What to Watch For: 2014 NFL Rookie Premiere Week

Love it or hate it, this is one of the biggest weeks for Football Cards all year long. Coming next weekend, both Topps and Panini will be taking the opportunity to run the rookies through their paces for the first time in their NFL uniforms, and also taking some time to get an absolute metric ton of autographs. I posted the list of attendees, and from the looks of it, we are in for a great year, here is what to watch for in the plethora of pictures each company will post.

Topps Inception

Of all the different things that get done at the rookie premiere each year, Inception is easily the best of the best. Although the methods used to create this set have been replicated across a lot of products, this is the original. The reason I love this product so much has a lot to do with the design, but more to do with the quality of work on retouching that Topps has mastered. The set has become so popular, that it has even crossed over into baseball with a lot of success.

2012 Inception Andrew Luck / Robert Griffin III Dual Auto

2013 Inception Eddie Lacy Jumbo Patch Auto

2011 Inception Cam Newton Silver Signings Auto /25

Topps Rookie Premiere Autographs

Going back for over a decade, these autographs are changing this year for the first time in as many years. It used to be that Topps would take pictures one day and have them printed and ready for signing the next, but recent years have changed the process. Arrival schedules and other demands have prevented a good number of pictures to be taken in time for signing, which means that the cards are created with stock photos more times than not. Instead of another year of inconsistent results, Topps is going to change things up from what we saw on the sell sheet. Cant wait to see. If you are going to buy from years that arent serial numbered, WATCH OUT FOR A BOATLOAD OF FAKES.

2012 Topps Nick Foles Rookie Premiere Auto Red Ink /10

2011 Topps Colin Kaepernick Rookie Premiere Auto /90

2007 Topps Calvin Johnson Rookie Premiere Auto

Panini Player Sketch Cards

Although I think these cards are usually less than artistic, its always funny to see who has artistic chops and who chooses to go a completely different direction. Aside from the fact that putting a bucket of markers in front of the rookies during this even seems childish and stupid, the results are interesting to say the least.

2013 Panini EJ Manuel Sketch Auto 1/1

2013 Panini Eddie Lacy Sketch Auto 1/1

Panini Elite and Prestige On Card Autos

For whatever reason, Panini has decided to keep the designs under wraps, which is probably a good thing considering how these have turned out in the past. Although 2012 was a very good year for both Elite and Prestige on card autos, 2013 was a complete train wreck due to some awful retouch work. Where Topps has showcased a talent for changing college uniforms to NFL, Panini has struggled mightily

2012 Elite Andrew Luck Inscriptions Auto.

2012 Prestige Russell Wilson On Card Auto

Topps Retro Autos

Much to my delight, it looks like Topps is rolling with 1985 as their design for throwbacks this year, which is one of the better Topps football designs ever made. The last few years of retro autographs have been nothing less than awesome, and I cannot wait to see how the new ones look.

2012 Topps Chrome Andrew Luck 1984 Retro AUto

2013 Topps Chrome Keenan Allen 1986 Auto

2013 Topps Mike Glennon 1986 Auto

Late Draft Adjustments

Its clear the date of the NFL draft will affect the way the cards come out. It has to, mainly because of the amount of work that needs to be done in such a short amount of time. Where both companies used to have 4-6 weeks in between the Draft and Premiere, the amount of time has shrunk significantly now. We are likely going to have more double zero jerseys, and maybe more repetitive pictures used in the course of the production of each early set. This is going to be our first taste of how it turns out, and I am scared for what is going to happen.

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year, as we get to see a lot of cards previewed and rookies in their pro gear. However, this week is now without a polarizing feature, as this is where all those event used jerseys come from. If you are unfamiliar with what event used means – do a quick google search to see how everyone feels. Either way, I cant wait to see what happens.

2014 Topps Valor and 2014 Topps Triple Threads Previews

We got two big previews today from Topps, including a product most of us thought was dead for good.

The first is 2014 Topps Triple Threads, which is back for ANOTHER year. Its a controversial product, only because of the way people either love it or hate it. Everyone knows how I feel about Triple Threads, and you should be surprised how much I liked some of the elements from last year’s set. I think the brand has come so much further than baseball over the years, and this year’s product looks like an evolution of last year’s concept.

Here is what I mean by a vastly improved concept. Look at this 2012 disaster:

2012 Triple Threads Russell Wilson Auto Relic RC

2012 Triple Threads Nick Foles Auto Relic RC

Then check out this complete revitalization for 2013:

2013 Triple Threads Cordarrelle Patterson Auto Relic RC

2013 Triple Threads Eddie Lacy Auto Relic RC

Sure, 2013 had these which were, for lack of a better term, horrendous. The rest of the set wasnt bad:

2013 Triple Threads Eddie Lacy UNITY Auto Relic RC

As for 2014 Valor, I was really impressed with the concept and launch campaign back in 2012, but like most collectors, was turned off by price and content. The product is back at a different time in the year with a new configuration, and like 2012 looks really nice in theme and design.

Here is what Valor looked like in 2012:

2012 Topps Valor Robert Griffin III Auto

2012 Topps Valor Nick Foles HONOR Auto

2012 Topps Valor Jim Brown Auto

2014 Triple Threads

For the second year in a row, the basic triple relic RC autograph looks VERY nice, and well conceived in the layout of the card. It can be very tough to squeeze 3 relics and a sticker on a card, and this works well. I have no idea why Triple Threads continues to be stickers at this price point, though. Completely stupid in that respect.

I have been a fan of the hand stamp autographs since 2012 as well, and this year may be one of the better designs they have done. These oversized cards are done at the premiere where the rookie actually puts his hand in ink and applies it to the card, which I think is quite the unique concept. Last year’s versions were tough because of design elements not highlighting the sigs as much, but that looks to be a one year issue with this design.

Here are some of them from the past:

2012 Triple Threads Robert Griffin III Hand Stamp Auto

2013 Triple Threads Eddie Lacy Hand Stamp Auto

The main issue I have with Triple Threads is the stupid words die cut into the cards, and how dumb some of them have been, however with last year’s set, most were pretty tame, and it looks to have continued into this year too. I am NOT a fan of these cards and never have been, and I just wish we could give up on it and move where the rest of the product is going.

Lastly, the transparency cards are back, much to my delight, as I absolutely loved these cards in 2013. Although I dont like the design as much, these cards still look pretty cool, as long as that stripe changes to team colors in the final design.

2014 Valor Football

So, price and configuration change, combined with a release date early in the year around beginning of October will all help this product. The main issue with 2012 was that it was released at the end of the year when all the high end products were already on their way, and a configuration where the box hit did not guarantee a relic auto, sealed its fate.

The relic autos just happened to be the nicest cards in the set:

2012 Topps Valor Ryan Tannehill Patch Auto

2012 Topps Valor Robert Griffin III Patch Auto

Now, the layout has been updated to contain packs with a pelic auto per box, thus ending a lot of the issues from the first go around. Although I am sad that this set is no longer on card, it is going to perform a LOT better at this point in the year.

2013 Exquisite is Coming, But With Extremely Late Release Date

I have always been a fan of Upper Deck and their card design. Even after they lost their NFL license, collectors have still attributed value to the cards at pro levels, which has been quite shocking to me. Exquisite is the best of the best for UD products, and we are getting our first look today.

Here are some of my favorites from past years’ Exquisite:

2012 Exquisite John Elway Shadowbox Dimensions Auto

2012 Exquisite Robert Griffin III Auto Inscription

2012 Exquisite Russell Wilson Rookie Auto Patch

2012 Exquisite Alfred Morris RC Auto Inscription

Although the cards look great in 2013, as they always have over the history of the product, I cant help but feel this is a TERRIBLE idea to release ANOTHER high end product for a rookie class that has the value of an undersized running back in the NFL draft. Had this been released earlier in the year, collectors may not have been as turned off, but its clear that planning really didnt take hold here.

Upper Deck releases products through the whole year, and saving Exquisite for a time like this is not a good idea. Think of how people would react if they could have super high end cards of their favorite players in November, instead of weeks after Topps and Panini have already closed out their card year.

It was abundantly CLEAR at the beginning of the year that the 2013 class was going to be a buzzkill. To still roll with a calendar that includes a product like this in freaking borderline JULY, showcases how much things need to change with UD’s product planning. They need to capitalize on the fact that they can have cards done at any point after the NCAA season, because there is no need to have pro-shots on the cards. There are 2014 autos that will help, as they have in year's past, but its not going to be enough of a saving grace to make a difference.

As I mentioned before, many of the cards, including booklet and rookie auto patches that look better than any previous year of NCAA exquisite. No joke. However, that does not give them a pass on this release date.

The entire hobby could not wait to move on from 2013, which is only highlighted further by the prices we are seeing on 2014 cards. Im not a fan of this situation, even though I am a fan of the way the cards look. Pull your heads out of your asses and look at how many people opened Quantum. More will open Exquisite because of the name, but untold potential has been lost with this release date.

2014 NFL Rookie Premiere Atendee List Posted From NFLPA

We are coming up on one week away from the NFL rookie premiere, possibly the biggest hobby event of the year, minus maybe the Super Bowl. This is the place where the rookies all put on their jerseys and take pictures for cards used all year long, including the controversial jersey swatches most of the companies also use.

The list of players has been released by a website named Fandeavor, although some of them may be subject to change, as there are only 36 of the usual 40 players. More coverage to come as we get closer, keep checking back.

Surprises:

Khalil Mack (Raiders LB) – Defensive guys RARELY perform well in the hobby, especially ones that dont have national followings in their college choice or a team following based on their draft slot. Mack has none of those, and though he may end up being great, it takes a Ray Lewis and Troy Polamalu career to retain value.

2014 Press Pass Khalil Mack Red Ink Inscription Auto

2014 Upper Deck Khalil Mack Auto Star Rookie

Dri Archer (Steelers WR?) – Archer is a guy that may end up strictly on special teams or something like that. He is a tiny player who can run like the wind, but doesnt look like he is going to be an impact guy right away. I dont like this pick as much, but the team affiliation helps.

2014 Upper Deck Dri Archer Auto Letter

2014 Upper Deck Dri Archer Auto Star Rookie

Michael Sam (Rams LB) – So far Sam is off the list, which is disappointing. Like Clowney, he has a national following and lots of interested parties, thus making him an attractive attendee. I would have liked to have seen him there, regardless of his talent level.

2014 Press Pass Showbound Michael Sam Auto Chrome

2014 Press Pass Michael Sam Auto Inscription

Here is the rest of the list:

Davante Adams
Dri Archer
Odell Beckham
Kelvin Benjamin
Blake Bortles
Tajh Boyd
Teddy Bridgewater
Ka’Deem Carey
Derek Carr
Jadeveon Clowney
Brandin Cooks
Eric Ebron
Mike Evans
Devonta Freeman
Jimmy Garappolo
Jeremy Hill
Carlos Hyde
Jarvis Landry
Cody Latimer
Marqise Lee
Khalil Mack
Johnny Manziel
Tre Mason
Jordan Matthews
AJ McCarron
Donte Moncrief
Aaron Murray
Paul Richardson
Allen Robinson
Bishop Sankey
Tom Savage
Austin Seferian-Jenkins
De’Anthony Thomas
Logan Thomas
Sammy Watkins
Terrance West

My Favorite Horribly Undervalued NFL Players With Top Talent

Every once in a while I start browsing the general football listings on eBay and I just wonder to myself how a player could sell for such low prices considering how good they are at their positions. Here are a few you should check out as the most undervalued players in the league.

Drew Brees

It is abundantly clear that Brees is not only one of the top QBs in the league, but a surefire hall of famer as well. He has broken record after record, and yet, he is still a relatively cheap auto when compared against similar levels of QBs. Brady may have won more SBs, but Brees has more records. Now, he does sign quite a bit, but that shouldnt hit home with him as much as it does.

2013 Topps Five Star Drew Brees Patch Auto

2013 National Treasures Drew Brees Auto Booklet Jumbo Patch

LeSean McCoy

If there is a challenger to Peterson as the top Running Back in the NFL, McCoy is that guy. The scary thing is that RBs as a whole are on a sharp decline, and his cards are taking the brunt of that newer phenomenon. Its crazy how little his cards are going for.

2013 Topps Five Star LeSean McCoy Auto Patch

2009 Exquisite LeSean McCoy Rookie Auto Patch

Demaryius Thomas

When it comes to position values, WRs are even further down the list than RBs, but slowly creeping up. Thomas has emerged into one of the best in the league not named Calvin Johnson, but his value is miniscule. I never thought he would be even close to Brandon Marshall when the Broncos drafted him as a replacement, but he has definitely shown me what’s up.

2010 Topps Chrome Demaryius Thomas Auto RC

2010 Topps Five Star Demaryius Thomas Auto RC

Joe Flacco

I know, I know, it takes a lot for someone to crack the top five QBs, but Flacco’s cards are priced so far below where he has been performing that it is pretty crazy. Dont forget, he won the Super Bowl in 2012, and that should entitle him to a bit more recognition in my opinion.

2013 National Treasures Joe Flacco Timeline Auto Patch

2013 Topps Five Star Joe Flacco Triple Patch Auto Logo Booklet

Jamaal Charles

Like McCoy, Charles has produced so consistently that he should be worth a lot more than he is. The only downfall was the time he missed with a torn ACL that damaged his notoriety a bit, but has bounced back better than ever.

2008 Exquisite and SPA Jamaal Charles Rookie Auto Patch Lot

2012 National Treasures Jamaal Charles Auto NFL Logo 1/1

AJ Green

There is no better example of the sag in value for position players outside of QB than AJ Green. Because he signs a lot, his autograph is worth little to nothing, despite being a tremendous receiver and perennial all star. I just dont get why more people only like putting their money into QBs.

2011 National Treasures AJ Green Rookie Auto Patch

2011 Topps Five Star AJ Green Auto Inscription

Bottom line, collector behavior continues to confuse me, but it does make more sense that the sheer number of products combined with the rarity of the signatures themselves are usually a huge factor.