There will be pro football from now through February 13. It’s a long haul season this year—17 weeks of games followed by a month’s worth of playoffs before we even get to Super Bowl 56 in Inglewood, CA.
It’s the time of year when collectors and investors get antsy to buy cards and hopefully see it pay off as the 2021 season unfolds—and beyond. A few products have already been released with a couple dozen more to come by late next winter. With a new season comes new names and a chance to get reacquainted with some old ones.
If you’re the prospecting type, here’s some insight and a few tips to kick off the season.
*Don’t overreact. The buying urges will be strong this Sunday and Monday. While it’s possible those first games will mark the start of someone’s Rookie of the Year effort, it’s also possible Weeks 2-18 will be a different story for that Week 1 hero. If a player is still performing well in Week 3 or 4, it’s better to buy then than making a risky play after Week 1 because your guy faced a leaky defense and put up some good numbers. If a quarterback or other young star starts to set records or is pushing a team’s resurgence as we get to October, there’s still plenty of time to show a profit if you’re willing to hold.
*In case you’re wondering, those who cover the league have been focused on Trevor Lawrence and Trey Lance as the most likely candidates for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Mac Jones gets mentioned, too, after winning the New England Patriots’ starting job.
*While the 2021 rookie quarterbacks and 2020 sensation Justin Herbert will be getting a lot of attention, don’t sleep on Joe Burrow. Last year’s number one pick was impressive for much of last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He’s back—with some NFL experience under his belt—and a stronger arm to boot.
*Do understand that before you spend a few mortgage payments on a young, unproven QB, remember how many hobby flavors of the day have fallen off the table just in the last few years. There was no shortage of money spent on Robert Griffin III, Carson Wentz and Andrew Luck, just to name a few from recent years. Luck had a nice, but short career before he ended it voluntarily because of repeated injuries. He seemed as can’t miss as can’t miss can be, but bad things do happen. Of the nine quarterbacks taken in the first two rounds of the last two drafts, some will almost certainly flame out or have only modest success.
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*If you’re convinced Aaron Rodgers is going to win another MVP and take his team on a long playoff run (maybe his last in Green Bay?), it’s probably best not to wait much longer. The Packers will a big story again this year and even coming off a tremendous season, Rodgers been overshadowed by Tom Brady. With the emergence of Marquez Valdes-Scantling and a determined Adams, Rodgers could have another year full of big numbers and his now 16-year-old rookie cards will show it.
*This will be the first NFL season in which grading lower end base cards may not make much economic sense, even if you think you’re good at predicting which cards might get a 10 grade. The cheapest grading cost anywhere right now is around $30 and we don’t even know what PSA’s regular cost will be—or if there will be a bulk option anytime soon. Keep that in mind when you shop for boxes.
*There are going to be a lot of football card products released over the next five months. With an insatiable appetite for just about any sealed product, the lower cost brands, especially those with a retail option, may be produced in sizeable quantities at price points that may be higher than in years past. If the product is good and popular that might be OK, but if not…
*There’s so much hobby focus on the NFL’s active quarterbacks that some other talent is virtually ignored. Wide receivers and running backs tend to adjust to the NFL pretty quickly. Cards of guys whose careers have gotten off to a promising early start are really undervalued. A Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer and there will be players from the last couple of seasons who will wind up in Canton. Scooping up on-card autographs or nice base cards and parallels at current prices seems like a no-brainer. I’d stick to those young players who have already made an impression like Justin Jefferson, but heck, veterans like Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, Derrick Henry and Aaron Jones are still relatively cheap. It’s a pretty good bet that at least two of those guys will be Hall of Famers.
*Also underrated…superstars on defense. Even if the hobby is all about skill players, a guy who is considered to be among the most dominant of any decade like Aaron Donald, for instance, snapping up a few inexpensive issues (and most of them are), is not a horrible thing to do. 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa is flying under the radar after missing most of last season.
*Don’t sleep on low serial numbered base cards of high-end products. If you can say you own one of 25 cards of a Hall of Fame caliber player, you did good.
*On card autographs are almost always better.
*Buy the cards you truly like so you’ll be happy with them even if they don’t explode in value.