Hobby Musings: When Will 2019 Rookies Appear on NFL Trading Cards? – The 2019 NFL draft recently concluded and we all got to find out the landing spots for big rookies like Kyler Murray to the Cardinals and Daniel Jones to the Giants. For collectors, the wait is on now for licensed trading cards featuring the rookies in their professional uniforms. To that end, Panni will be hard at work getting the new trading card products ready for the market. To find out more about what this draft meant for Panini, I had the chance to catch up with Nick Matijevich and Rob Springs. The following interview was conducted via email.
KS: From a trading card standpoint, how do you think the draft went for Panini?
RS: I think it went about as good as it could. Not only do you have a potential franchise-changing player (Hobby-wise) in Kyler Murray, but other key QBs went to really good and collectible markets. Haskins to Washington, Jones to the Giants, Lock to the Broncos, Stidham to the Patriots, etc. Several RBs and WRs are going to get the opportunity to play immediately, which always helps to get guys on the field. Guys like Josh Jacobs in Oakland, David Montgomery in Chicago, Mecole Hardman in KC, Marquise Brown in Baltimore, A.J. Brown in Tennessee, Parris Campbell in Indianapolis, N’Keal Harry in New England – lots of good players that are going to get a shot early.
NM: I’d agree that while we didn’t have nearly the same quantity of high draft picks at the skill positions this year, the landing spots for these guys give the collecting community tremendous upside with this class. The buzz on Kyler has been off the charts for the last two months, and his college tape looks like a mix of Michael Vick, from a mobility standpoint, while mirroring Russell Wilson’s passing accuracy. Daniel Jones to New York is a great fit, despite the fact it seemed like a reach to some fans, when compared with most recent mock drafts – although that really isn’t the case if you go back to look at the mocks from last fall/winter – and even though Haskins and Lock slid some, they ended up in great markets.
I think Bosa will sell very well in San Fran, and the skill guys from the late 1st through the 3rd all landed in great markets with most having the chance to immediately contribute as well; in addition to the guys Rob named above, you have others that could see playing time right away, like Deebo Samuel in SF, Miles Sanders & J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in Philly, Devin Singletary in Buffalo, Diontae Johnson in Pittsburgh, and Terry McLaurin in Washington. In other words, the depth of this class, and the markets in which the players landed, looks fantastic at this point. One other guy that should see some decent lift, despite the fact he went a little later, is Jarrett Stidham as Tom Brady’s possible heir apparent.
KS: Kyler Murray was the top selection by the Cardinals. Quarterbacks are typically the most collected position in the NFL and Murray has seen a somewhat meteoric rise in notoriety. How do you think his cards will compare with other recent top quarterback prospects?
RS: I think it will be eerily similar to Baker Mayfield at this point. If you remember last year, he was selling extremely well in our Draft Picks products and Score and then his values pulled back just a bit after being drafted by Cleveland. He then literally put the Cleveland FB Hobby collecting community on his back and carried it into the spotlight. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Kyler do the same thing for Cardinals collectors.
NM: After the run Baker had last year, I think Kyler will likely sustain his values despite going to Arizona, and between him actually going #1, after some talk that he might not, and Rosen getting traded, I think there is a good chance we see a spike in values as we move through the summer before he ever actually hits the field. He’ll clearly be stronger than any of the 2016 or 2017 QB classes were at this time in their respective years, just because the hype around him has been so much different than either of those classes. Hindsight is always 20/20, but there was relatively little buzz on either of those groups just after the draft, which collectors often forget at this point, because they have performed so well on the field.
KS: Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins joined Murray as the only other QBs taken in the first round. Jones especially was a little bit of a surprise to the Giants with the sixth overall pick. How do you expect their card markets to perform?
RS: For Jones, it’s still New York and even though there is some skepticism there, he will be collected (well) by that market. For Haskins, I’m not sure he could have found a better landing spot once he was passed by NY at #6. Huge collector base in Washington, a good chance to start – and good patches to boot!
NM: As Rob notes, Jones will ultimately still do fine. As the #6 overall pick, people will warm up to the idea of him being the Giants QB of the future, which is a great spot to be. I expect his values to begin climbing once he gets on the field in the preseason and people actually see him play, as most people haven’t with him coming out of Duke. While he doesn’t have the arm talent of some of other guys in this class, he is incredibly intelligent, and he can make all the throws he’ll need to in order to help his team win games. With that said, in the short-term, I fully expect Haskins to outsell him by a wide margin though, as he has a much clearer path to immediate playing time, and also has the backing of the Ohio State faithful to help push his values. Expect to see Haskins as the clear #2 behind Murray in this class from a secondary market value perspective, for most, if not all, of the season.
KS: Which player’s card market do you think was helped most by where he was drafted?
NM: Haskins is definitely the guy who will see the biggest lift, as if he’d ended up in Cincinnati or Miami, his prices would have been much lower, but two sleepers there are Bosa and Devin Bush. Both of those guys will be very strong selling defensive players, because they landed in San Francisco and Pittsburgh.
KS: Who was someone taken outside the first round that you could see having a big rookie year with his trading cards?
RS: After all that has transpired in KC, I’ll go with Mecole Hardman. I think he is going to immediately grab the spotlight with his speed and flexibility in both the receiving and return games.
NM: I’ll always lean RB for these types of questions, and I think David Montgomery has the chance for a big season in Chicago based on the team around him. He’ll obviously share some time with Tarik Cohen, but he’ll be the thunder to Cohen’s lightning. I also think Miles Sanders could have a big year in Philly, if Pederson doesn’t make him share too many carries, and if Shady McCoy stays banged up this year, Devin Singletary could surprise in Buffalo. My day 3 pick that could surprise is Hakeem Butler in Arizona, although he is more likely to make an impact in his second year than this year.
KS: Even with some of the notable names of this year’s draft, 2019 was a year dominated by defensive lineman and other positions that don’t often generate excitement in hobby circles. For people who use this as a reason to potentially downplay the card year, how would you respond?
RS: I think all you have to do is take a look at the number of skill positions drafted in the first 2-3 rounds and take a look at the opportunity that many of those players will have – and you will see that is not a correct angle. This is very much like 2017 – it’s a very deep class with a lot of good talent.
NM: I can understand how that could have been some people’s perception a few months back, but at this point, I’m not sure how anyone could hold onto that assessment. From a team perspective, it’s been a while since we’ve had this many good college players land on collectible NFL teams within a draft, particularly on days 1 & 2. I get the first round carries the hype, and it was definitely DL and OL heavy, but the 2nd and 3rd rounds had 20 skill position players get drafted, mostly to strong markets and often to playoff caliber teams, which provides the possibility of some big performances this year. Even in the first round, with Kyler at #1, Jones to the Giants, Haskins to the Skins, Jacobs to the Raiders, Hollywood to the Ravens, and N’Keal to the Pats, things fell very well, and it will be interesting to see if either Hockenson or Fant can make an immediate impact on their teams as well.
KS: Now that these players have been drafted, what goes into Panini’s process of getting them onto professional cards and getting their autographs secured?
RS: We have deals in place with pretty much every guy, so now we lock down the list of players for the Rookie Photo Shoot and secure any additional autographs needed for those players. We will also go through our lists and offer other players who had smaller deals in place early on (for CLC products) that emerged since we did our initial deals in January, along with review of guys that we may have missed to get new deals for later in the year and Contenders.
NM: As Rob notes, we had deals with most of these guys for our college programs at a minimum, and now we simply revisit to determine if we need to increase quantities on anyone, or if there is anyone we need to reach out to that we missed the first time around.
KS: Some of the drafted players, especially first-round picks seem like cut-and-dry selections for trading cards. However, there are later selections and undrafted rookies included in your products as well. With that in mind, how do you determine which players will receive trading cards and be selected as autograph subjects?
RS: Really, it’s just research. We essentially do three waves of autograph deals when it comes to rookies – an initial one in January, one after the draft and then one around preseason games. Just to make sure we don’t miss anyone – ultimately, we will miss a guy here or there, but I think we do an outstanding job on our research.
NM: We actually start putting our rookie list together each year, just after the previous draft. We currently have a list of 176 running names for our 2020 class that will grow to over 500 names by the end of the next collegiate season, with the names all driven by on-field performance and info we can research throughout the year. Then Rob, Ben Ecklar (our director of collegiate programs), and myself will work to pare that list down to roughly 200 names for deals; 65 names for deals in all of our football products, and 135 for college only. As we go through the final declaration date, all-star game circuit, and Combine, we’ll revisit and tweak the lists as needed, shifting quantities, and adding or deleting players from our list, and this primarily drives the content you see through our first few releases each year. After the draft, we’ll shift the list again, adding anyone we may have missed, or taking quantities up on guys who went earlier than expected, and to Rob’s point, we’ll continue to add names through OTA’s and the preseason. Occasionally, we’ll add someone in-season as well, like Nick Mullens last year, but for the most part, we have our lists locked down before the regular season begins.
KS: When will we be seeing the new rookies and their autographs with their professional jerseys?
NM: in addition to Donruss Elite, we’ll have Prestige hitting as a retail only release this year, around the same time, and in a change from year’s past, we’ll have NFL photography in that set.
KS: One can never look too far ahead, especially in the collecting world. Who are some of the hot football prospects of the 2020 NFL draft that you would advise collectors to keep an eye on?
RS: Right now early, it’s Tua and Herbert and the rest will fill in as we go.
NM: Never too early to look ahead, and 2020 looks like an amazing class. QB could be incredibly deep, with the current top prospects all from top schools, with Tua from Alabama, Herbert from Oregon, and Fromm from UGA, in addition to two high profile transfers who could be major players, in Eason at Washington and Hurts at Oklahoma. You’ve also got some high profile WRs from big universities as well, in Jerry Jeudy from Bama, CeeDee Lamb from Oklahoma, Tee Higgins from Clemson and Collin Johnson from Texas, in addition to a guy that isn’t a household name, Laviska Shenault, who put up some amazing numbers for Colorado last year. Finally, it could be a monster year for RBs, with Jonathan Taylor at Wisconsin, Travis Etienne at Clemson, J.K. Dobbins at Ohio State, D’Andre Swift at Georgia, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn at Vandy, all set up for big seasons.
For more Hobby Musings from Kelsey Schroyer, follow him on Twitter @KelSchroy75.
Hobby Musings: When Will 2019 Rookies Appear on NFL Trading Cards?
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