2018 Donruss Football Review by J-Dub

Can you believe that it is already September? While the thermometer may not be reflecting it yet in the southeast where I am, we are jumping right into fall! This is one of the most glorious seasons of the year for me for several reasons. I love cool and windy evenings, the sound of leaves falling from the trees, Halloween, comfort foods, shorter days, and longer nights. The fall is just a sensory overload for me; the sights, sounds, smells and tastes the season has to offer to make it the very best.

The stores begin putting Halloween decorations out way too soon every year but almost all of them are displaying ghosts and pumpkins by September. I remember the hallways of my school being decorated with headstones and creepy trees, then moving to turkeys and cornucopia banners. I have always loved the colors of fall; the dark neon of Halloween and the orange, red, yellow and green of Thanksgiving. Sight is one of our strongest senses and fall is unmistakable.

I also eat the most during the fall months and while that may not be a good thing, it sure is fun to do. I like to think that I am preparing for a long winter and storing up all of the protein I’ll need. I associate a lot of my comfort foods with the fall. I love Chili, Vegetable Soup, Apple Pie, Brownies, and Fair Food. The Fair always comes to our town in November and I can spend an entire evening walking from vendor to vendor trying the unique items they have to offer. The kids love the rides but I have grown out of those and settled into the role of “Fair Food Connoisseur.” They enjoy the Fun House while I enjoy the Funnel Cake.

Though I love all of those great things above, perhaps nothing represents the greatness of fall like football. There is the uniqueness of fall Friday Nights at the local high school, watching the team play for local town pride. The high school football team is the root of my love of the sport. When I was a kid, and a teen in high school, my high school was one of the best in the state. We won the State Championship once when I was in Elementary School and twice when I was in High School. We had winning seasons almost every year of my school days so every Friday Night was important to us. As a kid, I played the game in an empty space beside the high school field during the game with my friends and when we grew up, our passion grew as well.

On Saturdays, I take my local pride a little broader and cheer for the Georgia Bulldogs. I have lived every day of my life in the great state of Georgia and I have been a fan of the Red and Black since I was just a kid when Herschel Walker was bulldozing Bill Bates. I have seen such legends as Hines Ward, Eric Zeier, Champ Bailey, AJ Green, David Pollack, Thomas Davis, Garrison Hearst, Rodney Hampton, Matthew Stafford, and countless others play on that beautiful field in Athens Ga. I am passing that down to my daughters as we just went to the first game of the 2018 season this past weekend. Their greats are players like Todd Gurley, Aaron Murray, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and Jake Fromm. We bleed Bulldog Red and Black!


The love for football doesn’t stop on Saturdays either. Staying with the theme of Georgia, we are big Atlanta Falcons fans as well. I have endured some brutal seasons over my lifetime but we have improved tremendously over the last decade. I grew up watching great players like Deion Sanders, Andre Rison, Jessie Tuggle, Brian Jordan, Jamal Anderson, and Warrick Dunn. I will always love those players but we have a new crop of legends in the making in Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Devonta Freeman. I am excited about the upcoming season with the addition of Calvin Ridley and the maturity of our young defense.

So every weekend during the fall starts and ends with Football. Friday nights are the appetizer. Then cool Saturday mornings getting ready for a day of college football are only rivaled by Sunday afternoons setting my fantasy football lineups and watching the Falcons play. Some people like the summer and going to the beach and enjoying a beautiful summer day. That’s not too bad but it simply can’t compare to a fall afternoon with leaves falling, a pot of chili simmering, and pigskin flying!

Just in time for the football season, the flagship set for Panini has been released; 2018 Donruss. While being one of the more affordable card sets on the football market, Donruss always provides a lot of punch for collectors looking for fun cards and 2018 is no exception. The base set is 400 cards and features all of the top stars from the league. Cards 1-300 in the set feature current top players and veteran stars from years past. Cards 301-350 feature “Rated Rookies”, a staple in the Donruss set dating back to 1980’s Baseball. Finally, Cards 351-400 cover the remaining rookies that did not earn “Rated” status. The Rated Rookies have become a preview for the highly anticipated Optic “on-card autographs” that will drop later in the season.

Within the base set, there are multiple parallels and variations to pull. These include “Aqueous Test” and Press Proof Blue, Green, Red, Silver (#d to 100), Silver Die-Cut (#d to 75), Gold (#d to 50), Gold Die-Cut (#d to 25), Black (#d to 10), and Black Die-Cut (#d to 1). These all call backs to the early 90’s when these inserts began cropping up. There are also Jersey Number and Season Stat Line Parallels that are numbered to various totals. You can check out Ryan Cracknell’s preview at www.beckett.com/news/2018-donruss-football/ for specifics on the numbering of the parallels.

The draw for Donruss each year for me is the insert checklist. This year, the big insert for me is the 1988 Donruss reprint. Yes, you read that correctly. I actually like the insert a lot more than I ever thought I would. So let me get this out of the way; my favorite insert of 2018 Donruss is the 1988 Donruss Tribute, a reprint of one of the most overproduced card sets in history. There is also a 1998 Tribute that I am not as big a fan of. Of course, Gridiron Kings returns with All-Time, Current and Rookie versions. Elite and Dominators are always a personal favorite of mine as well. Fans of the Game makes a return with a checklist that includes James Caan, Chris Evans, Matthew Berry, Drea de Matteo, and Chloe Kim.

Legends of the Fall, Inducted, Ground Force, Team Heroes, and The Rookies also return for another season. There are some new inserts this year. There is the Glory insert, which features players in patriotic designs, some of which were members of the armed forces. There is also a Snow Days insert with players playing in snow games. MVP is back after a hiatus and features a very similar logo to some of the late 80’s MVP cards we grew to love as kids. There is also a “Matthew Berry’s Fantasy Life” insert set, which features fantasy stars and some of their key attributes on the back. The prism look of these cards is really phenomenal. Finally, there is a tribute to the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl run that is labeled “The Champ is Here.”

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There are multiple autographs and memorabilia opportunities in Donruss as well with the insert sets, rookies, current stars and Fans of the Game. The autograph checklist is quite large and is found 1 per box on average. The memorabilia cards are also found 1 per box on average. Some of the sweeter autographs have fairly low production numbers but the possibilities are really interesting. A hobby box contains 24 packs with 10 cards each and is simply loaded with inserts. There is an average of 40 Inserts per box with 8 Parallels, 24 Rookies and 24 Rated Rookies. As I stated above, the flagship product provides a lot of punch for the football card collectors.

Let’s see what we can find in a hobby box from the LCS!

As you can see, the base design is fairly clean with the white border and team colors at the top and bottom. I am not a huge fan of the white lines at the bottom of the card because it feels a little busy. Overall, the design is just ok for me.

Some of the legend cards have a little darker image as I assume the photos are more aged but I do like the look.

The “Rated Rookies” are always a highlight for me. I like the posed shots with the blue sky background.

Most of the Rookies feature the players in some practice atmosphere in their new uniforms.

Here is the awesome “1988 Tribute” Insert. I really love these cards this year and it feels so weird to type that!

Here is the “1998 Tribute” insert. I don’t necessarily dislike this card because they are well done. I am just not normally a fan of cards with no border outside of the Stadium Club realm.

Diamond Kings was a wonderful art card that was introduced in the early 1980’s. Football has brought us the “Gridiron Kings” and they are better than the baseball version of 2018. They are on a canvas type card stock and have more of an artist feel. These are broken into 3 subsets; All-Time, Current, and Rookie.

Here is an “Aqueous Test” card that is found about 1 per box. The front of the card is the same as the base version but the back has the large “Aqueous Test” stamp. These were allegedly created in the early 90’s as a test version of the card that used a special coating.

Here is the collection of Press Proof cards I pulled. The Red cards are not numbered but the Purple is numbered to 299, Silver to 100, Silver Die-Cut to 75, and Gold to 50.

“Dominators” has a nice look to it.

“The Champ Is Here” features players from the Eagles Super Bowl Champions in the big game.

“Elite Series” is a beautiful insert and very bold and shiny. I still love Elite even though the chase isn’t the same as it was when they were introduced in 1991. On a side note, isn’t it amazing how scarce the 1991 Elite (#d to 10,000) is still today? I pulled 8 cards numbered to 499 or less in this box and I have opened cases of 1991 Donruss and still haven’t pulled the elusive Elite!

Elite also has a Rookie checklist that features the team color in the border. Lamar Jackson is really hot in the hobby right now!

The “Legend Series” is essentially the Elite cards for Legends. What better player to showcase this beauty than Bo Jackson?

The “Glory” Insert features a patriotic design. This particular player is a former member of the military so it is fitting that he is featured on the card.

“Ground Force” features stellar players in the ground game. I have mentioned before that I really like “space” designs.

“Highlights” has a retro vibe to it and I dig these. This particular card features Deshaun Watson and his 5 touchdowns.

The “Legends of the Fall” series is even more like old school Diamond Kings than the Gridiron Kings are. I love this insert set!

TMR gets his own insert set this year with high-value fantasy players featured.

Here is the “MVP” card that I mentioned in the above write-up. LT was truly an MVP!

“The Rookies” is a throwback to the end of season Rookies set for baseball in the late 80’s-early 90’s. That set was somewhat of an updated set so it isn’t quite the same but it is a sharp looking card.

Snow Days

“Team Heroes” has essentially the same effect as “The Rookies”.

Finally, the “Walter Payton Man of the Year” insert features players who have won that award over the years.

The memorabilia hit was this Blake Bortles “Jersey Kings” card. The card is numbered to 150 but the patch isn’t particularly memorable.

The autograph insert was this Dante Pettis “The Rookies” insert. It is a very sharp card but isn’t a real short printed variation as it is numbered to 499. I have pulled multiple Dante Pettis autographs this year so I hope he has a nice season.

Overall, the Donruss Flagship set is more about the inserts than base cards for me. The base cards feel pretty bland but most of the insert designs make up for that. The question becomes, “when are a lot of inserts, too many?” I actually like most of the inserts offered in the set but I understand if some collectors are turned off by the sheer volume of “special” cards. I am a fan of the Donruss set and it gets me close to my roots of set collecting but it still has a lot of elements of the 2018 card product as well. What say you about 2018 Donruss?


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