2017 NFLPA Rookie Premiere Kicks Off the New Card Season

Here we go ladies and gentlemen, the true beginning of the 2017 football card year. Although I think there were a few bright spots last year, as a whole, I wouldnt give Panini above a D for rolling out worthwhile products across the entire year. Sets like Impeccable, NT, and Immaculate were exceptionally nice, but they are either exclusively broken by group breakers, or by the top 1% of the hobby. The average collector isnt going to break multiple boxes of ultra premium products, and that’s where Panini failed so miserably, I dont even have words to describe it.

Im hoping that 2017 will be a better use of the exclusive that Panini began last year, and the rookie premiere is the place where much of the beginning part of the year is funded. Last year, Panini failed to generate much buzz, using a cookie cutter rehash of Inception to drive on card content. Because Topps had already carved out the path with their product, an identical looking product wouldnt stray far in collector’s minds. That was one of the only new products that Panini did even remotely okay, and it wasnt even their idea. That is scary.

Origins is back again for this year, and much like last year, its featuring a direct copy of Topps’ previous cards, made cheaper by too early of a print deadline, which forced an ungodly amount of double zero jerseys. Origins WILL be one of the best looking things to come out of this weekend, as we see the retouched Elite mug shot cards are back for a second year. Instead of rolling with college action shots retouched or even straight, Panini’s team actually took the time to go through and edit these goofy photos normally used for player designation. Its crazy.

My largest complaint from last year was the over dependence on posed photographs used in SO MANY of Panini’s product lines during the year. As we saw Upper Deck and Topps close out their product licenses, both companies RARELY used this style of photography because A) Its fucking goofy looking B) the players arent fashion models and C) company owned action shots from the premiere look more dynamic. If I had my way, these would be eradicated from ALL products. Unfortunately, Panini uses the premiere to take players OFF the field more than on it, and that is just ass backwards. The premiere was originally designed to provide the licensees an opportunity to interact with the players and get on field photos for their goods, knowing that real game photos were both expensive to maintain/obtain, and unavailable until Q3.

Instead of dynamic photos of players doing their best to look like they are in a game, Panini sets up tents, takes players into stairwells, and uses a ton of time to get posed photos of attendees using cliche poses to use on cards. From my experience, the products that use these photos in a dominant fashion are rarely ever successful, and if I had my way, they would be gone forever. Football provides the ability to capture the most dynamic activity of arguably any sport, and for whatever goddamned reason, Panini thinks they know better. Aside from the inferior design across all products compared to competition, photo choice has been the cards’ worst flaw.

Right now, Im eager to see what happens with some added time across the calendar. This is year two, and year two better be better than year one. Its clear that there are enormous reasons why improvement has to be the name of the game this season. Garbage sets like Unparalleled, Phoenix, Infinity and Gala need to either be scrapped or completely and utterly retooled. Winners like Origins, Impeccable and Optic need to have some aspect of year over year improvement. So far, that prospect is slim based on track record.

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On Shelves Now: 2017 Panini Majestic Football

So, Im a bit surprised. Panini has decided that its important to release a super premium set prior to the rookie premiere, and include a contingent of veteran signers who have added to the allure. The problem is that all the rest of the rookie stuff is sticker, in NCAA uniforms and the price is so insane, I question how this becomes worthwhile to keep on the calendar.

Here are some of the cards that are already up:

2017 Panini Majestic Jerry Rice On Card Auto Gold

2017 Panini Majestic Marshawn Lynch Auto gold

2017 Panini Majestic Mitch Trubisky Auto Patch /25

2017 Panini Majestic Christian McCaffrey Auto Patch Logo

College branded products have become super saturated thanks to a highly questionable strategy of diluting product brands throughout the season, and it has been incredibly rare that high end and college have ever worked together in any remote fashion what so ever. Adding veteran NFL cards and signatures may help the product from completely tanking like every other set with NCAA branded cards, but this wont stand the test of time with such a weak checklist.

As a whole, the hard signed veteran cards are really nice. Really really nice. The problem is that when you see the rookie bullshit that cant hold the jock strap of the NFL cards, its a major problem. Adding to the issue is that more single color player worn swatches from the 2016 rookie class are also included, and boy are they terrible. Panini doesnt fucking understand that player worn non-autographed relic cards are worthless in just about every sense of the word, and yet, here we are again and again.

Seeing how poorly Panini managed their calendar last year, scrambling to resurrect products no one cared were gone, Im curious why they think a tired format and high end price tag will solve their challenges around building lasting product lines. If anything, this set is basically Panini Black with a new name, which was already a direct ripoff of UD black. This isnt new, it isnt interesting, and as a rule, Panini needs to pull their heads out of their ass and get to fucking work. They need better ideas, and rehashing the tired bullshit of past years is not the way to go.

On Shelves Now: 2017 Topps Bunt Physical

Let me be the first to say that I am shocked this product is back, all things considered. I understand the business reasons why it would be brought to the table again, as it is a cheap product to make, and one that doesnt require a huge autograph budget to make it work. That being said, the coordination between the physical and digital team was quite poor last year, and it really killed the buzz on the initial release. Some awesome contests and fun adjustments brought the magic back, but it didnt look good for the first few days.

Similarly, the physical product itself was quite ‘blah’ in 2016. Autographs fell one per three to four cases, and the redemption cards were ten times as difficult to pull as they should have been. That being said, there wasnt much to lose, as the price per box reflected how valuable a kid friendly product with a digital tie in COULD be if done the right way.

That being said, the cards that have shown up so far for the 2017 product are getting some nice looks:

2017 Topps Bunt Johnny Bench Vapor Redemption /99

2017 Topps Bunt Yadier Molina Universe Redemption /99

2017 Topps Bunt Rickey Henderson Splatter Redemption /99

Thankfully, I think we are getting closer to that with the Star Wars Card Trader physical product, and now with the Bunt product as well. This year looks to have brought more content, more redemptions and more autographs to the table, and as long as the loot cards contain some of the rare gems they did last year, I think 2017 will be infinitely better than 2016.

There is one main issue.

The loot cards in physical packs show that you can get 25 dollars in free coins, which I find to be relatively worthless to include in this product for existing Bunt users. Although the offer is attractive for new users, coins are easy to come by, especially with Batter Up now in the fold.

From what I understand, the code cards actually do not give any coins, but rightfully give access to a loot pack, similar to the format last year. This is the RIGHT call, but the curious misprint makes things weird. It might be the offer was meant to say “a chance at” or something like that, but giving loot packs is so much more important than anything else. If the goal is to get the digital users who dont buy physical cards to try ripping real packs, the loot cards need to deliver something worth chasing. Coins are not worth chasing in that way. They are helpful, but only if the other stuff is ALSO included.

As for the content, it looks like there are A LOT of cool looking cards to be had. Vapor, Splatter, and other Bunt sets from last year have been added to the product, and they look really cool. In fact, the signature cards in the physical packs look better than the signature series cards for Bunt this year, in my opinion. Its a great looking base set, and after checking out on this product early on, my mind might be changed all together.

There are also a few players that I have seen making their Bunt debut thanks to these cards, including a very important Yankee who I dont think has been in the app to date. I searched for Roger Maris on all cards, and didnt see any, so this might be the first card he has.

I do have a few suggestions for next year, and I would hope that they take a look if this does indeed make another run in 2018. First, there needs to be more crossover promotion. The physical world rarely ventures into Bunt territory, and for good reason. Many physical collectors hate that digital exists in their territory, and refuse to even check it out. “Why would I want photos of cards on my phone if I can have the real thing?” they say. Well, this is the opportunity to change the narrative a bit.

Additionally, its time to really make an investment in linking the cards to the app. Bring some super premium┬ácontent to this product, in a way that doesnt add any cost. So, im not saying you need Kris Bryant physical MLB logo patches, but why not offer some of that type of content on the digital side? How about some tickets for live signatures that might be scheduled in the future? Why not some coin cards to supplement the loot packs? Hell, this is the opportunities to bring signature series variants that are unavailable anywhere else to the fold! Give us a reason to chase the digital side of this product, none of which adds any cost to the product. As soon as the physical team embraces the true “soul” of what this should represent as a product on the calendar. Content in the loot packs and the physical packs should have super high end versions of the digital cards in place. If printing costs are increased by adding additional short printed designs, fix with generic cards that “unlock” access to a pack containing a massive hit.

Either way, ill be ripping some later today, stay tuned to see a bit of what I pull.



2017 NFL Draft – Breaking Down Hobby Impact for Top Picks

There are three events for the NFL season that I always go nuts for. One is the Super Bowl, one is opening week, and the other one is the NFL draft. I love every aspect of the draft, the trades, the player profiling the hope trafficking. The barren wasteland of football-less spring is given a stay for a few short days, and with the hobby being so rookie focused, its implication of this weekend is huge.

With 2016 being a historic year for rookie impact, this year has a lot to live up to. To be honest, the positions that look to be the strongest are not hobby friendly. Here are soe thoughts on the bigger names drafted so far.

Mitchell Trubisky

Position: QB
Team: Bears
Pick: 2

Kind of an unusual situation with quarterbacks this year, mainly because there isnt many that look to be surefire starters with success in 2017. Most of the guys drafted early are projects, and Trubisky is no exception. Since this fucking trainwreck of a pick has been beat to death by the media who likely hate as much as Bears fans do, Trubisky is going to be a top value guy in the hobby until he gets on the field. IF he gets on the field. Chicago has a good following and should drive up his value at least early on. Hopefully he doesnt shit the bed once he gets the chance to play. Bears say he will sit for 2017, but that rarely happens.

Here are where his cards are sitting now that the draft is done:

2017 Contenders Draft Mitchell Trubisky Auto Ticket

2017 Elite Draft Mitch Trubisky Auto Green 2/5

2017 Leaf Metal Mitchell Trubisky Auto Green Refractor /10

Leonard Fournette
Position: RB
Team: Jaguars
Pick: 4

The whole draft, all I wanted was for Fournette to avoid a hobby team like Jacksonville. Its a slow hobby death to match the on field potential. Even if the Jags somehow figure out how to be a good team in the NFL, the lack of following in the hobby will put a ceiling on potential. Additionally, the Jags are terrible. They may have spent a lot in free agency, but I just dont see the hobby latching on to a guy who plays for them. Hopefully the production gives a bit of a break.

Fournette has a Panini exclusive deal, so no Leaf, which is unfortunate:

2017 Contenders Draft Leonard Fournette Cracked Ice Auto /24

2017 Score Leonard Fournette Auto RC

Corey Davis
Position: WR
Team: Titans
Pick: 5

For the wideouts in the draft, there were questions on which one would go first. There were 3 grouped at the top, and Tennessee felt confident enough in Davis to drop a top pick to get him. Considering this about where guys like Amari Cooper and others were drafted, Im not sure I see the same hype as we had in previous years. Davis looks like a great player, but without the major college following, he may not see the heights some of the other prospects will see.

Here is where he sits after the draft:

2017 Leaf Metal Corey Davis Superfractor Auto 1/1

2017 Score Corey Davis Green Auto /6

Mike Williams
Position: WR
Team: Chargers
Pick: 7

I think this was a great pickup for the Chargers, especially when you see they didnt miss out on the line help they needed in the second and third round. Williams looked like the best WR prospect hobby wise, and I think that having the LA collecting crowd engaged could help. The only issue is that its rare that a WR gets major hobby attention without national attention like OBJ got in 2014. We will have to see.

Has some good prices already:

2017 Leaf Ultimate Draft Mike Williams Auto RC /15

2017 Elite Draft Mike Williams Auto RC

Christian McCaffrey
Position: RB
Team: Panthers
Pick: 8

I was shocked to see McCaffrey go before cook, especially with Cook’s skill set. Luckily it worked out in my favor by a considerable margin, and its going to be interesting to see how this pick works out. He could either be a great pass catching back who can run between the tackles, or adapt to the ever changing state of the running back position. Teams want versatile backs, and the Panthers will get a great one. He was already one of the top value guys in the class, and a high pick will only contribute further to the hype.

Nice action since the draft:

2017 Contenders Draft Christian McCaffrey / Andrew Luck Dual Auto

2017 Contenders Draft Christian McCaffrey Auto RC

John Ross
Position: WR
Team: Bengals
Pick: 9

Run on skill player talent doesnt stop with Ross, who was the fastest guy in combine history. Playing with AJ Green will be amazing, and Ross could end up being the best guy in the class. The hobby loves record breakers, and though it was a meaningless one, his speed will get him collector attention.

Pat Mahomes
Position: QB
Team: Chiefs
Pick: 10

Panini sponsored this guy, which means he will be everywhere in 2017. Everyone watching the draft was probably wondering why he was sponsored by a Sandwich company, but that’s just how it goes. who looks like a bigger project than Paxton Lynch looked like last year. Not only that, but they have Alex Smith and traded up to get this. Because he was a top pick and a QB, he will automatically be valuable, but its going to be tough for him to get on the field anytime soon. This pick baffles me.

Deshaun Watson
Position: QB
Pick: 12
Team: Texans

Personally, I think this guy looks like the top guy for the hobby in the class, and because he will DEFINITELY get a shot in Houston, its going to be better. I would be betting that he will be one of the only rookie week one starters, but he has to show a bit more work on some of the things that make him unattractive as a protypical NFL QB. Texans arent the best hobby team, and that sucks, but at least he isnt drafted in the second round where his value would deteriorate.

Dalvin Cook
Position: RB
Pick: 41
Team: Vikings

Im adding Cook to this list because he had some major value in the pre-draft cycle of products. Problem is his auto SUCKS and the Leaf signatures look weird compared to some of his in person authenticated examples. The Vikings got a steal at 41, but hobby potential with a shitty signature are severely limited. Their line also sucks balls, so he could end up stuffed more than often.

Having a deep offensive skill class in the first round will be a good thing before the season starts, even more so with people risking more on later round guys knowing that SOMEONE will break out as an impact contributor up front. The question is if there will be more than one from each group of top and late round players to support the way Panini continually builds products. If there is another 2013 on our hands, its not like they change anything in the way they produce sets. That’s the underlying problem, and it leaves it to the production on field to determine how this year shakes out. This is a WOW ME NOW hobby, not a long term play hobby, so gear up for a big year.

On Shelves Now: 2016 Flawless Football

Finally, after a long and brutal year of more than 30 NFL products and even more NCAA products, the year is over. The 2016 edition of Flawless will close out the year for the second time, and for the most part it is built almost identically to the previous 2 versions. I stand by my assessment that the price per box is insane, and should never be what it is, but at least chase content is included this year.

Here are some of the hits up so far:

2016 Flawless Ezekiel Elliott Logo Patch Auto 1/1

2016 Flawless Dak Prescott Jumbo Patch Auto /15

2016 Flawless Randy Moss Auto Emerald /5

2016 Flawless Jerry Rice Dual Patch Auto

The addition of NFL logos, brand logos and other types of chase content is absolutely necessary in a product like this, bottom line. Similarly bringing guys like Calvin Johnson and Randy Moss to the checklist helps too, but this stuff is still burdened by a price tag that no football product could ever support without group breakers.

In terms of design, the cards do look nice, and aside from some TERRIBLE Now and Then cards, the simplicity of the presentation is nice. I think this isnt as good looking as last year, which is extremely disappointing, but not at all surprising. For the most part, its colored foil on a stark white background, which doesnt really offer much as the most expensive football product in history.

Considering we literally JUST had NT released, its getting crowded during this part of the calendar for super premium product, thus diluting the market. Adding in the pre-draft junk that Panini is driving as well, and collectors just dont know what to do next.

I understand that Panini wants their license to be year round, but they need better planning around when the best products hit shelves.

If Flawless was wiped from the calendar next year, I would not be upset. With so many products now being built as Group Break based configurations, I just cant get behind the sprawl. Panini knows how unsuccessful their efforts would be without the breakers pimping their wares, and caters way too much of their calendar to that crowd. The singles market becomes flooded with people looking to unload, and everyone hurts as a result.

When you pull the best player available in your box, and cannot even cover your cost, there is a major problem. Panini is thinking, that it is a huge return on a group break slot, and moves on, but this is an inherently unhealthy way to function. I dont think its changing anytime soon, and eventually the bed will be made. Hopefully everyone is ready to sleep in it.