Strong Rookie Class Bodes Well For Football Cards

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Another solid rookie class, including top-of-the-draft quarterbacks and highly touted running backs and receivers, should provide another great selling season of football cards.

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“As strong as the Class of 2004 was, it will be difficult to follow that up this year,” said Donruss Playoff spokesman Len Shelton. “But there are at least 10-15 skill-position players with real star potential. In the right situation, these guys could really make some noise. This year, keep your eyes on the receivers. Braylon Edwards and Mike Williams could make an instant impact on their new teams.”

Last year’s class was dominated by Eli Manning early, and fortunately, as he faded, there was Big Ben Roethlisberger. This draft won’t have the one marquee player, but it has several who could be superstars.

“It’s a more balanced draft than we had last year,” said Gregg Kohn, Upper Deck’s product manager for football. “The quarterbacks in this draft are a little underrated. It doesn’t have the same kind of buzz as last year when you had the Eli Manning situation. You’re going to have a lot of quarterbacks go late in the first round or early in the second round. You could see three running backs taken in the first 10 picks.”

Here’s a review of the football card manufacturers’ schedules early in the season:

Press Pass – Press Pass Football ships Tuesday, The game-used jersey insert boasts three levels and will be inserted at a rate of 1:72 in hobby packs and 1:280 in retail packs. The autographed card line also showcases three levels – Bronze (featuring each player’s school logo), Silver (featuring each player’s uniform number and numbered to 200) and Gold (rarest level, numbered to 100, inserted 1:7 hobby and 1:56 retail). The 50-card base set includes five shortprints. Four-card hobby packs carry an SRP of $3.99, while four-card retail packs have an SRP of $2.99. Press Pass will issue its SE Football product May 4.

SA•GE – HIT Football releases Friday. There is an average of five autographs per box. The base set includes 50 cards. The autographed card checklist includes 45 cards, which will be inserted 1:6 packs. Base, Silver and Gold will be numbered to 250, while the Gold Reflect is numbered to 100. The Write Stuff autographed version is numbered to 25. The Jersey Card insert set features 24 cards, which will be seeded 1:30. Base and Premium Swatch will be numbered to 50 versions. Five-card packs carry an SRP of $3.99. SAGE Autographed Football, also a 50-card set, ships May 13.

Fleer – Ultra Football ships May 25 and offers 37 rookie cards (1:4 packs) and 13 Lucky 13 rookies (numbered to 599). Rookies will appear in their college uniforms but will feature the logo of the team that drafted them. Showcase Football ships June 8 and feature 100 rookies (numbered to 799). Rookies will appear in their college uniforms but will also feature the logo of the team that drafted them. Tradition Football, shipping June 24, will be the company’s first product to feature photography of rookies in their pro uniforms from mini-camps and the annual Rookie Premiere photo shoot.

Donruss Playoff – Playoff Prestige ships May 11, the first fully licensed release. The 225-card set will feature more than 60 rookies. Rookies will also be featured in Draft Picks Rights, a 10-card insert where each card is autographed and sequentially numbered to 50. Donruss Elite will ship June 22. The 200-card set features 100 rookies. The set also features Turn of the Century, a partial parallel to the rookie cards, where each card is autographed by the rookie and sequentially numbered to 125.

Upper Deck – Rookie Debut, releasing in late May, features 100 rookies (1:3 packs). There will also be a Rookie Debut autograph card in every box. About half of the rookies in the set will be signing. Collectors can also look for Rookie of the Year Predictor cards. UD Football arrives the end of July, and will be the company’s first product to feature photos and memorabilia obtained at the Rookie Photo Shoot. There will be 75 rookies in product, 25 of which will be short-printed. Rookie Futures Jerseys will also be inserted into the product.

Topps – 2005 Topps Draft Picks & Prospects ships May 16, with six-card packs having a $3 SRP. The 55 Draft Picks Rookie Cards will feature college uniforms and one rookie per pack. There will be one Chrome card per pack. Autographs include QBs Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers. Topps has exclusivity with the Senior Bowl, so Senior Standout Relics and Autographed Relics are included. Printing Plates and Dual Autographs are examples of other high-end inserts. 2005 Topps Football in July will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Topps Football and will utilize the Rookie Premiere photographs. It will again include the popular signed cards produced at the event

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