SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Certified Football Hits eBay With a Thud

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I am not a fan of 2014 Certified. As stated before, the design is a rehash of Spectra, which shouldnt have been rehashed in the first place, and the rest of the set is about as bad as it gets. Certified has been around for a long time, but I have YET to see ANY reason why it has lasted as long as it has. This year is no different.

Here are the cards up so far:

2014 Certified Johnny Manziel Auto Patch Mirror Blue

2014 Certified Blake Bortles Auto Patch Mirror Red

2014 Certified Teddy Bridgewater Certified Potential Auto

2014 Certified Brandin Cooks Auto Patch Mirror Red

2014 Certified Jadeveon Clowney Certified Potential Auto

Here is my beef with the configuration as well. First, from what initial breaks are showing, you are not guaranteed a relic auto in your box. Although there may be 2 of them per 3 boxes, I have seen some without. If you do get lucky enough to pull one of them, you may end up with guys like Connor Shaw or Asa Watson, two players who were not invited to the premiere, but still have auto relics. Both did not make their squads and both were not required to be a part of products as a result of their non-attendee status at the premiere. Topps has yet to make either a box hit in any of their products, and yet here we are for the third time in a row with Shaw wasting space on the checklist. This has to be a fucking joke.

Certified has produced some of the ugliest cards in modern history, and Panini continues to make me wonder who is behind the wheel in designing and configuring these sets. As I say with every single one of my posts as of late, this is going to be the ONLY GAME IN TOWN come 2016. I hope you are preparing yourself for a decade of disappointment if this is any indicator.

Branded: Breaking Down the Top Product Lines in Football

Over the last few years, Football has become a hobby dependent on brand loyalty. Its one of the main reasons that a pending exclusive for Panini is such a horrible thing. Unlike some of the other sports, where players and pricing entry level can drive product success, football is about the name on the box. Here is a breakdown of the hobby’s most important brands.

Topps Chrome

Lifespan: 1996 to present
Price point: Low end

Im putting Topps Chrome on the list to start this article because it is not only one of the longest running brands, but one that has some RABID collectors. Not only does it appeal to set collectors, but it also appeals to high end chasers who love the rare parallels and refractors. It is one of my favorites because of the top design work and consistent quality in the product. Chrome will be missed.

2012 Topps Chrome Andew Luck Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

1998 Topps Chrome Peyton Manning RC PSA 10

2011 Topps Chrome Colin Kaepernick Auto

Upper Deck Exquisite

Lifespan: 2005 to present
Price point: Super high end

Im pretty sure that opening boxes of Exquisite could be linked to cancer and collectors would still buy it by the case. Its incredible how much loyalty Upper Deck has with the brand, and so much of it is because it was the beginning of the genre in football. Again, design is a big factor, as are the massive chase hits that are littered throughout the run. Even after the loss of the NFL licence, Exquisite RC Patch Autos are among the top cards of the year for any rookie.

2007 Exquisite Adrian Peterson Rookie Patch Auto

2005 Exquisite Aaron Rodgers Dual Patch Auto

2013 Exquisite Johnny Manziel Rookie Auto

Panini / Playoff Contenders

Lifespan: 1998 to present (current format)
Price point: Middle end

When the 1998 contenders set was released and Manning’s autograph was part of the checklist, Im sure there was some real shock. It was rare that rookie autographs were included in products, even rarer for a set like Contenders. Since that time, it has built up one of the most loyal set collecting bases, and it grows despite some very questionable and amateur designs over the past 5-10 years. It shows brand loyalty among all else.

2000 Contenders Tom Brady Championship Ticket Auto RC

1998 Contenders Peyton Manning Rookie Auto Ticket

Panini / Playoff National Treasures

Lifespan: 2006 to present
Price point: Super high end

Although originally a cheap knockoff of Upper Deck’s exquisite platform, it has since become the standard for which all base rookie cards are judged. Personally, I dont think it deserves this benchmark, as it has never been the best of the best, but has almost gotten this reputation by default. When Exquisite was relegated to the NCAA ranks, this was the only product left. Five Star was still on year one, a time where collectors rarely show a brands true performance potential. As A result, NT took over and never looked back.

2012 National Treasures Russell Wilson Rookie Patch Auto

2011 National Treasures Cam Newton Rookie Auto Patch

Upper Deck SP Authentic

Lifespan: 1996 to present
Price point: Middle end

I always thought SP authentic was far more important than Contenders at this price point, though I have come to realize its more of a mac vs PC thing. The inclusion of rookie patches and autographs in 2001 was a revolutionary concept in the RC market, and has shaped the industry ever since. Today’s hobby wouldnt be where it is without SPA, a product that has had on card autographs pretty much the whole run. Even without an NFL license, its release remains an event in football.

1998 SP Authentic Peyton Manning RC

2003 SP Authentic Tony Romo RC Auto

2001 SP Authentic Michael Vick Auto Patch RC

Topps Finest

Lifespan 1994 to present
Price point: Middle end

Back in 1993 when refractors made their debut in Baseball, collectors were wondering when Finest would come to football. Although the run had some down years in the middle 2000s, it has been revived significantly over the last few years. Now featuring some of the first on card post Premiere autographs, Finest is back on top.

2007 Topps Finest Calvin Johnson Xfractor Auto

2013 Topps Finest Robert Griffin III Auto Jumbo Patch Superfractor Logo

2006 Topps Finest Reggie Bush Auto Rookie BGS 9.5

When all is said and done, you may have your favorites year over year, but these brands are the ones that have stood the test of time.

Hobby Rejoices: Derek Carr Named Raiders Starter

Even though it was a foregone conclusion that Derek Carr would be the starting QB for the Raiders at some point during the season, I must say I am a bit shocked it came this early. We know Matt Schaub's very existence is built around throwing passes to the opposing team, but are we supposed to believe that Carr is ready at this point to take over?

Regardless of how it should be done, he is going to be the starter, and he will join fellow rookies Jamarcus Russell, Matt McGloin, and Terrelle Pryor as Starting Rookie QBs. Those situations havent exactly worked out in anyone's favor.

Dont get me wrong, the hobby is loving this news:

2014 Topps Inception Derek Carr Nike Logo Auto 1/1

2014 Elite Derek Carr On Card Auto RC

2013 Exquisite Derek Carr Auto XRC

2014 Topps Derek Carr Auto Variation RC

Considering the state of the franchise, and how unstable their offense seems to be, I cant understand why they are so eager to start the Carr (buh dum dum). Maybe they feel there is nothing left to lose, and its better to see what you have early rather than later – right Blaine Gabbert? I spoke earlier on prospects for each of the QBs, and Carr was easily the fourth guy on the list. Since then, he has jumped almost to number 2 overnight, but the opening weekend value bump for all football cards may have diluted the true jump.

Carr clearly had a great preseason, but it WAS pre-season, and the hobby is treating it like it was a playoff game. Although there isnt many people who will deny how much talent he has, I think there are a lot of people who will stand by the fact that he hasnt really shown anything to say he is ready to start week one.

Actually, maybe its the fact that Matt Schaub showed even less why he should start week one, thus leading the Raiders to make a tough choice. No doubt about it, I had the same reaction when Russell Wilson started for the Seahawks after a tremendous preseason campaign, and we all know how that worked out.

Before you go and drop hundreds of dollars on Carr, remember that the ship has already sailed. Its too late, and we all missed our chance. That’s not saying there wont be value to be had in the future, but I dont think that is going to come before other players break out, including those who will be worth a larger investment.

As long as you keep comparative value in mind, you should be fine. Think about it – if he does have a tremendous year, where does that put the cards you are buying now? Think Russell Wilson who came in with no hype, it will be a much more worthwhile comparison. Comparing value on someone like Carr vs Andrew Luck is tougher, there was much more hype around the number one pick (and top rated prospect in 20 years). If you are about to pay higher than that, think twice.

Examining The Hobby Impact of Recent NFL Roster Cuts

Every year, we get a few rookies who are invited to the NFL Rookie Premiere and dont make the team. Happens like clockwork, much to the chagrin of all the collectors who will still be pulling their cards as the year goes on. Because the premiere is done ahead of cuts, and cards are produced long in advance, the companies cant just pull the cards out of the products – unfortunately. Thus, we are stuck with these guys for the whole year.

This time around, its a bit different, as we got two prominently featured rookies that were cut, although both will likely end up on a practice squad somewhere. Im going to start with Michael Sam, who is really more important than anyone could have guessed, following his jersey being a top seller so far. Sam was invited to the premiere, but declined the invite due to personal reasons. Even though this was the situation, Topps still recognized a need to complete the cards they had built for him. Its a good decision. He was even included on the 40 signature rookie premiere attendee card despite his not attending.

As you can see there are still people interested in his cards:

2014 Topps Inception Michael Sam Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Elite Michael Sam Auto Turn of the Century

2014 Topps Michael Sam 1985 Retro Auto

Sam is one of the more valuable rookies of all the guys at the premiere because of his open sexuality, which I find to be a story that should be told in cards this year, as well as on the field. When you see the general landscape of things to come, we know that 85% of the rookies at the premiere will end up being unimportant. Another 10 of the remaining 15% will never really amount to valuable guys, despite being contributors through their career. That means that Sam being a guy who will likely fall within the 85% is a good target to have on board, considering his story makes him worth buying for collectors. Agree or disagree with his lifestyle, you cannot deny that he will end up more valuable than the other 5th round guys who will end up being scrubs.

The other player that was left behind is Tajh Boyd, a guy who I thought was definitely going to be a top pick based on his early years at Clemson. After a few down years, though, he fell deep into the draft, and the Jets felt he wasnt worth a roster spot with Geno and Vick fighting for the starting job. He will likely be put on a practice squad as well, and I dont think his career has a period at the end of it quite yet. Everyone knew he would be a project coming out of school, and I think he has a few years before hanging up the cleats.

Like Sam, not all collectors are ready to be done with Boyd:

2014 Inception Tajh Boyd Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Elite Tajh Boyd On Card RC Auto

As with most QBs, Boyd had a few people who wanted his cards from the beginning, and not all of them were Jets and Tigers fans. After seeing what has happened with Brady, Romo, Warner, Russell Wilson, and company, all QBs have become a prospecting target. Lets see what happens with Boyd, but now it looks like he will be a longshot to ever see the field.

Speaking of long shots, Cleveland has also cut Connor Shaw, who attended the Rookie Premiere as an invitee of the NFLPA. Topps elected to leave Shaw out of their post premiere products, knowing that he would likely be on the outside looking in, but Panini has added him to their box hit list as they have with other true attendees. Obviously this was a horrible decision to start with, as it was clear that the companies were not part of the decision to bring him to the photo shoot. Panini didnt seem to think twice before using him in their products.

After getting cut, I mentioned above that the companies will continue to use them in products, but will curtail any additional usage of those players once the deals run out. Usually, they sign each player for autos plus an extended option to extend the deal if necessary. The original deal usually covers most of the products for the first part of the year, with the option covering the latter half. When a rookie gets cut like Tyler Wilson did last year, the option gives them an out. Sometimes they make a decision to walk away, other times not.

As more info becomes available, ill post it here, but for now, the casualties are three. Other rookies like AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray seem to be hanging onto a thread, but for now are safe.

No Starting QBs Does Not Mean No Potential for 2014 Football Cards

Its rare that a rookie QB isnt officially the starter by this point in the preseason. Remember back in 2012, we had a ton of guys that were ready for prime time before they were even drafted. Not the case this year. Even in 2013, EJ Manuel had the Bills starting job locked up, and that was the worst year in recent memory.

Although the Raiders job isnt locked up quite yet, its quite likely now that there wont be any of the top draft picks taking the field and taking snaps during week one. Unlike 2013, where the class was just awful all around, 2014 is thought as one of the better classes in a while. When you see that the hobby is QB driven, how much does this affect value? From what we have seen, not much. Here is a breakdown of how I expect this to shake out.

1. Johnny Manziel

Although its clear now, I never expected to see Johnny Football as Johnny Clipboard week one. Not in a million years. He is still the top guy in the class by a mile and a half, but he wont see real action as the starter until Hoyer falls on his face. I think that will likely come sooner rather than later, especially with Josh Gordon’s year long suspension recently upheld. Manziel WILL be the starter, and he will get his shot, but Im still not convinced he wont struggle mightily. After watching all his pre-season snaps, its amazing how bad he can look on one play and how good he can look on others. Collectors are pouring THOUSANDS of dollars into his cards despite this fact, and I dont think the comparative value says thats a good idea. Either way I see why people love him.

Here are some top cards of his to chase:

2014 Panini Elite Johnny Manziel On Card Auto Inscription Red Ink

2014 Topps Johnny Manziel Jumbo Patch Auto /20

2014 Topps Inception Johnny Manziel Nike Logo Auto 1/1

Likely start date: Week 3
Current Value: HIGH
Hobby Potential: More valuable Michael Vick circa 2005

2. Blake Bortles

Of all the rookie QBs during the preseason, I think Bortles made his case to be the starter better than any other player. However, Jacksonville had already committed to sitting him during his rookie year, which is not only against the grain, but likely a horrible idea. Bortles played quite well, and Chad Henne isnt exactly a franchise QB, which means that there is likely no reason not to see what Bortles has in the tank. His hobby value isnt even close to where Manziel is, despite the fact that he played better. The difference is that Bortles has no polarizing public persona, and played for a college with no hype behind it.

Here are Bortles’ top cards:

2014 Topps Inception Blake Bortles Draw Play Inscription Auto

2013 Exquisite Blake Bortles Auto XRC 1/1

2014 Topps Blake Bortles Jumbo Patch Auto

Likely start date: Week 6
Current Value: GOOD
Hobby Potential: More valuable Andy Dalton (Jacksonville is a black hole of hobby value)

3. Teddy Bridgewater

Teddy ended the Preseason with 5 TDs and no interceptions, but it was clear that the Vikings were not willing to take the restrictor plate off the offense during any of their games. All of Teddy’s TDs were short completions, and though he looked very good in his time on the field, I dont think we got a good representation of what he could do. That is both a good and bad thing, as with no real bite to the offense, it was safe enough to keep his confidence high. Lets not forget that this is an offense built around the running game and Adrian Peterson as well. If they had taken the reins off a bit more, I dont think it would have gone as well. Like Manziel, I think the Vikings will be bad enough that Teddy will get some starts this season, despite how well Cassel played. At that point we will see what he is all about.

Here are Teddy’s Top Cards:

2014 Topps Inception Teddy Bridgewater Inscription Auto 1/1

2014 Bowman Teddy Bridgewater NFL Uniform Auto

2014 Topps Teddy Bridgewater Photo Variation Auto SP

Likely start date: Week 7
Current Value: GOOD
Hobby Potential: More valuable Donovan McNabb

4. Derek Carr

I dont think we got a clear picture of Carr due to his not playing due to a concussion in a game where he would have likely taken most of the snaps. He did look pretty good when he was playing, but not necessarily good enough to supplant Matt Schaub, who has seemingly forgotten how to play football. As a second round pick, he wasnt expected to come in and start right away, even though he was only drafted a few spots below Bridgewater. Funny how that works – as the hobby functions in a very similar fashion. Either way, he will eventually get a shot when Schaub figures out that his best targets dont wear silver and black. The Raiders arent exactly confident enough in Carr at this point, but they will give him the captain’s hat.

Here are Derek Carr’s top cards:

2014 Inception Derek Carr Red Auto /10

2014 Upper Deck Derek Carr SP Authentics On Card

Likely start date: Week 4
Current Value: BARGAIN
Hobby Potential: Less valuable Phillip Rivers

I cant even put into words how excited I am for the NFL season to start next Thursday, and I think that guys like these QBs, combined with others like Sammy Watkins will make this a great hobby year even without a starting QB week one. Prime your wallets for overdrive now, because if any of these four break out, it will be all over. Just wait to see where Manziel’s prices go if he has even a mediocre first game.