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.
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 ClassicsPros: 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.
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.
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.
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.