Friday, September 21, 2018

Still Floundering in a Topps-less World

2015 was the last year that Topps produced football cards.  Since then, I've really struggled to attach myself to a specific Panini product.  I'm a Topps guy.  Flagship always made a great go-to, with Chrome and Platinum being excellent options for shiny.  I always felt like I got more for my money with Topps.  Panini has some good products, but I usually come away feeling like I spent a bunch of money on not very cards.

The designs and gimmicks seem to be hit-and-miss, too.  I try to complete one set per year, and it seems to end up being a different set each year because I'm trying to find the best go-to set, year after year.  This year, I've struggled to find that one set that I want to chase.  I've sampled a few different products this year, and I still haven't really decided which one is the best for a complete set chase.

As I'm getting into the football swing of things, I'm going to try to review the pros and cons of the 2018 Panini products that I have tried.

2018 Score

I've already shown these cards when I picked up a blaster in May.
Pros: The design is clean, and one of the most distinctive Score designs in recent years.  I can actually tell this year from previous years without looking at the back.  There is an abundance of low-end inserts, which can make an interesting side chase along with the base set.  The base set is comprehensive; it includes defenders and linemen and a full rookie checklist.
Cons: As a pre-draft release, Score has no indication of the NFL team for the rookies.  The issue I had with the inserts was that there were so many included.  I felt that if I were building the base set, I would start to get annoyed that I was getting an insert that didn't fill a need instead of a base card I could use.  Really, though, the rookies are the biggest drawback to me.  I like to see the full NCAA license on display, but I also would like to see the drafting team on display.

2018 Classics

Pros: This is Classics' third year, and with each passing year I'm reminded that this is a fun design each year.  I like that it could pass as old school, but it hasn't exactly been done before.  One hundred rookies is a good rookie checklist.
Cons: I'm not a huge fan of including retired players in current releases, and this product is crawling with them.  A full 1/3 of the checklist is the Legends subset, and while it's sometimes nice to pull HOF players from packs, if I'm building a set, I would rather it chronicle the current state of the league.  As with Score, Classics is a pre-draft release, so the rookies have no NFL affiliation mentioned.

2018 Prestige



Prestige seems to be the closest thing I have to a go-to for the past few years.  I've gone with Prestige 2 of the past 3 years.
Pros: Like Classics, Prestige is a 300 card set, but the checklist is better than Classics in the sense that all of those cards are either current vets or rookies.  I like the expanded checklist to get more than just quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers.  Prestige usually has some good, medium-sized insert sets to go after on the side, too.  For this year, I kind of like the Stars of the NFL set.  The rookies are great; I love the full license college treatment with draft affiliations.
Cons: What is that design?  I really don't think I would want a entire binder full of this weird geometric background. 

2018 Panini

I've bought one 12-card pack of Panini this year.  Historically, it's been a difficult design for me because it's too ornate and tries to do too much.  But, it was there in the store, so I decided to give it a try.
Pros: This is a really good design.  I haven't been impressed with Panini's past efforts, but this is great.  A full-bleed photo, a clean, simple design, and clear, easy-to-read letters.  I don't even mind that the largest design feature is the "P" in the box.  It just looks great.  There are some less typical players in the checklist, as evidenced by the big guys on both sides of the line of scrimmage you can see that I pulled.  Typically, Panini has a good lineup of inserts to make it interesting.  I only got one insert in the single pack I bought--a Dan Bailey, kicker, insert that I showed in my fantasy team post a couple weeks ago.  That's okay with me if I'm trying to build a base set.
Cons: There's only one, but it's big to me.  ALL of the rookies are short-printed.  As in two per box.  I would love to see this design in page after page of a binder, but I would have to exclude the rookies just because I would never be able to afford them.  That hurts for a set collector to have to leave all the rookies behind.

2018 Donruss



I picked up one jumbo pack of Donruss.  I learned that each jumbo pack contains 4 Press Proof parallels and one inserts, along with 26 base cards.  My pack was a little disappointing considering it was a little Vikings heavy for this Pack fan.  Two Mike Hugheses and the lone insert a Chuck Foreman?  At least Saquon Barkley was a saving grace.
Pros: Twenty-six base cards in a jumbo pack is great for building a set.  Like the baseball set this year, the football set pays homage to the 1984 release.  Though Donruss didn't make football until 1996.  I still think the '84 is better than both reduxes, but at least the football has logos.  The waves are a little distracted, but knowing where they come from makes them a little more tolerable.  A good checklist, which includes hogs like Alejandro Villanueva and Kelechi Osemele.  Each team has one legend representing it, which I find is better than a 100-card legend subset in the base set.
Cons: I'm not overly in love with this design.  But really, there is just one major beef that I have with this set: I really don't like two separate designs for the rookies.  Either make them all look like the base cards (see Hughes and Kiser above), or make them all Rated Rookies.  This is probably just a cardboard OCD of mine, but I completed the Donruss set in 2016 and struggled to with what to do with the rookies in the binder.  I usually like to sleeve the rookies in draft pick order, but that looked weird when I was mixing up the designs.

So, of the 2018 products I've sampled this year, I think I've decided which set I would most like to complete.  And the winner is: Donruss.  I would probably rank it third in design and second in checklist.  I really, really would like the Panini set, but the SP rookies are too much to handle.

In a twist here, though, don't expect to see 2018 Donruss on my wantlist anytime soon.  Due to ever tightening finances, I believe I've bought all the new 2018 products that I'm going to get this year.   Other things are taking priority, and this year will be a down year in my collection.  But maybe next year I'll be back on track and Panini will have something that just really draws me in.  Or maybe not.  They haven't been able to fill the void Topps left for me yet.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Franchise 9: San Francisco 49ers

One feature I want to make for this blog is to feature the best nine players for each franchise.  Why nine?  Because then I get to create a binder with a page for each team, of course!  To make my task a little easier, I've decided to narrow the field to Super Bowl Era players only.  First of all, it eased the selection process because I wanted to keep each team to nine players.  Trying to take a team like the Bears or Packers with all its history and whittle the greatest players to nine is a daunting task.  For some of these teams, it was hard enough to make the cuts that I did.  To double the length of the history and decide between Norm Van Brocklin and Torry Holt was beyond the scope of what I wanted for this project.  Sorry Norm, it's just easier to justify excluding you because of your time period.  Second, it makes it a bit easier to collect the cards I need without having to bust my budget on a lot of vintage.  Third, since half the teams in the NFL don't have history too far beyond the advent of the Super Bowl, it levels the field a little for the newer teams.

As is always the case with any type of ranking, there will be plenty of room for debate.  This is in no way a definitive list.  I have a soft spot in my heart for the guys in the trenches, so some may say that I have included too many offensive linemen.  Interestingly, I have found that most teams have a 5/4 split between offense and defense, or vice-versa.  I didn't intentionally try to even it out, that's just how it turned out.  This is just my opinion, and I tried to base it on both stats and status.  I've learned a little bit of football history in the process as well, and having a bit of history is one of the appeals of collecting to me.  In any case, it gave me another something to do with my cards, and that's why I did it in the first place.

The teams will be presented in no particular order; basically, I have chosen the players already and am in the process of filling in the gaps as I do not currently own a card of every player I have chosen.  I'll present each team as I complete its page.  Players are in order of position, not ranking.  I don't really care to take my nine franchise players and try to rank their greatness.  I'll just leave it as a team.

Today I'm featuring the San Francisco 49ers.  Quick, name your top 9 Niners!  Chances are, you could probably think of about six no-brainers immediately.  A long run of dominance, some all-time great QBs, and a couple of players in the conversation for GOAT status makes a good portion of this team easy to build.  The last few spots might be more debatable or even filled by lesser-known players.  I had Jimmy Garroppolo on this team, but then he actually lost a game this weekend.  Now that he's not undefeated as a starter anymore, I bumped him from the team.  Here is the current best players from 49er history.   In case anybody is wondering about my judgment, I'm totally kidding about Jimmy G.



1. Joe Montana, QB (2007 Topps Co-Signers)
Typically, the conversation of QB GOAT involves Tom Brady and Joe Montana.  Both have an uncanny ability to win, and that defines both of them as quarterbacks far more than the numbers.  Montana took home  4 Lombardi Trophies in 4 tries over an 8-year span.  But if you want numbers, here are just three to justify his spot as a Top 9 player for the franchise: he still holds the team's marks in passing yards and touchdowns, while he is second in quarterback rating.

2. Steve Young, QB (1997 Pinnacle)
The only QB in San Francisco history with a higher rating than Montana?  That would be Steve Young, who is 6th all-time in the NFL.  At the time he retired, he was #1.  And I mentioned that Montana did nothing but win above, but Steve Young actually has the highest winning percentage in 49er history, at .734 versus Montana's .719.  He may only have one ring as a starting QB, but he certainly filled Montana's shoes admirably.  Only the Packers, with the transition from Favre to Rodgers have been as fortunate as the Niners as far as quarterback succession goes, but I still think that the Niners have the best 1-2 punch in history.


3. Roger Craig, RB (1987 Topps)
Roger Craig was the original PPR weapon out of the backfield.  In eight seasons by the bay, Craig had 508 catches for 4,442 yards.  In one of those seasons, he actually led the entire NFL with 92 catches. Yes, in the era before the pass-happy NFL, a running back caught 92 balls to lead the league.  He followed that up with 81 catches the next season.  But he wasn't just a receiving threat scatback type of player.  He topped 1,000 yards rushing three times.  In 1988 he was 1st-Team All-Pro after a season in which he rushed for over 1,500 yards and added another 500 on 76 grabs.  


4. Frank Gore, RB (2014 Topps Greatness Unleashed)
Believe it or not, but Frank Gore has more rushing yards than any other active player.  At 14,087, he is about 2,000 yards ahead of even Adrian Peterson.  The bulk of those yards (over 11,000) came while he played for San Francisco.  His yardage in San Francisco alone puts him in the top 20 all-time.  While he is somehow still churning years after it seems like he was forgotten, the time he put in for the 49ers was already enough to be one their top players ever.

5. Terrell Owens, WR (1997 Ultra)
TO finally got to fulfill his dream of making it to Canton.  Sort of.  I guess he didn't actually GO to Canton, but he was enshrined there this summer.  That HOF career started in San Fran, where TO spent his first eight seasons, hauling in nearly 600 balls for 81 touchdowns.  That's just over 10 TDs for TO per season in SF.  He was drafted as Jerry Rice's heir-apparent and ended up being the other half of a deadly tandem for a few years while Rice stuck around.

6. Jerry Rice, WR (1998 Flair Showcase Legacy Collection Row 3)
Speaking of Jerry Rice, there is virtually no argument against his being the GOAT receiver of all-time.  How dominant was he?  He is #1 in receptions, 224 catches ahead of #2 Tony Gonzalez.  He is #1 receiving yards, almost 7,000 yards ahead of #2 Terrell Owens.  And he is #1 in total TDs, 33 ahead of #2 Emmitt Smith.  There are no words strong enough to describe that type of domination.


7. Patrick Willis, LB (2008 Leaf Certified Materials)
Patrick Willis only spent 8 seasons in the NFL, but he made the most of them.  The only season he didn't make the Pro Bowl was 2014, which was the injury-riddled year that ultimately forced him to retire.  Of those 7 Pro Bowl seasons, 5 were accompanied by 1st-Team All-Pro nods.  With respect to Brian Urlacher, Patrick Willis was the dominant middle linebacker in the NFC during his career.

8. Jimmy Johnson, CB (1972 Sunoco Stamps)
I have to admit, I didn't even know who Jimmy Johnson was until a couple of years ago, even though he has been in the Hall of Fame since 1994.  Johnson's entire career was spent in San Francisco, and whenever a player plays at a Hall of Fame level entirely for one team, it's hard to leave them out of the conversation of franchise's best players ever.  Johnson's career began before the Super Bowl Era criterion for this project, but his best stretch of years came just after the inception of the Super Bowl.  From 1969-1972, he reeled off four consecutive 1st-Team All-Pro nominations.  For his career, Johnson picked off 47 passes, scored on two of those, and recorded a safety.


9. Ronnie Lott, S (1991 Pro Set)
We've already got Joe Montana and Jerry Rice as possible GOATs at their respective positions.  Well, let's add another.  Granted the greatest all-time safety in the NFL isn't likely to garner as much attention as QB or WR, but Ronnie Lott certainly can stake a claim for it.  Lott took the league by storm in his rookie year, picking off 7 passes and taking 3 to the house.  (1981 was not a fun year for offenses, as Lott and Lawrence Taylor both started out that year.)  After moving to free safety full-time in 1986, Lott really started to have fun.  That year he led the league with 10 interceptions.  In the next five years, Lott was an All-Pro four times and a Pro Bowler for all of those years.  He ended his 49er career with 51 interceptions, 12 fumble recoveries, and 721 tackles.

While the Niners have ebbed and flowed since Steve Young retired, the bright stars in their history have been really bright.  This is one of the best 9-pocket pages in my binder.  But is there anybody missing?  Who else deserves consideration?  Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Franchise 9: New York Jets



One feature I want to make for this blog is to feature the best nine players for each franchise.  Why nine?  Because then I get to create a binder with a page for each team, of course!  To make my task a little easier, I've decided to narrow the field to Super Bowl Era players only.  First of all, it eased the selection process because I wanted to keep each team to nine players.  Trying to take a team like the Bears or Packers with all its history and whittle the greatest players to nine is a daunting task.  For some of these teams, it was hard enough to make the cuts that I did.  To double the length of the history and decide between Norm Van Brocklin and Torry Holt was beyond the scope of what I wanted for this project.  Sorry Norm, it's just easier to justify excluding you because of your time period.  Second, it makes it a bit easier to collect the cards I need without having to bust my budget on a lot of vintage.  Third, since half the teams in the NFL don't have history too far beyond the advent of the Super Bowl, it levels the field a little for the newer teams.

As is always the case with any type of ranking, there will be plenty of room for debate.  This is in no way a definitive list.  I have a soft spot in my heart for the guys in the trenches, so some may say that I have included too many offensive linemen.  Interestingly, I have found that most teams have a 5/4 split between offense and defense, or vice-versa.  I didn't intentionally try to even it out, that's just how it turned out.  This is just my opinion, and I tried to base it on both stats and status.  I've learned a little bit of football history in the process as well, and having a bit of history is one of the appeals of collecting to me.  In any case, it gave me another something to do with my cards, and that's why I did it in the first place.

The teams will be presented in no particular order; basically, I have chosen the players already and am in the process of filling in the gaps as I do not currently own a card of every player I have chosen.  I'll present each team as I complete its page.  Players are in order of position, not ranking.  I don't really care to take my nine franchise players and try to rank their greatness.  I'll just leave it as a team.


The Jets have not had a lot of success in their history.  They did make it to Super Bowl III and became the first AFL team to win it; they haven't been back since. 



1. Joe Namath, QB (1990 Pro Set Super Bowl MVPs)
Broadway Joe's legend is greater than his performance on the field.  His 1968 season, however, almost singlehandedly cements his spot on this list.  In that season, he threw for over 3,000 yards and 15 TD, earning the AFL MVP award.  Oh, there was that Super Bowl guarantee that he made good on, too.  He led the AFL in passing yards twice and the NFL once after the merger.  In one of those years (1967), he achieved the first 4,000 yard season.

2. Curtis Martin, RB (2002 Topps Debut)
Curtis Martin is just the kind of player I like: he's quiet, not flashy, and he just produces consistently.  For his career, he ranks 4th on the all-time rushing list, with over 14,000 yards.  That might surprise some people, considering he was only voted to the Pro Bowl five times in eleven years, despite the fact that he failed to reach 1,000 yards only once--in his final season.  Eight of those seasons were spent in New York, where he racked up 10,302 yards rushing and eventually ran into the Hall of Fame.

3. Freeman McNeil, RB (1990 Topps)
Before Curtis Martin, Freeman McNeil was the franchise's leading rusher.  McNeil didn't put up such big numbers, but he earned a spot on this team.  He had two 1,000 yard Pro Bowl seasons, but his best season came in the strike-shortened 1982 season.  In 9 games, he gained 786 yards to lead the league and earn 1st Team All-Pro.

4. Don Maynard, WR (2008 Upper Deck Football Heroes)
As Joe Namath's partner in crime, Maynard led the AFL in receiving yards in 1967 and receiving touchdowns in 1965.  He was a big-play receiver who averaged 18.7 yards per catch for his career and retired as the league's all-time leader in receptions (633) and receiving yards (11,384).

5. Kevin Mawae, C (NO CARD)
Mawae anchored the Jets offensive line for seven seasons, being named to the Pro Bowl in five of those seasons.  He was also an All-Pro five times, receiving a 1st-Team nod three times.  Largely due to his success with the Jets, Mawae was named to the NFL All-Decade team for the 2000s.  Despite his dominance as a player, cards of Mawae of a Jet are really hard to find.  Card companies have no love for centers anymore.

6. Marvin Powell, T (1983 Topps)
Powell spent nine years with the J-E-T-S.  During that time, he made four Pro Bowls and three 1st-Team All Pro teams.  According to Pro Football Reference, players with similar careers through the nine years he spent in New York include Walter Jones, Willie Roaf, Dermontti Dawson, Gary Zimmerman, and Joe DeLamellieure.  That's five Hall of Famers who had similar career trajectories to Powell.  I suspect that if Powell had maintained his level of play for longer, he'd be regarded more highly.  Instead, his career tapered off after he left for Tampa Bay in 1986.  However, his Jets career was outstanding and earned him a spot on the Franchise 9.



7. Mark Gastineau, DE (2008 Leaf Limited Team Trademarks)
Gastineau was the leader of the New York Sack Exchange defense in the 80s.  He spent his entire 10-year career with the Jets, and rewarded them with 5 Pro Bowl appearances and 3 All-Pro performances.   Sacks became a recorded statistic in 1982, so when Gastineau led the league in the category in 1983 with 19 sacks, he set the single-season record.  He followed that up with 22 sacks in 1984, breaking his own record.  That record stood for 17 years, until Michael Strahan broke it in a controversial manner with some help from Brett Favre.  From 1981-1985, Mark Gastineau was simply unstoppable.

8. Mo Lewis, LB (1993 Fleer)
A lifelong Jet, Lewis played his entire 13-year career (1991-2003) in New York.  As of the beginning of the 2018 season, he ranks 2nd on the Jets all-time tackles list (1,006), 4th in sacks (52.5), 1st in fumbles forced (26), and 4th in fumble recoveries.  That's a pretty good body of work.

9. Darrelle Revis, CB (2015 Prestige)
"Revis Island" in his prime was one of the best corners the NFL has ever seen.  He spent eight seasons with the Jets, making the Pro Bowl in five of those seasons and earning All-Pro nominations three times.  He ranks 3rd on the Jets' all-time list in interceptions, but it's the passes defensed category that is truly eye-opening.  His 111 career passes defensed outpaces the next player on the Jets (James Hasty) by 47.

Years of mediocrity have resulted in an interesting Franchise 9--whereas some teams seem to have players clustered together when they had really good teams, the Jets have players spread out from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, and 2010s.  They never really had a team with many great players to carry them. 

What do you think?  Who would you change out if you had to limit this team to the 9 best players of the past 50 years?  Let the discussions begin!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

NFL Kickoff 2018

I'm a pretty good fantasy football player.  I play multiple teams each season and I have only ever had one squad not reach my league's playoffs.  The thing is, I will never brag or trash talk about fantasy football.  I realize that my success is the result of two major factors, neither of which is worthy of great pride on my part.  First of all, most of those leagues have been Yahoo public leagues.  If any of you has ever played in a Yahoo public league, then you understand that the key to winning those leagues is just to keep playing until the end of the season.  Almost everyone else will drop out and start players who have been on IR since Week 3.  The other factor is the fact that I follow football more than any other person I know.  I'm not just a casual fan.  That's not really something to brag about, either, but it has definitely led to some fantasy football success over the years.

Last year, I got sick of just playing competition who wouldn't even bother to show up in a public league, so I got some colleagues at work together for a friendly league and became a commissioner for the first time.  My hope was that with a more personal league, everyone would keep playing.  It worked, and I had the most enjoyable time I've ever had playing fantasy.  I didn't win (I got smoked in the championship game), but it was definitely fun.  This year, I got the league back together again.  I realized that I followed football a little too much during our draft this year, when we gathered together and I knew about almost every player on the board, while the guys around me were just picking names they might have heard of.  Again, that's nothing to warrant any trash talk, so I didn't poke any fun at the bad picks I saw.  At least they play.

Despite the fact that I was well-prepared for the draft, I found that it went much different from the mock drafts I had done.  After about 10 mocks, there were a few players that I just knew I would come away with, because it happened that way every time.  Not so in the actual draft.  I'm a little wary about my team this year because I feel that a lot of players are unproven.  Here is my team, the 2018 Myopic Chihuahuas.


QB-Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
I thought for sure this would be Matthew Stafford after all the mocks, but it didn't turn out that way.  Ben was a solid late-round pickup, I think.  He still played well last year, so I'm hoping for a solid performance this year.


RB-David Johnson, Cardinals
RB-Joe Mixon, Bengals
Johnson was my first pick, #5 overall.  He was hurt all last season, but it wasn't a leg injury.  I'm banking on his being fresh and ready this year.  Mixon is a gamble for me.  I'm a little wary, but a lot people believe he will break out this year.  I sure hope so.

WR-A.J. Green, Bengals
WR-Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
WR-Sammy Watkins, Chiefs
Green was my 2nd rounder.  I've never owned him in fantasy before, so I'm not sure what to expect.  He's usually a great performer.  Thomas should be pretty good this year, with a better QB situation than he has had the past couple of years.  I can only hope rookie Courtland Sutton doesn't steal too many targets.  Watkins was a reach when I picked him up, but I didn't trust any other wideout behind him on the board to be a WR3, so I had to snatch him up earlier than I should have.  He has insane talent, so I'm hoping Patrick Mahomes can be the QB to finally get him the ball.
  
 
TE-Delanie Walker, Titans
It seems like Walker is available in the middle rounds each year, and each year I pass.  Then he plays as a top TE and I wish I had him.  He slipped a little this year, and I didn't let him get by me again.


K-Dan Bailey, Cowboys
DEF-Seattle Seahawks
Bailey was just cut by the Cowboys, but that doesn't bother me too much.  It was my final pick anyway, and I just replaced him with another kicker (Daniel Carlson of the Vikings).  At least I actually have a card to show of Bailey.  Kicker cards are rare these days.  Seattle's Legion of Boom is history, but I wasn't going to reach for a defense earlier in the draft.  I'll start with Earl Thomas and the boys, and stream week to week.

Bench
QB-Andrew Luck, Colts
RB-Alex Collins, Ravens
RB-Sony Michel, Patriots
RB-Marlon Mack, Colts
WR-Randall Cobb, Packers
WR-Kenny Golladay, Lions

I'm pretty good at running back, thin at wide receiver, and have the potential for some good quarterback play.  I have some questions about the team this year, but I'm excited for the season to begin!

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Franchise 9: Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills have only had one really successful era since the AFL/NFL merger.  They have only made the playoffs 15 times in the 52 Super Bowl years, and 10 of those appearances came in a 12-year stretch between 1988 and 1999.  That stretch includes four consecutive Super Bowl appearances--and losses--making the Bills synonymous with heartbreak.  Not surprisingly, their Franchise 9 reflects the days of AFC dominance of 25-30 years past.


1. Jim Kelly, QB (1995 Pinnacle QB Club)
If a team has a HOF quarterback, he will most likely make the cut as one of the franchise's top 9 players.  Kelly was the field general during that early 90s string of Super Bowl runs.  He ran that no-huddle offense to perfection.  Since Kelly retired in 1996, only one QB has managed to start for more than two seasons.  That man was Ryan Fitzpatrick.  It's easy to imagine the Bills having had no success in their history without Kelly.

2. O.J. Simpson, RB (1989 Pro Set Announcers)
It's true that O.J. has very few (if any) fans remaining.  But that doesn't change the fact that he was once the most dominant runner in football.  In 1973 he became the first rusher to surpass 2,000 yards in NFL history, doing so in only 14 games.  His 143 yards per game is still an NFL mark and would have translated to 2,289 yards in today's 16-game season--a mark that would still stand.  While not a good human being, O.J. was a great football player.

3. Thurman Thomas, RB (1991 Score)
 To me, Thurman Thomas was the original Marshall Faulk.  He was not only one of the best runners in the league, he was also one of the greatest threats out of the backfield.  In his 12 seasons with Buffalo, he averaged 1,377 total yards.  At one point, he led the league in all-purpose yards 3 out of 4 seasons and winning the NFL MVP in 1991.  As his running ability declined, he began catching more and more passes out of the backfield, remaining the team's primary threat for over a decade.



4. Andre Reed, WR (1995 Flair)
 If Thomas was the team's #1 weapon, Reed was #1b.  He caught 941 passes for over 13,000 yards and 86 touchdowns over 15 years with the Bills.  Reed and Rice were often mentioned in the same breath when talking about YAC (yards after catch), as he was always dangerous with the ball in his hands.  Somehow, Reed was passed over for the Hall of Fame until 2014, when he made it in his 10th year of eligibility, despite the fact that he retired with the 3rd most receptions in NFL history.



5. Ruben Brown, T (1995 Topps RC)
Ruben Browns was selected in the first round of the 1995 draft and immediately took over as the Bills' starter at left guard.  He started every game of his rookie year and continued to start every game for the next nine years, barring a few games missed due to injury.  His rookie year was the only year he failed to make the Pro Bowl while playing for the Bills.  The Bills of the late 90s may not have been good, but Brown sure was.

6. Kent Hull, C (1996 Pacific)
One secret to the Bills' success from 1990-1993 was the offensive line.  There were some great players on that line, but none better than Hull.  I think it's no coincidence that Thurman Thomas's run of all-purpose yard dominance, including his 1991 MVP year, happens to overlap almost perfectly with Kent Hull's streak of Pro Bowl and 1st-team All-Pro honors.  Plus, I have a soft spot for centers and will always be happy with cards of centers with their hands on the ball.

7. Bruce Smith, DE (1991 Upper Deck)
He's only the NFL's all-time leader in sacks.  His record of 200 sacks isn't going anywhere soon.  Julius Peppers is closest active player, but he's 45 sacks behind with only a season or two left in him.  Next closest?  Dwight Freeney, with 125.  Smith was absolutely dominant and probably the best player on the Super Bowl teams.

8. Fred Smerlas, DT (1982 Topps)
It's hard to gauge a nose tackle's value, especially during a time when nose tackles were simply meant to anchor the line and sacks weren't an official stat and tackles weren't tracked during part of his career anyway.  But Pro Football Reference gives Smerlas an Approximate Value stat of 101 for his Buffalo career.  That's good for 7th all-time for the Bills.  It probably has a lot to do with his 5 Pro Bowls in 11 seasons.

9. Cornelius Bennett, LB (1991 Pacific)
 Rounding out the Bills' Franchise 9 is Cornelius Bennett, who also made the NFL's All-Decade team for the 1990s.  He was the 2nd overall draft pick in 1987 and made 1st-Team All-Pro in 1988.  That year also marked the beginning of a Pro Bowl streak that lasted until 1993, minus a 1989 season that was cut short by injuries.  Bennett was an all-around backer, who piled up 52.5 sacks, 751 tackles, 6 interceptions, and 19(!) fumble recoveries for the Bills.

This list once again shows the struggles of a team in recent years.  The last active Bill on this list was Ruben Brown, who left for Chicago in 2003.  Since then, the roster has been a revolving door of mediocrity.  But let the discussion begin!  Who would you choose? 

Friday, August 31, 2018

Spring Cleaning My Scan Folder

But it's nearly fall, you say?  Well, yes.  But COMC had a Spring Cleaning promotion in May, and I partook.  COMC offered a free shipping voucher to anyone who deposited $50 in store credit during that week.  I decided to take my card budget and do all my shopping on the secondary market that month so I could get my cards shipped to me before the Black Friday promotion.  The way I shop on COMC, $50 can really do some damage to my wantlists.


I have nothing but High Praise for this 2012 Cooperstown insert set.  I've been working on it for a couple of years, but these cards will complete it.  My favorite quote on these cards is Reggie Jackson's remark, "Blind people come to the park to hear [Tom Seaver] pitch."


Three more sets I'm working on.  Those are the final three cards to complete my 2008 Topps set build.  The Limas Sweed is an interesting card.  Here is the back of it:

That's Justin Forsett on the back of Limas Sweed's rookie card.  It's not a simple printing error in which they fed the wrong sheet or something and some cards snuck through.  This is the only version of the card.  Poor Limas Sweed didn't get his vitals on the back of any card in the 2008 Topps set.  It also means that no card technically has the number 365 on the back, which is where Sweed is listed on the checklist.  I find this card highly interesting.


A couple of months ago, I posted about a partial set of 1999 HoloGrfx and the NFL 24/7 insert set from the product.  I bought it from Sportlots figuring I could easily complete it.  All it took was these six cards from COMC and I had both sets done.



Here are a couple really shiny sets that I'm working on.  2013 Prizm Brilliance is almost done.  I'm not quite halfway through the 2016 Absolute Unsung Heroes yet.  I'm particularly happy about adding Eric Berry and Ziggy Ansah, two of my favorite dudes in the NFL.


From extra shiny to real cardboard.  As my mini-collection binders draw nearer to completion, I've decided to start being a little more discerning in what I'm actively pursuing.  For my mini-collections, like these All-1980s team, I've decided to only seek out and purchase older cards from the actual playing days of these players or inserts.


The same thing applies for these mini-collections.  Although, I'm not sure too many modern base sets are including players like Leon Wagner (ASG MVP 1962) or Johnny Callison (ASG MVP 1964).  Wagner, who was the second player to ever win the award, makes his first appearance in my collection with this 1962 issue--the year he took home the award that secured a spot in my collection.


Some more vintage here of two All-Star MVPs (Callison and Bonds) and two ROYs.  This is Steve Howe's rookie, and the first card I have of him with the Dodgers, with whom he won the award.


The other cards I would accept of these mini-collections would be inserts.  Here we have fairly recent inserts to 80s stars Dan Fouts, John Riggins, and the "Manster," Randy White.  Ben Coates, Hardy Nickerson, and Kevin Greene had their heydays in the 90s.  The Greene Contenders card is numbered to 199.


Representing the All-2000s team are these inserts.  I guess that the La'Roi Glover isn't technically an insert, but an oddball from SI for Kids.  Glover, Mawae, and Kevin Williams have been hard for me to find for collection.  Just not enough love in the card companies for the big uglies.


My baseball mini-collections got in on the inserts, too.  I know, I cheated with Yaz and that isn't an insert.  But for a little over 30 cents, how could I pass up that beautiful card?  For some reason, I really like the Corey Seager Break Throughs card.  It seems a bit loud for my taste, but something about it is just great to me.


 I've been using COMC to work on my Refractors Frankenset.  I picked out a handful of really cheap refractors this time around, too.  I really like the Collegiate Draft Picks football card of Antonio Gates playing college basketball.  He never played college football after Michigan State coach Nick Saban told him he would only allow him to play football.  He transferred around a bit after that before landing at Kent State, where he played two seasons of basketball.


I added to my BYU collection with this purchase.  These are my first cards of Virgil Carter, the Cougars' first great quarterback in a span of 20 years in which almost every BYU starter spent time in the NFL.  It's also my first card of Daniel Sorensen.  I'm really happy to see him succeed in the NFL.  To be honest, he often drove me crazy while in college by getting burned too often.  The Chiefs gave him a chance, though, and I think he's better in the NFL than he was in college.  The really big card here is my first Ziggy Ansah auto.  

Finally, I picked up an autograph of Packers linebacker Kyler Fackrell.  He may not have played for BYU, but he is a fellow Utahn.  It seems that not too many kids play high school ball in Utah and ultimately end up in the NFL.  When one of them ends up as a Packer, you can bet I'll support him.

I used my $50 to complete at least a couple of sets and do some damage to other areas of my wantlist.  Vintage, inserts, autos--I'm happy with my haul.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Franchise 9: Houston Texans


One feature I want to make for this blog is to feature the best nine players for each franchise.  Why nine?  Because then I get to create a binder with a page for each team, of course!  To make my task a little easier, I've decided to narrow the field to Super Bowl Era players only.  First of all, it eased the selection process because I wanted to keep each team to nine players.  Second, it makes it a bit easier to collect the cards I need without having to bust my budget on a lot of vintage.  Third, since half the teams in the NFL don't have history too far beyond the advent of the Super Bowl, it levels the field a little for the newer teams.

As is always the case with any type of ranking, there will be plenty of room for debate.  This is in no way a definitive list.  I have a soft spot in my heart for the guys in the trenches, so some may say that I have included too many offensive linemen.  Interestingly, I have found that most teams have a 5/4 split between offense and defense, or vice-versa.  I didn't intentionally try to even it out, that's just how it turned out.  This is just my opinion, and I tried to base it on both stats and status.  I've learned a little bit of football history in the process as well, and having a bit of history is one of the appeals of collecting to me.  In any case, it gave me another something to do with my cards, and that's why I did it in the first place.

The Houston Texans are the youngest team in the NFL, only coming into existence in 2003.  Not surprisingly, they have probably the weakest and most fluid Franchise 9 as a result.  As it stands now  for this newer franchise, here are the best in its history.


1. Matt Schaub, QB (2009 Playoff Contenders)
As it stands, Matt Schaub is the greatest quarterback in Texan history, and it's not even close.  A kid named Watson may be changing that within the next couple of years, but right now it's Schaub.  In his first six years with Houston, he made two Pro Bowls and had a rating under 90 just once.  He even led the league in passing yardage in 2009.  Somehow, he became a pick-six machine in his last year with Texans and moving forward, and the numbers there are so mind-boggling that they suggest as much bad luck as bad play.  For most of his stint in Houston, however, Schaub was an efficient, if not spectacular QB.


2. Arian Foster, RB (2014 Topps Valor)
Once again, we have a player who is clearly the best in franchise history without a whole ton of competition.  In seven Texan seasons, Foster rushed for 6,472 yards and 54 touchdowns while averaging 4.5 yards per carry.  The next closest rushing total is over 3000 yards behind him.  Foster was one of the league's top running backs for a stint and wholly deserves his spot on this team's Top 9.

3. Andre Johnson, WR (2003 Bowman RC)
Johnson is not only the greatest Texan receiver, but he is also one of the NFL's greatest.  Perhaps because he played for a team that was irrelevant for much of his career, Johnson is widely underrated.  All he did was catch 1,012 balls (good for 11th all-time) and score 64 times.  I hope he gets some love when he becomes eligible for Canton.



4. DeAndre Hopkins, WR (2014 Bowman)
After learning from Johnson for a couple of years, Hopkins stepped right into his place as the team's go-to guy.  After five years in the league, Hopkins already ranks second behind Johnson on the franchise leaderboard in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns.  And that was playing with some of the worst quarterbacking in recent memory.  If Deshaun Watson continues to grow in the potential he flashed last season, Hopkins could really become scary.

5. Duane Brown, OT (2013 Topps)
Brown has been the best offensive lineman in the team's history.  Between 2012-2014, he was named to three straight Pro Bowls and one 1st-Team All-Pro.  That doesn't include 2011, when he had his best, most impactful season, according to Pro Football Reference and their Approximate Value score.

6. J.J. Watt, DE (2013 Prestige)
Injuries have kept Watt sidelined for a couple of years now, but it really wasn't that long ago that Watt the most dominant defensive player in the league.  In a four-year stretch, Watt racked up 69 sacks, including two 20 sack seasons.  In 2014, he registered 20.5 sacks, returned both an interception and a fumble for a touchdown. . . and caught two touchdowns on the offensive side of the ball.  I may be a Packers fan, but I could make a strong argument for Watt as MVP over Aaron Rodgers that season.



7. Jadeveon Clowney, DE (2014 Prestige Draft Picks)
This is this the truest sign that the Texans don't have much history.  Clowney was drafted only 4 years ago, missed most of his first season due to injury, and just started to find his footing during the second season.  Basically, in two full years of work, Clowney has already shown enough to be one of the top Houston Texans of all-time.  He is only 20 sacks and 3 fumble recoveries into his career, but he is disruptive enough to command constant attention from the opponent.  If he shows the explosiveness that made him the #1 overall pick in the draft, he will retain this spot.  If not, some other youngster may pass him up shortly.



8. Brian Cushing, LB (2011 Rookies & Stars)
Cushing came into the league on fire.  In 2009, he made 86 tackles, 4 sacks, and 4 picks en route to a Rookie of the Year award and a Pro Bowl berth.  Injuries and PED suspensions have slowed him down since, but he is still on the team and contributing.  He currently ranks second in franchise history in tackles, eighth in interceptions, and ninth in sacks.  According to Pro Football Reference, the trajectory of his first three seasons matched players like Willie Lanier, Jack Ham, DeMarcus Ware, and LaVarr Arrington over their first three seasons. 

9. Johnathan Joseph, CB (2013 Topps)
Joseph has been the anchor of the Texans' secondary since 2011.  Since coming over from Cincinnati, Joseph has made two Pro Bowls and is currently tied for the franchise record for interceptions.   He is still in a starting role with the team, so his impact on the franchise history will likely keep growing.

What do you think?  Who would you change out if you had to limit this team to the 9 best players of the past 50 years?  Let the discussions begin!