Lackluster 2013 NFL Draft Makes Memorabilia Prospecting a Challenge for Collectors

With an injury sidelining Sanchez for the first couple of games of the season, Geno Smith will start and, depending on how he plays, may not relinquish the job. Will that make his 2013 Panini Prestige rookie card worth more than what you paid for it? We’ll have to wait to find out.

The 2013 NFL season kicks off in earnest on Sunday, but with this year’s NFL Draft Class being short on skill position players, knowing who to gamble on from a sports collectibles standpoint is an even a riskier proposition than normal.

Consider these two points: the first impact offensive position selected was not a quarterback or running back, instead it was wide receiver Tavon Austin out of West Virginia selected by the St. Louis Rams; the first quarterback selected in the draft wasn’t even taken until the 16th-overall pick when the Buffalo Bills used the pick to add E.J. Manual out of Florida State to their roster.

So what’s a fan or collector supposed to do without the hype of marquee first-round draft picks to guide the way? Research, for starters. However, we’ll help you get a jump-start on that by looking at some potential diamonds in the rough.

When it comes to football cards and memorabilia, offensive skill position players still rule the day, with the natural pecking order being, quarterbacks, running backs and then wide receivers. With that said, here is a look at a few players who just might have a break-out season, possibly giving their rookie card values a boost. A lot of times, it doesn’t matter where in the NFL Draft a player is selected but instead by whom. Later picks that fill an immediate need on a solid team and get playing time ahead of young “project for the future” type players on weaker teams, often get a head-start on their collectible value.

Most of the following players already have a handful of rookie cards on the market and, while there are more to come with new releases still to be produced, here is an early selection of their cards to meet almost any budget.

2013 Topps Inception Montee Ball autographed rookie card.

Montee Ball

Running Back, Denver Broncos, 2nd Round, 58th Overall Wisconsin

Ball will get plenty of playing time and with talent like Wes Welker and Peyton Manning surrounding him; he is in a prime place to succeed.

Low-end: 2013 Bowman #135, 2013 Score #426, 2013 Prestige #288
Mid-range: 2013 Elite #172 /799, 2013 Finest #120, 2013 Momentum #172
High-end: 2013 Topps Inception #122 Autographed

2013 Topps Finest Geno Smith rookie card.

Geno Smith

Quarterback, New York Jets, 2nd Round, 39th Overall, West Virginia

Geno Smith entered Draft Day with high expectations. But the mobile quarterback with above-average arm strength slipped to the second round and was selected by the Jets as the back-up and heir-apparent to Mark Sanchez. A pre-season injury cost Smith valuable reps at the position. However, with an injury sidelining Sanchez for the first couple of games of the season, Smith will start and, depending on how he plays, may not relinquish the job.

Low end: 2013 Bowman #150, 2013 Score #368, 2013 Prestige #234
Mid-range: 2013 Elite #135 /699, 2013 Finest #146, 2013 Momentum #136
High-end: 2013 Topps Inception #110 Autographed

2013 Elite Stepfan Taylor rookie card.

Stephen Taylor

Running Back, Arizona Cardinals, 5th Round, 140th Overall, Stanford

Being number two on the depth chart behind only Rashard Mendenhall means that the NFL-ready tailback will most likely receive a lot of carries and has the potential to earn the starting spot at some point during the season.

Low-end: 2013 Bowman #155, 2013 Score #410, 2013 Prestige #272
Mid-range: 2013 Elite #188 /799, 2013 Finest #122, 2013 Momentum #187
High-end: 2013 Topps Inception #125 Autographed

Kenbrell Thompkins

Wide Receiver, New England Patriots, Undrafted, Cincinnati

With all the money teams put into scouting, the combine and pre-draft preparation, good players still sometimes slip through the cracks. Such is the case with Thompkins. He has emerged as the potential number-one receiver for the Patriots. Even the trading card companies overlooked him, as he doesn’t yet have an officially licensed NFL trading card. That will change quickly with new releases closer to the start of the season.

Markus Wheaton

Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers, 3rd Round, 79 Overall, Oregon State

A truly gifted all-around athlete with the hands and quickness necessary to excel in the league, Wheaton is showing he is capable of making an impact right now and takes on the role of being a big target for Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. He is already being touted as the replacement for veteran Mike Wallace—who moved to Miami in free agency—and has impressed the team with his pre-season play.

Wheaton is another player who slipped through the cracks of the trading card companies. While he doesn’t, as of yet, have an official rookie card, collectors and Steelers fans can rest assured he soon will.  

2013 Bowman Manti Te’o rookie card.

It should also be noted that over the last few years, there has been a renewed appreciation for collectibles of players on the defensive side of the football. Once again, it is the skill positions, like linebacker and cornerback, which often garner the most interest. Without going into specifics, some of the players for collectors to keep an eye on are:

• Manti Te’o, Middle Linebacker, San Diego Chargers;
• Robert Alford, Cornerback, Atlanta Falcons;
• Sio Moore Linebacker, Oakland Raiders;
• Jon Bostic, Linebacker, Chicago Bears.

Regardless of the 2013 NFL Draft not having definitive, blue-chip prospects in the top picks, you can rest assured that this rookie class will give rise to some future bona fide superstars. Knowing which ones is the tricky part.

Rob Bertrand has been an active collector of sports cards and memorabilia for more than 20 years. His involvement in the hobby community is well documented, having been the content manager for the Card Corner Club website before the company’s merger with CardboardConnection in 2011, where he is now a staff writer and multimedia content producer. Rob is also the co-host of the sports collectibles hobby’s only live and nationally broadcast radio show, Cardboard Connection Radio. He is the author of the highly respected and trafficked blog, Voice of the Collector and you can follow him on Twitter @VOTC. A dealer himself, Rob runs an online business through eBay, and is frequently asked to consign collections.

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