Football Cards: 2013 NFL Draft Cause for Concern?

Last year was a banner one for football cards, highlighted by an unusually strong 2012 NFL rookie class.

That rookie class featured what looks to be at least three elite quarterbacks, including Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, and Andrew Luck, who set single-season and single-game rookie passing yardage records and led an Indianapolis Colts team that was the league's worst in 2011 to 11 wins and the playoffs in 2012. Griffin and Wilson both ranked in the NFL's top five in passer rating, and both led their teams to the playoffs as well. Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins could very well join this elite group in the next year or two.

The 2012 draft class also had two rookie running backs who ended up in the top five in the league in rushing yardage -- Doug Martin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and sixth-round pick Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins -- as well as a rookie linebacker in Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers, who led the league in tackles. In addition, RB Trent Richardson of the Cleveland Browns and wide receiver Justin Blackmon of the Jacksonville Jaguars -- the third and fifth overall picks in the 2012 NFL Draft, respectively, may yet pan out as elite players.


The strong rookie class has made its impact on cardboard prices. As demand has increased while supply has dried up, blaster boxes of 2012 Topps Chrome Football, which sold for $19.99 at retail at Target and Wal-Mart, are now going for $30 to $35 a pop on eBay. Meanwhile, 12-box hobby cases of the same set -- which could be had for less than $1,300 as recently as January -- are now pushing $1,700 to $1,800 per case.

With the 2013 NFL Draft just weeks away -- and with the first 2013 NFL sets featuring players who haven't even been drafted yet are already on the market -- are we in for an encore?

On one hand, retailers and collectors alike have expressed concern over what is perceived to be an exceptionally weak 2013 NFL draft class. On the other hand, at last month's Industry Summit in Las Vegas, card manufacturers were quick to point out that players can emerge seemingly out of nowhere. After all, Wilson was a third-round pick, while Alfred Morris flew so under the radar as a sixth-round selection that he wasn't even included in the 2012 Topps Chrome set.

Are the card manufacturers right to be optimistic?

The short answer is probably not. Following is a list of the top 15 base rookie cards by ungraded book value from the Topps Chrome Football sets from 2004 to 2012. Also included are their graded BGS 9.5 Gem Mint values where available according to Beckett.com, as well as the adjusted multiple (the graded value multiple to ungraded book value, adjusted for the cost of getting a card graded, which is assumed to be $10).

Notice anything?

Top 15 Topps Chrome Football Base RCs, 2004-2012

Card

Card Number

Position

Ungraded BV

BGS 9.5

Adjusted Multiple

2004 Topps Chrome Ben Roethlisberger RC

166

Quarterback

$40

$100

2.0

2004 Topps Chrome Eli Manning RC

205

Quarterback

$30

$80

2.0

2005 Topps Chrome Aaron Rodgers RC

190

Quarterback

$80

$250

2.8

2005 Topps Chrome Phillip Rivers RC

230

Quarterback

$12

$50

2.3

2005 Topps Chrome Larry Fitzgerald RC

215

Wide Receiver

$12

$50

2.3

2005 Topps Chrome Sean Taylor RC

202

Safety

$12

--

 

2007 Topps Chrome Adrian Peterson RC

TC181

Running Back

$25

$60

1.7

2007 Topps Chrome Calvin Johnson RC

TC200

Wide Receiver

$15

$35

1.4

2008 Topps Chrome Matt Ryan RC

TC166

Quarterback

$12

$40

1.8

2008 Topps Chrome Joe Flacco RC

TC170

Quarterback

$12

$35

1.4

2009 Topps Chrome Matthew Stafford RC

TC210

Quarterback

$15

$50

2.0

2010 Topps Chrome Tim Tebow RC

190

Quarterback

$12

$40

1.8

2011 Topps Chrome Colin Kaepernick RC

25

Quarterback

$12

--

 

2012 Topps Chrome Andrew Luck RC

1

Quarterback

$15

--

 

2012 Topps Chrome Robert Griffin III RC

200

Quarterback

$12

--

 

Source: Beckett.com.

Of the top 15 rookie cards from 2004 to 2012, all but four of the players are quarterbacks, including the last seven players from 2008 to 2012. Meanwhile, only one player -- the late Sean Taylor -- was on the defensive side of the ball, while the other three players all play skill positions.

The 2013 NFL Draft appears exceptionally weak where it counts. Only one QB -- Geno Smith of West Virginia -- even merits a first-round grade according to Scouts, as found on ESPN.com's NFL Draft page. Moreover, Scouts has Smith as only the 20th-ranked player in the draft, and it might scare you to note that Blaine Gabbert of the Jacksonville Jaguars had a higher pre-draft rating in his 2011 draft year.

And if you're looking for offensive stars outside the quarterback position, Scouts doesn't have a wide receiver or running back in its top 15, either. As such, the odds are strongly against the emergence of a truly elite wide receiver like Calvin Johnson or a running back like Adrian Peterson from the 2013 draft.

Indeed, the top of the 2013 NFL Draft appears to be strong on defense and on offensive linemen, but weak where it counts on cardboard. And while it's always possible that a Russell Wilson or an Alfred Morris -- or a Colin Kaepernick, for that matter -- could emerge, this might be a good year for football card investor/collectors to take it easy and sit on the sidelines, or otherwise take a wait-and-see approach.

2013 NFL Draft: Position Breakdown of ESPN.com/Scouts Top 32

Position

No. of Players

Defensive Tackle

6

Offensive Tackle

4

Defensive End

4

Linebacker

4

Cornerback

4

Guard

3

Wide Receiver

3

Quarterback

1

Tight End

1

Safety

1

Running Back

1

For more of Jeff's analysis on this topic:

The article Football Cards: 2013 NFL Draft Cause for Concern? originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Jeff Hwang is a gaming industry consultant the best-selling author of Pot-Limit Omaha Poker: The Big Play Strategy and the three-volume Advanced Pot-Limit Omaha series. Jeff's next book, The Modern Baseball Card Investor, is due out later this year. Jeff owns shares of eBay. You can follow Jeff on Twitter: @RivalSchoolX. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of eBay. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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