autos, which I thought were the weakest part of the set last year. Taking a page from Supreme and spreading out the swatches in a hashtag configuration is a great look, and it gives the box hit a much better feel overall.

The base and base autos are nice too, even though the design really isnt the focus. This is a set build around the photography, and I think the full bleed presentation is really a nice way to go.

As for the booklets, I think the design is actually a downgrade over last year, but its still obvious that everyone is going to chase them like mad. Because they are numbered so low, its going to be very difficult to find them, especially if the product isnt opened very much.

The big drawback from what we can see so far is the prevalence of a lot of different redemptions, which I cannot stand for sticker autos. I get that the players hate signing the labels, but falling behind on these THIS early in the season is really unacceptable management of the situation. The NFLPA does have regulations on when the players can sign and when they are not going to be available, but there needs to be better planning with the agents to get them done.

In the past, Prime was a product where all the rookies had a high numbered rookie auto that made them more affordable than the RARE Finest and Platinum auto patches that use an SSP list for the big players. This made it a fun break for around a 100 bucks, because the chances were better to pull the big guys in the class. We will see if that remains the case like it was in 2012 with Luck and Griffin.

Topps Prime will never be the set that people remember at the end of the year, but that hasnt stopped it from looking good. That has always been what separates Topps from the competition, is that even their products that dont hold still look great.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Panini Immaculate Baseball

Let me start by saying that I think its a good idea to try to bring Immaculate to other sports, as it houses many of the best looking cards that Panini makes across all sports. Not even close. Despite the absolutely HORRID name for this product, the Basketball version has done very well as an Exquisite clone. In fact, when you look up Exquisite in the thesaurus, Immaculate is one of the first synonyms. Not surprising.

Check out some of the big hits already up:

2014 Panini Immaculate Mike Trout Auto Bat Relic

2014 Panini Immaculate Ken Griffey Jr Auto Patch

2014 Panini Immaculate Clayton Kershaw Auto Patch

2014 Panini Immaculate Miguel Cabrera Auto Relic

2014 Panini Immaculate Masahiro Tanaka Jumbo Patch

2014 Panini Immaculate Jose Abreu Auto Patch

With Baseball, im not as interested, as I dont think that even the 50% drop in price is a good enough incentive to try your hand at some of these boxes. Just too many dud cards on the checklist. All that being in place, the cards do look good, but arent as good looking as some of the products that Topps is able to produce with logos in place. Because the checklist of players isnt THAT different, I would almost rather just buy those.

Now, if you are a Panini lover, I can understand why you would be all over these boxes. Secondly, why are you reading this blog? Haha, kidding. I think there is merit to these cards as a stand alone product, and as far as the baseball stuff goes, its the best that Panini has made in a long time – logos or no logos.

I also like some of the interesting relics that Panini has chosen to use, cleats, gloves, etc, which makes for a fun chase. There are a lot of stickers, which is disappointing, on the other hand, and these trapped autos look awful.

The reason some of these cards are valuable is because of the brand recognition that they are getting from Basketball, as I dont think they would be as costly without that. As we saw with a lot of the other transfers to baseball, I would guess the price is going to drop much like Treasures did a few years ago.

When this eventually comes to football, Im going to love seeing what they do with it. They have done some really nice work in Basketball, and with a full logo and HOF capabilities, its going to be a winner. This, im not seeing long term success. New will mean hot, but the cards have RARELY held.

Time will tell.

Asleep at the Wheel: The Life and Times of a Bored Collector

Im going to ask a pretty simple question, and I seriously want you to consider how you answer to yourself.

Are you bored with cards?

All things considered, its very easy to answer with a quick thought, but the actual answer you may eventually arrive at could be different. For a long time, things have been awfully repetitive when you consider how the configurations of products and release points over the last few years.

I can lay out the content for a bunch of different sets, and other than the design and the checklist, everything is pretty much repeated ad nauseum through the whole year. I have quickly come to realize that many of my favorite products are only my favorite products because they bank on a consistent format and concept. That security blanket of brand loyalty is something that can drive sales in a lot of ways. I would even go so far as saying that collectors dont like change, and when it is presented, they discard it. However, we are still plagued by a hole of repetitive mediocrity that cant be satisfied without these types of changes.

When you start to really dive deep into what makes up a product, its usually functions around some very specific tried and true methods.

  • Base set
  • Autograph no relic
  • Autograph relic
  • relics

These four elements are about all cards has to build on right now, and as you can see its not much. There are some nice variations on a theme, but even those are far from THAT different:

2012 Topps Strata Russell Wilson Shadowbox Auto Relic

2013 Panini Immaculate Sneak Peak Shaquille Oneal 1/1 Logo

2013 Topps Five Star Emmitt Smith Auto Inscription

Some creativity happens in small bursts, but nothing overwhelming. Things like production in over-sized formats, inscriptions and exceptional relic content only go so far before people start to get bored. Other examples, like the Sneaker shoe relics from Panini, are definitely interesting. Yet, at what point do we start the tired refrain of more and more relics from different elements of the four sports? At some defined future date, the normal configuration is one that will not be sustainable.

One could argue that it is already unsustainable, with many products hitting closeout before the first month of release is even over. Sure, checklist quality also has something to do with it, but eventually it comes down to one product looking like all the others.

When Panini takes over the NFL exclusive in 2016, they will likely be forced to build a slew of products to satisfy the agreement that they have made with the NFL to produce cards. Although many products already exist for all the companies that currently make NFL cards, there are two staffs, with two different visions, that produce different content. Though the same format regularly persists, the cards do look different. With only one company at the helm, this pool that already has a lack of diversification of product lines, becomes even less diversified.

I posted yesterday about Flawless, and how it is completely bonkers to me that a product that costs that much money can offer so little in terms of special content. Sure the patches are nicer and the autographs are hard signed, but it offers absolutely nothing that isnt offered in at least 5 other sets released during the year. I want to say that collectors will demand something in the realm of creativity, but I would guess that more and more people will just stop buying new stuff. Instead, they will return to buying the cards of their youth, where it was simple and just as boring. The difference in the vintage is the common sense of Nostalgia, which is a powerful force to be reckoned with. So powerful that the companies often try to capitalize.

The worst part about this situation is that the design is really the only thing that changes along with the players on the front of the card. Whenever someone takes a risk, its likely too late, and is rarely accepted by the collecting base. I would hope that eventually we do find whatever the next big thing really is, but I dont know if that even exists.

Maybe at some point, technology advances will make alternate printing methods cheap enough that new types of cards can be built. The advent of 3D printing on an open sourced inexpensive method could lead to cheaper mass production, but that is probably at least a decade away.

The go to method for creating value in a product is pretty simple, as the companies have consistently chosen contrived scarcity, or making cards rare on purpose, to drive the secondary market for their card. Because every important current player signs a ton of autographs, the signature card itself has become commonplace. Unique autograph content such as inscriptions remain valuable, but that will change with market saturation. Rather than try new things, the companies opt to make their nice stuff more rare, so that the demand will exceed supply. Sometimes even that is a lost cause.

Im not feigning any sense of enlightenment on a fix here, im just musing on the state of things. I am both scared and disgusted that there are so few people willing to try to break from the old ways, while being worried that it will lead to the destruction of the industry. It should be reinforced that the destruction of the industry in no way means the death of the hobby, but it will lead to smaller contingencies of active collectors.

I will also say that cheaper and fewer products are not the answer either. Its not in the best interest of anyone to try to reclaim the simplicity of the 80s and 90s. This isnt a situation where that will work. It may make some people happy, but those people dont usually represent the segment of the market that will lead to more money to fund a company.

In the end this may be heading the wrong direction in a permanent state. Because Panini is the only company that is stable enough to take MASSIVE risks without losing their ass, there may never be progress. Panini is like the Grilled Cheese of innovation. Sure, it tastes good and its been the same for ages, but its never going win you a five star review. Panini has basically built their calendar around the same product packaged 15 different ways, and that isnt going to lend itself well towards building something dramatically different.

Topps isnt much better, but they also dont have the luxury to take as many risks. They might in football with a guaranteed departure after 2015, but financially they need make as much as they can as fast as possible. You cant do that by making products that arent the safest possible route.

In the grand scheme of things, this is not collectors’ battle to fight, but it is our battle to lose. We will lose. Its inevitable that we are not going to get the quality that is deserved, and that will lead to further boredom. Quality isnt just on card autos and nice looking cards, quality is innovation and creativity as well.

I have called for the next big thing to come for five years plus now. Nothing is shaping up to be that thing. 1996 and the creation of the jersey card may never happen again. If that is the case, there needs to be a shift. Im not sure what that will look like, but I dont think the future of the industry is putting together a state that will foster it, either.

I hope I am wrong.