By Michael Moore
Take four high-profile quarterbacks, throw in a handful of stud running backs and add a heaping amount of talented wide receivers, and you’ve got the recipe for one exciting NFL draft.
The 2010 crop of NFL rookies has collectors ready to bust boxes and chase cards of this year’s hottest freshman. Here’s the top 10 for 2010, the players who will most likely make the biggest impact on the hobby this year.
1. Tim Tebow, QB, Broncos
When Josh McDaniels drafted Tim Tebow in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft, he added fuel to an already burning national debate as to whether the Heisman Trophy winner can play quarterback in the NFL. But while there may be questions surrounding Tebow’s future in the NFL, there’s no denying the impact he’s already having on the hobby.
Tebow’s Press Pass autographs were on fire from the moment that product was released in April. After the draft, they only got hotter, as Denver Broncos fans joined in on the frenzy. Tebow’s first cards were exclusively found in Press Pass products, and following the draft it was tough to snag his autograph for much less than $100.
Panini announced in April that it would be including a special rookie card of Tebow in its Prestige product that captured the QB on draft day, all smiles wearing a Broncos cap. It will be Tebow’s first true rookie card and should remain a hot seller all season.
2. Sam Bradford, QB, Rams
It’s been nearly a decade since Kurt Warner last took the St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl, and they’ve been looking for another quarterback to return them to that greatness ever since. Bradford won a Hesiman Trophy and led the Oklahoma Sooners to a national championship game so Ram fans are hoping that type of experience will translate to NFL success.
Bradford won’t have a lot of help – the Rams aren’t exactly deep at wide receiver and have a porous offensive line – but as the top pick in the draft, he’ll likely be counted on to take the field immediately and help make the players around him better. If he’s able to play at the level of Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco during their rookie campaigns, Bradford could become the hottest rookie in the hobby.
His cards are already among the most popular in the hobby, just a notch lower than Tebow’s. Don’t expect to find many Bradford autographs much cheaper than $70-$80; his cheapest SAGE and Press Pass autographs are fetching at least that much, and serial numbered parallels are selling for considerably more. A Press Pass autograph inscribed “Boomer Sooner” recently sold for an astounding $360.
3. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys
Even if Dez Bryant had wound up with a small-market team, his rookie cards would have been among the most sought after this year. But when the best wide receiver prospect in years ends up with one of the most popular professional sports teams in the world, his cards are bound to get even hotter.
Bryant will likely make an immediate impact on the field, as he will join forces with Miles Austin and Jason Witten to give Tony Romo an incredible array of weapons. When you figure in running backs Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, the Cowboys may have the most dangerous offense in the league.
Collectors have been snatching up Bryant’s first cards, but have run into a snag: all of his autographs included in 2010 Press Pass products are redemptions, a rarity for that company. Collectors will have to be patient while waiting for Bryant’s signature.
4. Jimmy Clausen, QB, Panthers
Many draft experts expected the Notre Dame quarterback to be drafted in the first round, and certainly to be picked ahead of Tebow. Neither happened, and Clausen slid into the middle of the second round before being drafted by the Panthers.
Clausen took a tumble in the draft, but he may have ended up in the ideal spot in Carolina. The Panthers said goodbye to the interception-prone Jake Delhomme after last season, leaving unproven Matt Moore as the team’s starter. If Clausen can supplant Moore this season, he’ll be able to throw the ball to one of the NFL’s best wide receivers in Steve Smith. He also will also have a potent backfield at his disposal, with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart ready to run the ball down opponents’ throats.
Clausen has a good variety of autographs, appearing in all SAGE and Press Pass products. His autographs sell almost as well as those of Tebow and Bradford. His SAGE autographs have been fetching at least $65-$70, with his Press Pass autographs just slightly higher.
5. Colt McCoy, QB, Browns
The quarterback with more wins than any other in college football history slid all the way into the third round, where the quarterback-starved Cleveland Browns gladly scooped him up.
McCoy is the latest in a long line of high-profile quarterback draft picks for the Browns since the team reentered the league in 1999. Tim Couch, Charlie Frye and Brady Quinn were all taken with high picks, but never panned out.
Under the guidance of Mike Holmgren, the Browns are looking for a new face of the franchise, and hope McCoy will be it. He’ll likely enter the season behind Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, but there’s no doubt the Browns see McCoy as their future.
There’s never a shortage of Texas Longhorn fans chasing cards of their favorite alumni, and McCoy is right at the top of that list. His first autographs – found only in SAGE products -- were hot before the draft thanks to the UT faithful and haven’t cooled down. Most of his autographs start in the $30-$40 range, with low-numbered autographs selling higher.
6. C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills
Spiller entered this year’s draft as the top running back prospect after racking up yards both as a running back and as a kick returner. It won’t be long until he makes an impact in the NFL, either supplanting Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson as the Bills’ top running back or making highlight reel plays as a return specialist.
Where a player lands in the draft sometimes has a big effect on his cards, and winding up with the Bills could hurt Spiller’s hobby standing somewhat. The Bills haven’t made the playoffs since 1999, and seem to take a high-profile running back every few years – Travis Henry in 2001, Willis McGahee in 2003 and Lynch in 2007 – only to lose faith in each one shortly thereafter.
Still, Spiller’s pure talent makes him one of the most collectible players in this year’s draft. His SAGE and Press Pass rookies typically sell in the $20-$30 range, with low-numbered parallels fetching in excess of $100.
7. Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings
The Vikings’ selection of Heisman runner-up Gerhart must have made defenders in the NFC North cringe. Not only will they have to find a way to stop Adrian Peterson, but now they’ll have to deal with this bruiser from Stanford, who has the size of a prototypical fullback and the uncanny speed of a tailback.
Gerhart was a beast in 2008, leading all running backs in almost every significant statistical category. He scored 28 rushing TDs and amassed 1,871 rushing yards. The Gerhart-Peterson combination may give the Vikings an even more effective running game than when Chester Taylor was spelling Peterson.
Gerhart’s early cards have been a bargain given his college success and NFL potential. Most of his SAGE and Press Pass autographs sell in the $7-$15 range.
8. Ryan Matthews, RB, Chargers
Some people questioned the Chargers’ decision to trade up and draft Matthews at the No. 12 spot in the draft, much higher than many experts had predicted. But after saying goodbye to LaDainian Tomlinson after last season, the Chargers were in desperate need of a new running back, and decided Matthews was their guy.
Matthews should step right in and provide a power rushing game to compliment the speedy Darren Sproles. At Fresno State, Matthews rushed for an unbelievable 150 yards per game, reaching the endzone 19 times.
Matthews’ hobby stock rose tremendously when the Chargers traded up to get him. Prior to the draft, his Press Pass and SAGE Hit autographs could be found for $10 or less. After the draft, those same cards jumped to the $25-$30 range.
9. Golden Tate, WR, Seahawks
Collectors were salivating over Notre Dame wide receive Golden Tate prior to the draft, hoping their team would be the one to draft him. Tate lasted until the second round, when the Seahawks swooped in and snatched him up.
Tate made a big splash – and possibly the wrong kind of impression – on some teams when he showed up to spring workouts wearing flamboyant gold shoes. But Tate is a stand up guy on and off the field and in 2009, he set new single-season Notre Dame records for most receptions and receiving yards.
Like Tebow, Tate’s first cards can be found exclusively in Press Pass, and they have been hot sellers as well. His regular autographs were a relative bargain at $15-$20, though his inscriptions and lower numbered autographs have sold for considerably more.
10. Jahvid Best, RB, Lions
The Lions have been looking for a new running back ever since Barry Sanders’ shocking retirement 11 years ago. In recent years they’ve drafted Kevin Jones, Brian Calhoun, Kevin Smith and others, but have yet to find an every-down back. Lions fans are hoping Best can be better than the rest.
The Lions, obviously impressed by Best’s blazing 4.35 40-yard dash speed, traded up to grab the speedster. He’ll be part of a youth movement in Detroit that includes quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
Best already has a pretty wide variety of autographs on the market, as he was included in all early Press Pass and SAGE sets. Most of his autographs can be had for $10 or less, but low-numbered parallels fetch a premium. SCM