Contributor: John Dudley
Last week I previewed some of the AFC’s top players to watch for in the hobby. This week it is the NFC’s turn. For each team, I’ve highlighted a player for each team that might see big gains or losses in card value this season. Being on this list could be either a good or bad thing.
I’ve also included a representative card for each player. These are not necessarily the player’s best cards but are meant to give a familiar reference point. These also give me the ability to check back in at midseason and the end of the season to see if the projections were any good or not.
Dallas Cowboys– Over the last 25 years only the Browns, Washington, and the Lions have won fewer playoff games than the Cowboys. The once proud franchise is mired in a quarter century of promising, but disappointing teams. Dak Prescott will undoubtedly put up numbers. The only question that matters though is can he win playoff games? Projection and Pricing: Dak’s 2016 Prizm RC goes for around $150 in a PSA 9 grade and slightly lower raw. While I think his card will fluctuate a little during the season, barring an unforeseen MVP run, I don’t see them catching fire until he wins a playoff game. The narrative against him is just too strong. On the other hand, he will see big dips at the first sign of struggle. Projection negative.
New York Giants- Projections are high for a Daniel Jones breakout year. Unfortunately, this is the fourth year in a row that sentence could be written. The beleaguered QB hasn’t met expectations yet be it on the field or in the hobby. Projection and Pricing: The timing is right for a breakout and the Giants need Jones to succeed, but timing and wishes don’t equal increased production. Jones didn’t get any major new offensive weapons, but he did get an almost entirely new offensive line. His PSA 10 Prizm pricing has been a bit erratic with sales from $30 to $100. He’s an interesting flyer at $30, but an easy stay away at $100. I’m putting his projection as negative as I see another long season for the Giants and a high draft pick QB in their future.
Philadelphia Eagles- I am big on the Eagles in general this year, but am most excited to see what DeVonta Smith can do in his sophomore season. He had a great rookie year that got overshadowed a bit by Ja’Marr Chase. With A.J. Brown in town now, Smith should see some weaker coverage and the Eagles should be able to create mismatches frequently. Projection and Pricing Smith is still very affordable with Silver Prizms coming in at $6 to $10. With pricing that cheap I’d like him regardless, but with the addition of Brown, I like him more. Projection very positive.
Washington Commanders- I grew up rooting for Washington which was rare in Mississippi, but my parents both grew up in the D.C. area and my grandmother sent me scrapbooks from their preseason camps every year (held near her house) so it was inevitable. I loved the Terry McLaurin signing, but it is Chase Young’s return that brings a glimmer of hope. The one-man wrecking crew will hopefully reassert himself as a top-10 defender and one of the very few that can single-handedly swing a game and destroy gameplans. Projection and Pricing: Like most defensive players, Young is very affordable. His Optic Holo RC goes for around the price of most Starbucks drinks if not cheaper. While he is a low-risk option, it takes a lot for defensive players to get hobby attention. Young was on that path pre-injury though and I am optimistic he can return to it. Projection positive.
Chicago Bears- I lived in Chicago for a time and picked up the nasty habit of buying cards of Bear’s QBs. I haven’t started with Justin Fields yet though. The young signal-caller showed flashes of brilliance and moments best forgotten last year which used to be standard for rookies. He’s got some interesting weapons and should have a chance for a decent sophomore season. Projection and Pricing: Decently centered Fields Silver Prizm rookies sell for between $75 and $85 with copies with poorer centering trading for as low as $40. There is room for growth, but there are myriad players I like better at his price point. Projection negative, but only slightly.
Detroit Lions- The good news for Lions fans is that Amon-Ra St. Brown had a great rookie season and looks poised to be a difference maker. The bad news is that Jared Goff is still throwing him the ball. Goff’s numbers have been steadily dropping since 2018 and it’s unlikely he’ll be asked to air things out this year as he seems to have settled into a game manager role. Projection and Pricing: St. Brown’s prices are still reasonable, but he’s not much of a sleeper anymore with Silver Prizms fetching between $10 and $15 in line with the other non-Ja’Marr Chase 2021 WRs. Projection negative.
Green Bay Packers- Christian Watson might have lucked into the best starting situation ever in the NFL. He’s got a HOF-caliber QB still capable of being the league MVP and a team devoid of established pass catchers. Projection and Pricing: I expect Watson to be both a hobby darling and fantasy football must-have this year. He doesn’t have any NFL-uniform cards yet though. Projection positive.
Minnesota Vikings- Justin Jefferson is a bad man and this could very well be the year he becomes the clear-cut top receiver in the NFL. He’s in the mix already as it is. QB Kirk Cousins won’t win any popularity contests, but he puts up numbers and the Vikings’ offense should be among the league’s best. Projection and Pricing: His Silver Prizm RC pricing is varied with sales from a bit under $50 and up to $100. He might be my favorite bargain in the NFL if you can find him one at $50. Projection very positive.
Atlanta Falcons- Out of the rookie QBs, Desmond Ridder is my favorite. He’s got Kyle Pitts and Drake London as the beginnings of a strong passing game. He does have to surpass Mariota, but Ridder already showed much-improved passing last year and has developed as an all-around QB. Projection and Pricing: I don’t think Ridder will begin the season as the starter, but I expect him in that role reasonably quickly. Ridder’s pricing is TBD as collectors wait for major releases. Projection positive.
Carolina Panthers- The Panthers organization has become a veritable island of misfit QBs. The success of either Darnold or Mayfield depends on Christian McCaffrey being healthy and playing a full season. When healthy, he is one of the most versatile offensive weapons in the game, but he’s only suited up for 10 games the last two seasons. Projection and pricing: His Prizm RCs are not priced poorly at about $30, but two years is an eternity in football and it seems overly optimistic to assume he will just return to his old form. I do like the friendly pricing, but projection negative.
New Orleans Saints- The other team that I have a personal fondness for is also one of the more perplexing teams in the league from a hobby standpoint. Pretty much the entire team is on my “stay away” list with exception of Chris Olave. I’m not sure what Michael Thomas will do, but Olave looks to be a very solid pickup for the Saints. I think he might get a little extra hobby love as Saints fans look for someone to become the face of the franchise. I like Olave, but the Saints are in flux so I’m not sure he will be able to produce. Projection negative.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- The only player currently on the roster I’m interested in is Tom Brady and enough has been written about him. Projection and Pricing: 2000 Bowman PSA 8s sell for $1200-$1500. I’m going to cheat and Brady a neutral projection as I don’t think he’s winning the Super Bowl or MVP this year and not much else moves the needle with his cards and level of success.
Arizona Cardinals- Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown was a pricy addition, but with Hopkins out the Cardinals needed a weapon for Murray. The pair’s strong history had to be a factor, but plans of college teammates rejoining seldom pay off. Projection and Pricing: Brown’s Silver Prizm RC can be had for $10 to $15 normally. I think Brown will do well in a different style offense, especially with Murray looking to prove he was worth the big bucks. Projection positive.
Los Angeles Rams- Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald got nice bumps from winning the Super Bowl, but Matthew Stafford’s cards returned to earth soon after. The veteran QB put up big stats in Detroit for years. Even though he seems destined for the HOF, collectors still are not sold on him. Projection and Pricing: Stafford always puts up stats, but the main thing his career needs is another playoff run. I don’t know if they will win it all again, but the Rams should be relevant in an arguably weaker division this year. His Topps Chrome RC sells between $80 and $100. Projection positive.
Seattle Seahawks- It is D.K. Metcalf or bust for Seahawks hobby relevance this year. This season feels like the Seahawks bottoming out and the whole Oregon sports scene is depressing right now. Ownership recently released a statement reassuring fans that neither the Seahawks nor Trailblazers are for sale. Projection and pricing: D.K.’s projection with Seattle is easily negative. That’s with Seattle though. There are rumors of trades though and they will likely heat up as the Seahawks shift to making draft position a priority. Dallas is an intriguing landing spot and landing Metcalf would seem to be the kind of splash that Jerry Jones loves to make. Projection positive as I expect Metcalf to finish the year on a different team.
San Francisco 49ers- Deebo Samuel had a breakout season last year and is poised to continue racking up yards. The question for Samuel in the hobby is if he can put together enough seasons to not just be considered a flash-in-the-pan kind of guy. Projection and pricing: This is the hardest one on the entire list as Samuel is still in contract negotiations and Jimmy G. is still a likely trade candidate. Too much uncertainty and an uphill battle are reasons for me to avoid Deebo. I would not be shocked if he ends up with his cards doubling and in the MVP race. His cards are not expensive with a Silver Prizm RC trading at $20 to $40, but there is just way too much uncertainty here. Projection nervously negative.
That’s got me more than ready for the NFL season. Time to update my eBay searches and players I’m targeting and watch some football. Any projections you think are way off? Any that are spot-on? Let me know who you like and hate for the upcoming season in the comments.