Hobby Musings: Panini Gearing Up for 2022 NFL Season – With the NFL season upon us, a new wave of trading card releases will be hitting the market. Even amid the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Panini will be striving to provide collectors with all the NFL cardboard they can hope for. I had the chance to catch up with Rob Springs to discuss some players to watch this year, as well as some of the company’s plans for this season’s NFL program.
KS: Rob, with the preseason concluded and the rosters set, which rookie are you most excited about from a trading card perspective?
RS: Well, I’m still pretty excited about some of the QB’s. I think Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, and Desmond Ridder all exceeded expectations in the preseason and even though none will start, I think it’s given collectors enough reason to speculate on some of those guys. But if I had to pick one, I think it would still be Pickett at this time.
KS: When this season is all said and done, who do you think will be the rookie of the year in football cards?
RS: That’s a really tough question for this year. I think a lot will depend if/when some of these rookie QB’s get the call to start. But, I’m going to assume they don’t, so at that point, I’m going with Chris Olave for the Saints. I think he is going to have a massive year.
KS: Who’s your big under-the-radar rookie pick that collectors should be looking out for?
RS: I actually have two – and they are similar WR’s. I think Kyle Phillips for the Titans and Alec Pierce for the Colts are going to absolutely kill it in the slot positions this year. In early August, I would have said Dameon Pierce, but he’s certainly not under the radar anymore.
KS: Looking on the veteran side, which player do you think could see a big spike with his trading cards?
RS: Collectors typically look at QBs here, so I have to say Trey Lance. If he performs the way he has in the past, he could put up some big numbers with both his arm and legs for the 49ers.
KS: Of all the big players who changed rosters this past offseason, which one have you seen the biggest spike within trading cards?
RS: So, I’m not going to say Russell Wilson, since his stuff is already pretty high. I’m actually going to go with A.J. Brown. Most of his Titans rookie cards are still fairly affordable and I think he will be on a mission to prove to everyone how great he is this year. If he stays healthy, look out.
KS: Supply shortages have been an issue around the world. How have they affected your production of cards?
RS: Just about every aspect you can think of has been impacted at some point. Paper, glue, oil (for optichrome cards), labor – all of it has been an issue at some point or another over the past two and a half years. Fingers crossed that we can get back to a normal schedule – but that takes time. If you don’t continue to manage and space out the market offerings, you are in danger of tipping over.
KS: Are there any changes/new developments in the football program collectors should be keeping an eye out for this season?
RS: The only major change that we currently have planned for the 2022 NFL release calendar is making Zenith a full release program, as it was previously a direct-only brand. This is similar to what we did with Panini Black a couple of years ago.
KS: Product wise, what does Panini have coming out for football cards soon?
RS: Donruss Elite has just shipped (8/29) and then our NFL September ship dates include Gold Standard, Score, Elements, and Certified.
KS: I know we’ve got this season to play, but it’s never too early to look ahead to next year’s rookie class. Who are some collegiate prospects you’re keeping an eye out for this year that could make a big hobby impact next season?
RS: Next year, we will be back to being all about the QB. Guys like C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson, Will Levis, Tyler Van Dyke – all of those guys could go in the 1st round and there might even be more after that. It’s going to be a stacked skill position draft.
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