The NFL Draft can have a big impact on card shop owners, online dealers and trading card companies. A productive, exciting rookie class can mean strong sales that never really stop. A less than spectacular crop can mean financial struggles at every level.
We won’t know the true, lasting value of 2015 NFL rookie cards until we see what they can do on the field but for now, especially after the results of Thursday night’s first round, it’s a little easier to focus.
Some buyers are willing to speculate, in hopes of a big payday much later. Others are content to prospect on the bottom, buying base cards of the pre-draft products like penny stocks.
Jameis Winston/Tampa Bay: Some NFL executives have privately said the team that drafted Winston would be making “a horrible mistake”. Others think if he can avoid off the field trouble, he’ll be a major star. As the top pick, Winston will already have some built-in credibility that comes with the honor—at least until the first pre-season game. He could also fall a long way.
Collectors and prospectors haven’t been shy about spending money on his cards. Leaf Metal Draft seems to have been the most popular product. A 1/1 Gold Prismatic Winston autograph is listed as sold on eBay at a $2,500 Buy it Now. An on-card 1/1 autograph brought $639 on April 11. For those not willing to roll the big dice, grabbing a few lower end singles might be the right call (see Winston cards on eBay here).
Marcus Mariota/Tennessee: Despite some persistent trade rumors, number two pick Mariota stayed put and the Titans hope he’ll be their starter in Week One. A leader with no character issues and an impressive college career, Mariota seems to be the safer bet. Like Manning and Leaf or Luck and Griffin, Winston and Mariota will be forever measured against each other.
Mariota’s autographed Leaf Touchdown Kings insert has been popular but he’s signed with Panini for NFL cards and the company will have a lot riding on him early. He has a decent looking autograph, which won’t hurt his value (see Mariota cards on eBay here).
Amari Cooper/Oakland: “Carr to Cooper” is a phrase Raiders fans are hoping to hear a lot. Of all of the offensive players in the first round, Cooper seems to be the one virtual ‘can’t miss’ type prospect.
Serious and hard-working, the fourth overall pick is not Mr. Congeniality, but if he can produce like he did at Alabama, Cooper could quickly become popular with collectors. Some of his pre-draft autographed cards have been selling for under $40, which could be seen as quite a bargain down the road (see Cooper cards on eBay here).
Leonard Williams/N.Y. Jets: While defensive players don’t often drive card sales, there were many who thought Williams was the best player in the draft and getting a chance to shine in the nation’s biggest media market could mean good things.
Earlier this week, a 1/1 Upper Deck Inscriptions card sold for under $70 (see Williams cards on eBay here).
Bears fans were excited to see the West Virginia receiver picked and White seems to be a good guy but until a new Cutler emerges, it may not matter who’s lined up at wideout. Still, the potential is there for a new star in what may be the best collecting market of all (see White cards on eBay here).
Todd Gurley/St. Louis: Gurley was able to sign autographs without any repercussions once he turned pro. He actually has two autograph styles and neither one is any good, but if he has a good rookie season, few will care. The ACL tear is a concern for a player taken tenth overall.
Gurley’s true impact may not be known for a year or two but if he becomes a star and the Rams move to L.A., it could mean very big things long-term (see Gurley cards on eBay here).
Melvin Gordon/San Diego: The healthy and productive Gordon may have the most first-year impact of any player in the draft. The Chargers traded up to get him and it would seem to be a great move. He’s a workhorse who put up monster numbers at Wisconsin and won’t have a huge learning curve in the pros. Upbeat and always smiling but ever humble, Gordon has plenty of charisma, which never hurts.
Gordon’s cards have been selling for about half of what some pay for Winston and Mariota (see Gordon cards on eBay here).