Hobby Musings: When will this year’s NFL draft class have cards with pro jerseys?–The 2021 NFL draft is in the books, and a new crop of rookies brings a new season of rookie trading cards. This year’s rookie class promises to be a popular one among collectors as it features a lot of high-profile quarterbacks and several other skill players taken in the first round. To find out a little more about what Panini has planned for the new NFL players, I had the chance to catch up with Rob Springs, Director of Football Product Development for Panini America.
KS: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance went in the top three of this year’s draft. What is is your take on the cardboard future for the three quarterbacks?
RS: I think they are all set up in great spots, from a hobby standpoint. While Trevor went to Jacksonville, he should be the type of guy that can transform the franchise, thus keeping him collectible. With Wilson and Lance going to New York and San Francisco, those have always been good hobby markets, so absolutely no worries on either of those guys either as we sit today.
KS: Overall, we had five QBs and a number of big prospects taken in the first round of the draft. How do you think the 2021 class will stack up compared to previous draft classes from a card standpoint?
RS: This should be the biggest class we have had, which is saying something when you look at some of the ones we have recently had. Not only because of the QBs – we had a lot of good skill position players go to good markets, as well. It’s almost like combining elements of the 2018 class with elements of the 2020 class.
KS: Who were your biggest surprise picks of the draft?
RS: I think some of the skill positions at the backend of the draft had some surprising names. Some of the guys we thought might get drafted in that area either went later than we expected or didn’t get drafted. But with a missed season for some, no combine, individual workouts – that really should have been expected. From a skill position player, I was surprised by the Saints taking Ian Book when they did.
KS: Which player’s cardboard draft stock do you feel rose the most because of where he was drafted?
KS: With the draft over, who’s an under-the-radar prospect card collectors should be keeping an eye on?
RS: Davis Mills isn’t really that far under the radar, but we need to see how the Deshaun Watson issue plays out in Houston. He could be a starter sometime in 2021. I would also keep an eye on Jaelon Darden and Demetric Felton if you want some deeper under-the-radar guys.
KS: There were a number of offensive linemen selected in the first round. Will they have autos in upcoming products and does having that position drafted high, in any way, change the way you build a product?
RS: Yes, we try to have some of the higher projected OL in our early DP and NFL programs – and we will certainly look at a number of players for Contenders. And, no, having a lot of OL drafted early doesn’t change what we do. I think there are always a bunch of OL drafted in the first and second rounds every year.
KS: Will there be a rookie photo shoot for the draft class this season?
RS: Maybe – still working with the PA on this one.
KS: When will we be seeing the new prospects in Panini football products for both rookie cards and autographs?
RS: 2021 Score will actually be the first product out with the new draft class (and autos) and will release on May 12th.
KS: Which product will mark the debut of the rookies in their professional jerseys?
RS: Right now, we have the Pen Pals cards slated for 2021 Donruss Elite, which is scheduled to release on July 9th.
KS: What are the two annual releases you get most excited about overseeing?
RS: Tough question. I absolutely love Spectra and Select – but I also like to help look over any new program that we add to our calendar. Not many of those, but we do try to mix in at least one new program each year.