Let me start off by saying that value and prospecting in football frustrates me to no end. QBs should not drive the football hobby the way they do, and more stock should be put into other positions. I understand that positional longevity in RBs, WRs, and others is significantly shorter, but the discrepancy of talent and production versus hobby value is way off.
Here are some of the values for the non-QBs who are lighting it up this year:
Mariota and Winston HAVE NOT played poorly in any way. What might happen if they put up numbers like the above players? Values like this would be laughable:
Its also worth talking about that the timeframe in which the hobby gives a rookie to be successful is pretty short as it is, although the league tends to mirror the “QUICK STAR” mentality more and more with each passing year. It used to be that QBs would take years to develop. It wasnt even that long ago! Over the past two to three classes, its a ‘produce now or get the boot’ approach from GMs around the league, and the hobby has taken notice. Some of this is the result of the rookie wage scale peeling back huge guaranteed salaries for top picks (which are used on QBs more often than not), and other times it has to do with job security of front office personnel and coaching staffs. Either way, the hobby in football wants instant superstars or nothing at all, even if some of that superstardom is carry over from college.
In 2013, the hobby took about 100 steps back with a draft class that had no real superstars from the get go, putting a horrible year into the record books. Although some talent was obviously present (Hopkins, Allen, and others are now league leaders), none of those rookies were QBs. Geno Smith and EJ Manuel, who were the top QBs in the class, have had turbulent careers so far, with both ending up on the bench in game and in the hobby. Even though 2014 had great talent and production from Carr and Bridgewater, they felt a lot of stigma from the previous years, and skepticism surrounding long term viability. It doesnt help that Manziel has been a bust to date, either – but that is a different post on its own.
We also saw in 2014 that a WR can generate MAJOR hobby interest, but the lessons surrounding longevity and consistency are at play, and Beckham has since come down to earth considerably. The hobby isnt forgiving for a non-QB, and I am scared for another year where Mariota and Winston dont show instant success on teams that look to be quite terrible. On the flip side, Todd Gurley and Amari Cooper are showing the brilliance that we expect from top draft picks, and yet, their cards are performing like top WR and RBs. Had Mariota continued his pace from the first game of the year, you would not be seeing anything even low enough to sniff where Cooper and Gurley are today.
The hobby loves the limelight that QBs receive, but they refuse to recognize that same glow in other positions that look to be headed for the top tier of NFL players at their position. Some could argue that the secondary market as a whole for football is soft as it is, but im not sure that is the whole story.
Im starting to wonder what might happen if another class like 2013 comes around, and that could be the case next year. The QB class doesnt seem to have the star power that other classes have had, and though Cook and Goff may be selected high, its likely out of necessity rather than game changing talent. 2015 and 2014 both had enormously deep WR and RB classes, and we are seeing the production from those positions go unrecognized by the hobby in a larger sense. The scariest thing could be what might happen if alternate value isnt established in other parts of the class, especially if Panini wants to continue their focus on rookie content during the first year of their exclusive next year.
Some how, some way, there must be a focus shift in the hobby, not just from QBs to other positions, but also from rookies to more established players. If we continue to bank solely on the rookie class, there is no ability to recover in a bad year. Products take a nose dive, collectors walk out the door, and there is nothing left for us to chase. The main issue is that autograph cost skyrockets after the rookie year, sometimes during, and access to autographs afforded by the NFLPA and agents also decreases. Rookies are almost as much a luxury as much as a necessity for card companies, and they might have to sleep in the bed made by the collective setup.
Panini may be able to withstand the financial burden of a bad year, but the shops might not be able to again. This is one of the things they have no control over, so the one thing they DO have control over needs to be exceptional. Product quality is at an all time low all across the industry, and without some improvement things are looking bleaker than ever.
Eventually, there will be another 2012. Eventually there will be another Andrew Luck and RGIII and all will be right with the world. In the mean time, I am hoping the hobby wakes up and sees that the QB isnt the only thing worth putting value behind. Sure, WRs and RBs are likely going to last 7-10 years instead of 10-15 years in the league, but that doesnt mean there wont be HOFers who eventually come out of those shorter career situations. Its time to wake up and smell the roses on this one.