Football Card Prospecting

by Joey Shiver

When it comes to baseball cards, prospecting can be a daunting task.  There are minor league products, draft products and Bowman is the king of the pre-rookie.  There is a 2013 Bowman Aaron Judge out there after all.  To be honest, that’s why I don’t do much baseball prospecting.  I like to stick with established players.  I will hang on to rookies and keep tabs on them but I don’t go looking for them on buying sites.

Deciding on the right Football Cards

The story is a little different with football card prospecting.  There is only one licensed set for players that are still in college and that is Leaf Metal Army All American cards.  After that, your first real shot at collecting football cards of those players is when SAGE and Leaf release their draft cards.  At this point, the players are headed to the league and most draft analysts have done most of the prospecting for you.

It didn’t take a card guru to know that Ezekiel Elliott cards were going to be hot last year.  However, not many people had Dak Prescott as high on their collecting priority list as they do now.  Well, maybe Cowboy fans.  It took an injury for that to happen and he still outperformed all of the expectations put on him.  If you purchased Dak Prescott prior to the season beginning, you hit the jacket!  He’s not the first player to run value up early in his career either.  David Johnson was the 6th Running Back taken in his draft and now he is the #1 RB in the league on my lists.  Tom Brady was the 7th QB taken in his class, four slots behind Giovanni Carmazzi.

…But what I am really looking for when I am prospecting is somebody slightly under the radar.  Here’s who I am looking at a little closer right now…

It’s easy to stock up on the top picks and then just wait until you hit a homerun or swing and miss.  What’s harder is to pick a player that isn’t a top 2 or 3 at his position in the draft and take a chance on them.  It doesn’t always pan out because that’s what prospecting is by definition; to search, survey or scout.  Leonard Fournette will likely be a good RB this year if he stays healthy but everybody knows that.  The prices are reflective of expectations when you look for DeShaun Watson and Mitch Trubisky cards on eBay.  And I won’t be disappointed to pull any of these guys in football products this year.  But what I am really looking for when I am prospecting is somebody slightly under the radar.  Here’s who I am looking at a little closer right now.

My Football Card Top Picks

QB – Davis Webb – New York Giants

Davis Webb has one major roadblock to playing time as he begins his career.  His name is Eli Manning.  But prospecting doesn’t pay off over night.  Eli is in the final year of his contract and even if extended, you have to imagine that he is getting close to winding down his storied career.  Webb has a lot of upside and will be learning behind Eli Manning for what could be 1-3 years.  Manning may not be Brett Favre but the situation is not too much unlike Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay many years ago.  Webb will have to take advantage of this situation and be patient.  It doesn’t hurt that he is in a major market for sports.  That always helps card values.  Currently, you can find his autographs for as low as $10.

RB – Marlon Mack – Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have lacked one major piece since Andrew Luck’s arrival in Indianapolis.  The Colts last drafted a rusher that ran for 1,000 yards in 2007.  Frank Gore is a very solid and dependable running back.  He runs hard but he isn’t going to outrun many defenders and won’t be making many of them miss either.   Marlon Mack on the other hand is explosive and had at least one 55+ yard run every year of his college career, per Pro Football Focus’ Michael Manning.  He was one of the top big play running backs in the draft this year.  If Andrew Luck can get healthy and Mack can pick up the NFL blocking schemes, he could surprise a lot of people.  His 2017 Leaf Certified Auto/Patch is currently available for $7.

WR – Zay Jones – Buffalo Bills

Zay isn’t necessarily under the radar but collector’s are all over Mike Williams, Corey Davis, Curtis Samuel and John Ross right now too.  The wide receiver field is a little more crowded because there is also Ardarius Stewart, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Kenny Golladay getting publicity.  In Buffalo, Tyrod Taylor has been pretty much a quality quarterback with a rather unspectacular receiving group.  Sammy Watkins can’t stay healthy and the others have just been average at best.  Jones can provide a true #2 for Taylor and will likely get the lesser talented cornerback as long as Watkins stays upright.  That could result in big numbers for Zay and solid card values by the end of the season.  He currently has autographs on eBay under $15.

Football Card Honorable Mentions

QB – C.J. Beathard

RB – Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara and Wayne Gallman

WR – Cooper Kupp and Taywan Taylor

There will certainly be a player who comes out of nowhere to make a name for himself.  That player may not even be on a roster at this point.  Geronimo Allison finished strong last year for Green Bay and the only autograph he had, came in the SAGE product.  It would have been impossible to see that one coming.  But the players above are established enough to have multiple autographs available and right now, they are very affordable.  I will pick up a few of these players and see how they develop.  If they never make it, I haven’t lost much.  If one of them happens to break through, I will have gotten in on the ground floor.  Trust me, that’s where you want to get in!