With the draft just over a week away, we have already started to see some fireworks at the top of the order that signal another year of QBs being drafted first and second overall. Even though that might be the case, the top guys in the class are defense, not offense, and necessity is driving the top picks. After coming off a year where we had two SUPERSTAR QBs at the top, and a soft performance on the secondary market, could we be in store for a year that looks more like 2013 and not 2014-15?
Lets face it people, we have been spoiled. The 2014 class delivered some big names and great rookie years. Similar performances from the 2015 class was another feather in the cap of the hobby, but unlike what we saw in 2014, the market didnt always respond the way we expected it to. As a whole, values were awfully soft, with product shelf life on eBay falling short of a week in many cases. By the time day 7 hit on many sets, prices had already started to settle, and that is uncharacteristic of a class where the rookies had success on the field.
Coming into 2016, we have Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, two QBs with significantly less intriguing resumes than national champions and Heisman winners of years passed. There are periphery value guys in Ezekiel Elliot, Connor Cook and Paxton Lynch, who could end up as top picks as well. From what the experts have said, they are being considered high not because of talent, but because of need.
Some how, some way, the guys are selling okay for now, likely fueled by the two trades at the top of the draft:
2016 Contenders Draft Carson Wentz Auto Ticket
2016 Leaf Metal Jared Goff Auto Pink Refractor /20
2016 Contenders Draft Paxton Lynch Auto Ticket /15
2016 Leaf Ultimate Draft Ezekiel Elliott Auto Gold /50
Other players in the draft that occupy the top tier of elite prospects are mostly defense, and we all know that defense just doesnt sell in football. Dont get me wrong, someone will break out and someone will have a good year. The question is whether or not that player will be a guy worth collecting, and whether or not the main guys from the class will be among the 25% of top picks that dont flame out in amazing fashion.
The issue is that with the rookie wage scale in place, teams no longer have the incentive to continue building top picks that dont pan out almost immediately. Being a first round pick no longer guarantees you a free pass to play until your second contract, and that is a departure from the huge guarantees that previous classes got. What happens is situations like Brandon Weeden, EJ Manuel, Johnny Manziel, and other players who were high profile picks that didnt get the same leash they would have had in 2010.
Add in that players are choosing to retire earlier, and prospecting gets harder and harder by the year. When you also consider that the hobby has lost a main and incredibly popular source of football cards in Topps, the pool of collectors isnt heading in the right direction. Buying wax is only a portion of the health of the hobby, as the rippers and flippers need someone to sell to. If that population shrinks, there isnt as much demand as there is supply. This leads to lower prices on eBay and a softer buyer friendly market.
If a class is mediocre in potential from the start, they have a larger hill to climb to reach prosperity, regardless of their performance on the field. People look at good years from these players as more of a fluke than long term investment potential, and that hurts. If a guy like Jameis Winston goes off, his hype will carry him much further than if a guy like Christian Hackenberg plays the shit out of his rookie season.
There are exceptions, like we saw with Russell Wilson, but that type of thing happens so infrequently that it was almost unheard of. Wilson needed to have a second year of great performance before people REALLY bought in, and I dont think that would have been the case if he was a guy with the hype of Marcus Mariota. They would have been in from day 1.
From what I see in this class a guy like Carson Wentz just isnt the star power that will lend to huge value. Jared Goff and others in the same boat. Although they might turn out to be serviceable starters, they need to be more than that to help support a company product like that features 1500 dollar boxes of cards. High end doesnt work well when the rookies cant fill the boots.
Right now, 2013 is shaping up to be one of the worst drafts in hobby history. Although I think this year’s class should end up above that, it might be a really bad and sour note when we approach the higher end portion of the calendar. With Panini also shoving college cards down people’s throats, it only gets more complicated with 31 products on the market all looking like what we have seen previously from Panini.