Halfway Home: Will 2015 Be The Best NFL Rookie Class This Decade?

Right now, things are looking very good for the 2015 rookie class. There are two QBs that look to have the goods to be long term superstars in the NFL, as well as a deep class of supporting positions like WR and RB that also look to be QUITE the beastly group. Todd Gurley is putting up numbers usually reserved for people named Tomlinson and Peterson, and Amari Cooper is playing out of his mind. Its rare that you have 4 rookies with that kind of talent, and it might end up being the best class this decade when all is said and done. Yes, that includes 2012.

Jameis Winston

Position: QB
Draft Pick: 1st overall
Team: Bucs (3-5)
Stat line: 10TD, 7INT, 1897 yards, 84 QB rating

The Bucs had the choice between the two big names, and went with Winston because he played a game that was more likely to translate to the NFL. The issue was that the Bucs were terrible, and it impacted his ability to play well from the lack of a supporting cast. Doug Martin has had a renaissance, and Mike Evans has come around since being hurt. The hobby loves number one picks and everyone wanted Winston to kick ass this year. So far, he has played pretty damn well, including some nice wins. Lets just hope he continues to develop over the next few years, and doesnt turn out like other Superstars turned busts like Kaepernick and RGIII.

Here are what prices look like:

2015 Playbook Jameis Winston Auto Patch Booklet /99

2015 Topps Jameis Winston Auto Photo Variation SSP

2015 Topps Valor Jameis Winston Auto Patch /50

Marcus Mariota

Position: QB
Draft Pick: 2nd overall
Team: Titans (2-6)
Stat line: 13TD, 5INT, 1610 yards, 101.5 QB rating

I think the Titans are finally getting the point that pundits have tried to reinforce for many years. Build a system around a QB instead of asking the QB to fit the existing system. The Titans havent asked him to do something he cant do, and he has played very well as a result. The defense and other parts of the team is atrocious, which lead to the coach getting canned, but Mariota was one bright spot. He was extremely popular in college in the hobby, and arguably was more of a superstar caliber player thanks to a lack of off the field issues. His cards have been atop the cost spectrum all year.

Mariota’s prices climb with each good game he has:

2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions Marcus Mariota Auto RC

2015 Topps Inception Marcus Mariota Silver Signings /50

2015 Prizm Draft Picks Marcus Mariota Gold Auto /10

Amari Cooper

Position: WR
Draft Pick: 4th overall
Team: Raiders (4-4)
Stat line: 45 Rec, 653 yards, 4 TDs, 14.5 ypc

Of all the prospects in the 2015 draft, Cooper was believed to be the most pro ready. Boy, they werent kidding. It helps that Derek Carr is having a pro-bowl season, and the running game is coming along to help take the edge off the defense. Coming out of Alabama, he already had a huge following in the hobby, and now that he is lighting it up in Oakland, people are clamoring for his stuff.

Cooper has been high in value since before the season started:

2015 Topps Amari Cooper Retro 1987 Super Rookie Auto /25

2015 Playbook Amari Cooper Inscription Auto Booklet /5

2015 Bowman Chrome Amari Cooper Gold Refractor Auto /50

Todd Gurley

Position: RB
Draft Pick: 10th overall
Team: Rams (4-4)
Stat line: 664 yards, 4 TD, 5.6 ypc

It has been a LOOOOOOOONG fucking time since the hobby has gotten excited about a Running back, and I could not be more excited. Considering that he missed the first few games of the year, the stats he has accumulated are of the same level of insanity that we saw with Beckham last year in a short year. Gurley looks incredible, and I hope that he can stay healthy and productive long term so the hobby realizes that not all running backs are disposable.

Gurley is the most recent RB to produce both on the field and in the hobby:

2015 Topps Valor Todd Gurley Auto Relic /75

2015 Topps Inception Todd Gurley Auto Red /50

2015 Donruss Elite Todd Gurley New Breed Auto Relic

Stefon Diggs (Sleeper of the Year?)

Position: WR
Draft Pick: 146th overall
Team: Vikings 6-2
Stat line: 28 Rec, 461 yards, 2 TDs, 16.5 ypc

Like Gurley, Diggs didnt get a shot until a few games after the season started. As a late round pick the amount of playing time expected for someone like him was minimal, but he has emerged as a potential #1 receiver much like Antonio Brown did from late rounds in 2010. Considering that the Vikings have infamously struck out on so many WR, its cool to see them seemingly hit a home run. Even though Diggs may not keep it up, a fifth round pick is already worth the production he has given them. The hobby is catching on quick, and if his auto was better and his cards more SP, his stuff would probably be worth even more. He is a tier 3 rookie in many products, so he has a lot of early content available.

Diggs is creeping up as he becomes more involved with the Vikings passing game:

2015 Playbook Stefon Diggs Auto Relic Patch Booklet /99

2015 Certified Stefon Diggs Freshman Fabric Jumbo Patch Auto Gold /25

2015 Topps Rookie Stefon Diggs Premiere Auto /150

With two big products in Finest and Prizm hitting this week, its going to be interesting how some of these players’ cards really shake out. We are entering the period where many of the rookies biggest releases of the year will start to hit, and its a fun time to be a collector if your target is a top guy.

Topps Update Chrome – Worth Buying A Holiday Box?

During the fall and winter, Topps has released boxes of retail packs, aimed at getting people who frequent the card aisle at Target to buy a gift or take a shot on a few packs. Inside are some Topps Update baseball packs, and two packs of the coveted Update Chrome. In any other year, Update Chrome might not be worth buying one of these boxes for, but this year, it has Bryant, Correa, and other rookies inside.

Here are the top hits from the special chrome packs:

2015 Topps Update Chrome Mike Trout All Star Auto Relic /25

2015 Topps Update Chrome Carlos Correa Gold Pulsar /250

2015 Topps Update Chrome Kris Bryant Gold Pulsar /250

2015 Topps Update Chrome Ichiro Black Bubble Refractor /99

These special chrome versions of Update Baseball have parallels as well, and with Correa’s original chrome card being an SSP, these could end up being quite valuable on their own. Bryant’s chrome RC on the other hand wasnt part of the high number cards in Chrome this year, so they are a bit more common, but the update Chrome versions might be more rare.

Inside the packs, there are also All Star Game relics and relic autos, which are chromed out versions of the ones from Udpate. With the auto relics /25, even some of the lesser names have started to sell very well.

I was tooling around Target today and saw the guy put out a few, and decided to pay the 15 bucks to get one. I was lucky and pulled the Correa RC in one of my packs, but if you can get one of the Parallels, it could end up being a windfall of cash.

Overall, its a pretty fun break for less than the price of a blaster, so why not take a chance?

More Prizm Previews: Wait, What?

When Prizm was first released in 2012, I almost had an allergic reaction to the way it looked. Just awful in so many ways. When you thought it couldnt get any worse, it did by a lot in 2013 and more in 2014. I always have called it Chrome Zero, because calling it Diet Chrome puts shame on a soda brand that I actually love. Now that the nice sell sheet is turning into real cards, the time has come for me to say something I really didnt think I was ever going to say.

I like 2015 Prizm Football. Most of the previews look great. Still some major flaws, but so much better than any other version.

You may ask why I am saying that it looks great, and that is a very valid question. It has to do with a few things that all speak to my pet peeves in card design, all present in 2012-14, and gone in 2015. Its not close to Chrome yet, mainly because of a few AWFUL parallels and sticker autos still in play, but its getting a shit ton better than the dumpster fire it was in previous years.

Sticker Layout

Every year to date, Prizm has had a separated area for the sticker. Whether its a GIANT white box that makes me want to bathe my eyes, or a silver box, or whatever it was in 2014, its all been horrendous. This year, the ghost fade is in play, and it looks like a chrome card should. HALLELUJAH! As mentioned above, if they get on card autos next year with a similar look, im on board.

Previous years Prizm autos are hilarious to look at:

2014 Prizm Auto Design

2013 Prizm Auto Design

2012 Prizm Auto Design

Verdict: Improved!

Player Photos

Unlike 14 and 13, there is a lot of photo on the cards. Not only that, but the photos are pulled out in zoom, and the player is shown more in the environment they are playing in. Although there was some of this in 12 and 13, the border, nameplate and typeface were intrusive. This year, the photos are unimpeded. As far as I can tell up front, Im not seeing any posed glamour shot type variations, although they could still exist like last year. I am praying to the card gods that they dont.

Verdict: Improved!


This was especially bad in 2014, when the whole fucking card acted as a border. The player was set against a background, with the colors changing with parallels. This year, the true border is back, and it looks great. The hippie-fractor tie dye cards dont look half as ridiculous as they have previously, mainly because less of it is seen.

Verdict: Improved!

New Die Cut Cards

Prizm has ALWAYS gone waaaaaaaaaaaaaay overboard with the die cuts. Last year I said that just because you can use the die cutter, doesnt mean you SHOULD use the die cutter. This year, it looks to be similar to last year, even though we really havent seen the full slate of inserts. Many of the die cuts seem have been created just so they exist, without much of a thought into making the card look unique or special. I mean, a helmet cut out? Havent seen THAT one before, amirite? The Sherman “Intros” card would have been perfectly reasonable to not be a die cut, and adding the die cut makes no discernible difference to the appeal of the card. In fact, keeping it whole might have offered more space for the design. I think the HOF Namath really doesnt do much for me either, its just kind of like they didnt know what to do with it, so they added the die cuts to make the card more interesting. Nothing screams “played out” more than just doing something because you need filler. At least I can hope this batch of visual diarrhea wont come back.

Verdict: Still Bad!

New Parallel Patterns

This is where the subjectivity comes back into play, because for some fucking reason, Spectra seems to sell on the open market despite the hideous parallel patters and disgusting usage of neon pens. The tire mark pattern is back for prizm, and they went and jacked the Superfractor Pattern again from Topps. Completely unnecessary, and distracting as a whole. That tire track patterned stock needs to be gathered up, burned, and then the ashes need to be jettisoned into space. That way, no one can take them and try to reconstruct any semblance of this stock ever again. Just NO. Also worth discussing that the Superfractor pattern is /5, which wont confuse a single person at all. Just leave that one in the graveyard when Topps is out of football please. The black pulsar dot pattern stock used for the 1/1s looks perfectly fine. At least the Panini-fractors are one and done. Good god those were shit.

Verdict: Kill it with fire!

Overall, this still feels like a rip off of Chrome, which would have been a terrible thing if Topps wasnt completely out of the game for Football starting next year. At least this year shows that they can produce a Chrome style set without making it look like a bloody crime scene. I hope this continues.

On the Radar: 2015 National Treasures and Immaculate NCAA Multi Sport

Over the last few weeks, Panini has previewed two products that have produced a very polarizing reaction from what I have read from collectors on different message boards and twitter. For the first time, Panini is looking to release super premium products, that are mixed sport focused, under their NCAA exclusive license. Although I think the cards look very good, design isnt what I have issue with.

There have been high end releases that UD has done under their licenses:

2012-13 Exquisite Michael Jordan Exquisite Dimensions Shadowbox Auto

2011 Exquisite Cam Newton Rookie Auto Patch

2012-13 Exquisite Lebron James Auto /30

2014 Exquisite Marcus Mariota XRC /125

My biggest question is the long play and what Panini plans to do. I already believe that they have overused their college licenses, with cards inserted in many products that were pro focused. Although product sales havent dipped quite yet, secondary market values of many of the college based cards have dipped considerably. There are arguments to be made that all secondary market values dip over time, but I believe this is a losing battle, especially with introducing two new collegiate themed products like this.

To me, the hobby is on a downturn in terms of population, and money is slowly drying up when looking at cards being purchased on ebay and the like. Although group breakers continue to have no issue selling slots for any, and I mean ANY product, the bubble bursting cannot be that far away. There is only so much money floating around, and I dont see products like this bringing more people to start collecting cards. There will be people who will disagree, obviously, but I point to Upper Deck as a historical reference. Panini and UD are different companies, with different budgets for publicity, but UD has one thing that their successor does not. UD had/has brand recognition outside of cards. When the hobby was BOOMING, UD was producing cards. Panini in name, was not.

When UD took over NCAA in 2010, they limited the releases by sport, and even then, it was clear that things got too watered down. Although they struggled to use current NBA rookies in college gear, they had full access to the NFL rookies and the most valuable premium card brand in Exquisite. Product performance didnt respond the way they wanted, and people grew tired of their presence. They also had Michael Jordan and LeBron James signing for their products (Panini doesnt), and it only helped for so long.

To this day, I dont think anyone believes that NCAA made any considerable amount of money for them. Adding multiple sports into a single product spreads this thinner than it already would be, and I fail to see why Panini would want to dilute their popular existing brands with a product that is marketed to a small population of college collectors within a greater shrinking population of pro collectors.

To me, Panini is banking on luring pro collectors into trying their NCAA stuff, and they might succeed initially with collectors who chase players or teams. However, let us not forget that rookies from the NFL will already have premium cards released, thus making these a choice rather than the only option available (which was the case for pre-season rookie content like Contenders). The Treasures brand will hold weight, but the question is more surrounding continued viability in a market where college collectors are severely outnumbered, and pro products are sitting next to these on the shelves.

To make matters worse, there will be college themed subsets in the pro versions of Treasures and Immaculate, which only further dilutes the choices put in front of collectors. I personally do not want to open a pro product and get a college card, especially if there is a college dedicated product that houses the same cards. Redundancy, in this case is a terrible thing for someone like me. Its like the collectors out there will not be able to escape college content, even though most of us could give two shits about NCAA branded cards. To us, you are just taking away hits that would normally fit more seamlessly in with our collection.

As an exclusively pro collector myself, Im not going to chase cards from this product, even though the designs are very nice. I normally buy a lot of premium cards and a set like this in pro uniforms would definitely have some targets on my list. Based on what it looks like, I am the type of person Panini wants to convert, and yet I am not ready to even give it a thought. That’s not saying there wont be converts, but how many will come back for year 2 and 3 if they see the cards arent performing the way the pro cards do? How many will keep buying year 1 with that scenario in play?

Either way, there is a place for a product of this nature, I believe that. However, I am not one who would be ready to risk brand dilution the way Panini is with Immaculate and National Treasures. This would be a chance to launch a new brand with a new title, free from the shadow of the pro products. If the cards look as good as these do, a limited run could do very well with the niche collectors. Putting it under NT is not the way I would go. Using Immaculate is not how I would work this angle. However, because of the cost of the license, I would guess that isnt something they can do.

World Series Heroes Finally Becoming Hobby Stars?

In my best post championship Sports Illustrated commercial announcer’s voice: “CONGRATULATIONS Royals Fans! Your Team is World Champs!” All those years of waiting for your prospects to come through are over.

After a great game 5, and another come from behind victory, the Royals showed how their hitters can manufacture runs better than any team in the league. They went up against the Mets best pitchers and came out with a convincing Series win in five games. Not too shabby. Lucky for us, many of their players are not hobby superstars, but are definitely hobby vets in signing cards and appearing in sets. Because the Royals were terrible for so long, they had lots of high profile draft picks that were featured in card sets for a long time. Yesterday we finally saw the culmination.

Salvador Perez

Although he won Series MVP, the award could have really gone to any number of players. Perez just happened to be the guy that got the honor. His single started the rally in the 12th, and he batted over .360 for the five games. He is the one guy that doesnt get much fanfare in the hobby compared to his teammates, and he definitely deserves more.

2012 Gypsy Queen Salvador Perez On Card Auto

2015 Topps High Tek Salvador Perez Auto 4/5

2015 Immaculate Salvador Perez Auto Patch Logo 3/5

Lorenzo Cain

As the face of the Royals, give or take, Cain was on the hook to have another whirlwind playoffs, much like he did in 2014. He didnt disappoint, and his four WS RBI helped the Royals come away with key wins. Cain was a relative nobody coming into last year, and he still doesnt have much to choose from in the hobby. That will likely change.

2011 Topps Lorenzo Cain 60th Anniversary Auto SP

2006 Bowman Chrome Lorenzo Cain RC BGS 9.5

2015 Topps Update Lorenzo Cain All Star Game Relic

Eric Hosmer

Hosmer didnt exactly have the best series overall, hitting .190 with an error in the field, but he had some memorable plays that people will remember for a long time. His sac fly to win game 1 was awesome, and it doesnt stop there. In the deciding game, he knocked in a run in the top of the 9th and scored on a base-running play that was incredibly heads up. Those two runs sent it to extras, where the Royals won on a big 12th inning. His Bowman Chrome and Topps Chrome rookie autos have already started to come up in value, and that will likely continue for a few weeks.

2011 Bowman Chrome Eric Hosmer Gold Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2011 Topps Chrome Eric Hosmer Auto RC

2012 Topps Tier One Eric Hosmer Auto

Alcides Escobar

The ALCS MVP came down to earth a bit in the World Series, but was still a big factor in the win with an RBI in game five that continued the huge rally. His cards were already spiking after his MVP win, and he has signed enough over the last few years that his cards arent hugely expensive.

2011 Triple Threads Alcides Escobar Auto Triple Relic

2012 Gypsy Queen Alcides Escobar On Card Auto

Mike Moustakas

When Moose was drafted and his rookies hit in 2007, we thought he would be an anchor in the Royals lineup. He never really had the career that people thought and struggled for a while. This year was his first year playing like an All Star, and he played quite well in the WS as well. Maybe his cards will finally rebound.

2011 Bowman Sterling Mike Moustakas Gold Refractor Auto

2008 Bowman Chrome Mike Moustakas Auto RC

Alex Gordon

Remember back when Alex Gordon was the hottest thing in the hobby? Seems like the Royals have had a few rookies like that. Like Moustakas, Gordon took his time getting up to form, but over the last few years, he has been great. His home run in the bottom of the ninth in game 1 was pretty memorable, and gave some nice lift to his value. That will likely continue much like his teammates now that they are champs.

2015 Topps High Tek Alex Gordon Auto 4/25

2006 Bowman Chrome Alex Gordon Auto Xfractor RC

The playoffs in any sport always lead to nice spikes, more so in the championship deciding games. Going to be interesting how the Royals’ cards do, considering they are coming back for a second WS in a row, and really have no one that can be considered a hobby superstar by any stretch. Hopefully we can see some nice movement.