2018 Panini Elite Draft Picks Collegiate Football Review by J-Dub

All this draft talk has me thinking about Football Cards!

2018 Panini Elite Draft Picks Collegiate Football Trading Cards

2018 Panini Elite Draft Picks

Just when we think that Baseball is taking over and the Basketball playoffs get into gear, Football pulls us back in for College Spring Games and the NFL Draft. The Draft has become somewhat of a 3 month process with discussion beginning as soon as the Super Bowl ends and culminating with the actual 3 day Draft at the end of April. The NFL Network inundates us with players turning pro, 40 times, how many times running backs can bench 250 lbs and how high offensive linemen can jump. If you are a big football fan like me, there are also interviews and tape breakdowns and draft pick trades to keep your attention as well.

The Draft this year is April 26-28 and while it has lost some of its overall luster with all the “experts” essentially letting the public know who is being picked before the picks are ever made, it is still fun to watch from two important angles. The first is to see how your pro team does and the second is to see where your home team college players wind up. Unfortunately, we don’t keep many Georgia Bulldogs at home to play for the Atlanta Falcons. But it’s not a total loss because my mom’s side of the family is originally being from Ohio, so I have another team I root for in Cincinnati that has become a major home for Bulldogs over the years. They have (or had) AJ Green, Geno Atkins, Clint Boling, Shawn Williams, David Pollack, Odell Thurman, Robert Geathers and Orson Charles, to name a few.

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The NFL Draft has a lot of Bulldogs that are hoping to land in the NFL this year too but we’ll discuss them and other future hopefuls in a minute. For one reason or another, the draft has always had some draw for me beyond just watching what the Falcons were going to do. To be honest, they have not always had the best draft days so I’ve had to find those other things that would draw me in. We have hit some good players like Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, DeVonta Freeman and Vic Beasley over the last few years but we also pick some real duds each year too. Does anybody remember Peria Jerry? Most Falcon fans do, for all the wrong reasons.

The draft used to be the same weekend as my Spring Break when I was in high school during the mid 90’s so we would always watch bits and pieces while at the beach. I have a lot of memories of seeing players get drafted while I was scoping out chicks on the white sands of Panama City Beach. Then in 1998, there was the Peyton Manning vs. Ryan Leaf draft. We all know how that worked out now but it was a highly debated class back then. That was an awesome class that also included Fred Taylor, Randy Moss, Hines Ward and Charles Woodson.

The Draft in 2000 was pretty strong too with players like Jamal Lewis, Brian Urlacher, Shaun Alexander and a guy picked in the 6th round named Tom Brady. The Falcons got the #1 pick in 2001 and chose Michael Vick who both wowed and disgusted the city of Atlanta over the following years. Other big names from that year included LaDanian Tomlinson, Richard Seymour, Reggie Wayne, Chad Johnson and Drew Brees, who was taken as the #1 pick in the 2nd Rd by San Diego. A few years later, in 2004, San Diego would select another QB as the #1 overall pick, Eli Manning. Eli refused to sign with San Diego and they ultimately traded him to NY for their 1st pick (4th overall), Phillip Rivers.

New York Giants quarterback, Eli Manning, throws a pass during the second quarter of the 2013 National Football League Pro Bowl Jan. 27., at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii. Several hundred service members assigned to bases throughout Hawaii were honored during games opening ceremonies and the halftime celebration. (Department of Defense photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth/Released)

While much has been made of the way Eli handled the draft or who won in the swap of Rivers and Eli; the takeaway for me was that San Diego gave up on Drew Brees too quickly as he went to New Orleans and became a Super Bowl Winner. San Diego has made it to the playoffs 6 times since then and have only won 4 total games in those playoffs (17 years). San Diego ultimately lost all the way around as both Manning and Brees have hoisted the trophy while the Bolts have floundered. But it hasn’t been because Philip Rivers has been a bad QB either. I would take any of the 3 on my team but Drew Brees would be my 1st pick every time. An alternative that year would have been to keep Brees, have LT controlling the backfield and drafting Larry Fitzgerald, who would be chosen #3 by Arizona in ’04. Imagine a squad that lined up Brees, LT and Fitz for the next 10 years!

There have been some odd moments in the draft that are easy to attack in 2018 but there are also some moments that didn’t make sense in their time either. The Bengals drafting Akili Smith will always be a head scratcher for me. Remember the time the Jaguars drafted a punter while Russell Wilson was still on the board in 2012? How about the time Mike Ditka traded 8 picks to Washington so the Saints could grab Ricky Williams at #5 in 1999? It didn’t necessarily put Washington in the Super Bowl but they got Champ Bailey, Lavar Arrington and perennial pro bowler Chris Samuels in the deal. It also gave us the memorable ESPN the Magazine cover of Mike Ditka with Rickey Williams wearing a wedding dress.

There was the year Alex Smith was chosen #1 and Aaron Rodgers landed in GB at #24 (2005). There were boos in Philadelphia when Donovan McNabb was drafted. Tim Couch was supposed to be the, first of what turned out to be many, savior in Cleveland. Minnesota dropped a couple of spots in the 2003 draft when they didn’t get their pick in on time. The Raiders picked a kicker (Sebastian Janikowski) in the 1st round of the 2000 draft. The Raiders chose JaMarcus Russell over Calvin Johnson. The Jets decided that Ken O’Brien was the better QB than Dan Marino. The list goes on and on and on. The draft is always an interesting event to watch and look back on when everything shakes out.

Bo knows….

The first major draft story I remember was that of Bo Jackson. He was a legend in the SEC, which is where I focus my college attention, thanks to the Georgia Bulldogs. Bo played both football and baseball at Auburn and was an unquestionable generational talent. He was entering the 1986 NFL Draft and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the #1 overall pick. However, a mistake made by the Bucs team owner, Hugh Culverson, set off a chain of events that altered 2 sports over the next few years. Bo took a trip with Culverson on a jet provided by Tampa Bay and Bo was told that the trip was completely legal and would not alter his eligibility at Auburn, which was his remaining baseball season at the school.

“The NFL Draft, and events leading up to it, can have lasting effects on teams and players and fans that we may not feel for years to come.”

The trip turned out to be a violation of NCAA rules and Bo was ruled ineligible for the remainder of that baseball season. There are a lot of rumors surrounding the actual intent of the Bucs but Jackson supporters maintained that it was sabotage on behalf of Tampa Bay because Bo was tearing up the baseball field up to that point that year. I’ve read everything from the Bucs wanting him to be ineligible so he didn’t get hurt before he made it to their camp to it being an inside job with Culverson being an Alabama graduate. Bo even had his own thoughts, being quoted in an ESPN 30 for 30 Documentary as saying:

Bo Jackson Chooses Baseball over Football (July 14, 1986) credit: Chuck Solomon

“I think it was all a plot now, just to get me ineligible from baseball because they saw the season I was having and they thought they were going to lose me to baseball. Like, if we declare him ineligible, then we’ve got him.”

The Bucs thought they did have him and drafted him #1 overall, even though Bo expressly told them they were going to “waste a pick” if they chose him. They in fact did just that and he never signed. He went on to play baseball with the Kansas City Royals that year and appeared in 25 games. The Bucs lost their rights to him when the ’87 draft came around and the Raiders snagged him in the 7th Rd. The rest about Bo is history and we’ll never know how things would have turned out if this issue hadn’t happened. Would he have had the baseball career he had? Would the Bucs have had to wait 11 years to make the playoffs? Would Bo have had the catastrophic injury that ended his football career? The NFL Draft, and events leading up to it, can have lasting effects on teams and players and fans that we may not feel for years to come.

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‘Class of 2018’

2018 should be a very good class and several positions have potential “team altering” talents to choose from. Quarterback has a healthy crop of gunslingers led by Josh Rosen (UCLA), Sam D’Arnold (USC), Baker Mayfield (OU), Josh Allen (WY) and Lamar Jackson (UL). The Browns are certainly in the cards for one of these players but several teams have the chance to upgrade with a new young QB. The player that feels like the closest to a sure thing is Josh Rosen and the player that could surprise the most is Lamar Jackson. Baker Mayfield is a very talented QB and wows the crowd with his ability but he isn’t the best passer or the best runner in the class. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be the best QB.

Running Back is loaded and two of the best available are from my home school but we’ll talk about them separately in a moment. Saquon Barkley (PSU) may be the best player in the draft this year at any position and where he ends up will be very interesting. Derrius Guice will be another name to watch, coming from LSU, who just put Leonard Fournette in the league. Ronald Jones from USC, Kerryon Johnson from Auburn, Rashaad Penny from SD State and Royce Freeman from Oregon all have starter potential in the league.

Wide Receiver is always a position that doesn’t get as much attention in the draft as I think it should. This year, there are players like Calvin Ridley (AL), DJ Moore (Maryland), Courtland Sutton (SMU), Christian Kirk (OU), DJ Chark (LSU) and Equanimeous St. Brown (ND) and are all names to watch. The Tight Ends are packing a punch too with Hayden Hurst (USCe), Dallas Goedert (SoDakSt), Mike Gesicki (PSU) and Mark Andrews (OU).

The defensive side of the ball has some studs that are ready to come in and wreck some offenses. Bradley Chubb (DE,Maryland) could be the first defensive player taken. LB Tremaine Edmonds (VT) will also be a highly rated pick. Others I’ll be watching to go early are Denzel Ward (DB,OSU), Minkah Fitzpatrick (DB,AL), Vita Vea (DT,UW), Derwin James (DB,FSU), Da’Ron Payne (DT,AL), Justin Reid (DB,Stanford) and Harold Lander (DE,BC). I would love to see James, Payne or Chubb end up in Atlanta!

As for my Georgia Bulldogs, we have 7 players that could potentially get drafted this year. I expect Roquan Smith (LB) to be the first Bulldog taken. Several mock drafts have him going as high as 9 or 10. The next pick will likely be Isaiah Wynn (G), but Sony Michel (RB) or Lorenzo Carter (DE) could beat him out for that spot. That one is a tossup for me. Nick Chubb (RB) should be a top half pick and in reality, should be higher. Trenton Thompson (DL) will likely be chosen somewhere in the back half of the draft but I think if he had stayed one more year, that would have been higher. He battled some injuries though and I think he moved on when he thought he had to. Finally, Javon Wims has draft potential and I believe could be the diamond in the rough for some team. He led us in receptions and touchdowns last year and his 6’5 frame was hard to stop in the red zone.

2018 Panini Elite Draft Picks Football Cards

2018 Panini Elite Draft Picks Football Cards

All this draft talk has me thinking about Football Cards! In preparation for the 2018 Draft, Panini has released Elite Draft Picks, which features players in their college uniforms and is the only pre-draft licensed product. Sage and Leaf each have products that hit the stores before the draft but they don’t quite stack up to Elite in my opinion. A hobby box is currently priced around $95 and has 5 packs with 15 cards per and an average of 5 autographs per box. The set is only 154 cards so it isn’t a behemoth to build either, if you are into that sort of thing. The autographs could include incoming rookies or current/retired players.

As with most products in 2018, there are parallels and they are too many to specifically itemize here but we’ll cover any that are pulled as there are an average of 4 per box. There are also multiple insert sets to be found; including Chain Reaction, College Ties, Elite Series, Passing the Torch and Primary Colors. This is my first look at Elite this year but the release is very timely and is a great set to pair with watching the draft. Let’s see how this box looks.

This is the base veteran player in the set. Leonard Fournette played his college ball at LSU and is pictured in the Bayou Bengal uniform. This is one of the reasons I like this set.

The base rookie has the “Draft Picks” insignia down the bottom corner of the card. I was pleased to pull a Bradley Chubb. I do believe he will be the 1st defensive player taken in the draft.

To my surprise, Elite even included coaches this year. This is the only one I pulled so I’ll have to skim the checklist to see who is actually here.

Status parallels are die cut versions of the base cards and are numbered to 99.

Aspirations is another parallel to the base card and they are numbered to 25. They also have this amazing refractor look that the photo doesn’t quite do justice. A Bo Jackson numbered to 25 constitutes a big hit at my house!

I pulled multiple variations of a few of the players. These are numbered the same in the checklist but have different photos on the front.

Here is the base and variation of Josh Allen as well. Each of the draft picks from 101-154 have these variations.

I am pleased to add the base and variation of Saquon Barkley to the set build!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Baker Mayfield!

Here are the inserts (from top left, clockwise) – Chain Reaction Saquon Barkley, College Ties Barry Switzer/Billy Sims, Primary Colors Calvin Ridley, Passing the Torch Derrick Henry/Lamar Jackson and Elite Josh Allen.

Four of the autographs were fairly standard with the Deontay Burnett in the top right being numbered to 30.

The big hit in the box was this Derwin James numbered to 25! I expect James to be a very high draft pick and one of the first few defensive players taken. This card is really beautiful!

The downside of this box was that I didn’t pull a single Georgia Bulldog. But really, that was the only thing I can complain about. The cards look great, there are 5 autos per box, I hit a sweet Bo Jackson low numbered card and I also hit a home run with the Derwin James auto. I pulled base cards of most of the expected high draft choices so all in all, I enjoyed this rip.

What do you think of 2018 Panini Elite?

J-Dub
@DubMentality

 

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