Friday, January 31, 2020

Kick or Keep: 7 Complete 2019 Football Sets

In a recent post, I mentioned that in my quest to complete one measly 200-card set, I purchased seven complete sets from the 2019 football year. Whoops. But, hey, the price was good (less than $10 per set, shipped) so I have no regrets. I was going for the Absolute set, but I wasn't sure which of the other sets I would keep and which I would add to my trade boxes. Now that I have made my decisions, let's examine the non-Absolute sets of my purchase.

Unparalleled is a definite keeper. I've never bought anything of it before--only picked up singles here and there--so I wasn't aware of how the set is structured. In fact, I've been far more likely to mock the set that is called Unparalleled, but seems to have an endless number of parallels. But when I saw the set as a whole, it won me over. Not only is it eye-catching and sparkly, the set is driven to feature players who don't get as much cardboard love. Take the trio above, for example. Former BYU Cougars Taysom Hill and Kyle van Noy are building successful NFL careers in their own ways, and they appear in several (if not all) base sets this year. But the third name there is Southern Utah University alum James Cowser, who is making his first cardboard appearance after spending three years with the Raiders.

2019 rookies weren't part of my purchase. But I still came away with plenty of rookie cards. Each team in the set includes two veterans with the "RC" logo. It feels like Panini is saying these guys have finally earned their stripes, and it feels kind of special. Never mind that I normally wouldn't care to collect a card of a long snapper (Kameron Canaday), in this set, it feels like we're celebrating a rite of passage. Za'Darius Smith earned his card with an outstanding 2018 season in Baltimore, which he parlayed into a free agent contract and his first Pro Bowl appearance this season in Green Bay. Matt Judon replaced Smith for the Ravens and earned a Pro Bowl nod for himself. And how about Randy Bullock, who has been kicking! around the league since 2012?

The backs of these cards are just plain awesome. We get to read about a highlight reel catching going for the first TD of a young receiver's career, an unsung DT who has managed to stick with the Jags much longer than many more well-known teammates, or the son of former NFLer Don Beebe making his own way through special teams. I like to see the stats of a Lawrence Guy who made 59 tackles to earn his way to cardboard immortality.

I also decided to keep the entirety of the 2019 Prizm set. I put together the 2013 version of Prizm and, after seeing it all together in a binder, decided that I wasn't the biggest Prizm fan. This year's offering, however, is much better-looking than that 2013 set. It's brighter, not so silvery-metallic, and it has a cool watermark-like design on it. But the deciding factor here was the size. With 300 cards in the base set, it includes some players (particularly defenders) that I would have missed out on in 2019 if I had only kept the smaller Absolute and Unparalleled sets.

Once again, this purchase did not include the rookies. But the base set is loaded with some big-name retired stars. Truthfully, I think I'd prefer to chase a set that left retired legends out of the base set, but with them all together already, I'll hold onto them.

Even though I just said I somewhat prefer no retired players in the base set, I decided to keep only the legends from 2019 Playoff. Ironic, I know. Actually, Playoff checks a few boxes for me. The design looks nice. The set is already numbered how I sort sets, anyway! In case you're wondering, I group them by division, starting with the AFC East, and sort the divisions by record of the previous year (the season with its stats displayed on the back). This set came in a box perfectly pre-sorted for me. But I decided not to keep it all, for a number of reasons. First, while I kind of like the design, it's not quite up to the standard I feel that Playoff has created for itself over the past few years. Second, it didn't include the rookies, so it lost out to Absolute. It didn't have the great first-time cardboard appearances that Unparalleled has. And it wasn't as inclusive as Prizm. Since I didn't want to keep all four of those sets, Playoff was squeezed out.

The inclusion of legends in the set created some strange little anomalies. For one, we have Adrian Peterson and Drew Brees, who are both part of the checklist for their current team and are a legend for their former teams. That's two active players who are sporting a different uniform in this set.

Apparently, the Panini's pool of retired greats was pretty shallow. These three players all represent the legend for two different teams. The same goes for Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, Randy Moss, and Tony Gonzalez. The Strange Case of the Playoff Legends Checklist goes on, too. Rob Gronkowski, in what is technically his sunset card, shows up as a Patriots legend. Most teams have 2 legends at the end of the team set--except for 8 random legends numbered 193-200 after the final team set. Why tack them on again at the end of the set, instead of with their teams? Some teams didn't even get two: the Bengals and Jaguars only have one apiece, while the Texans don't even get one. Then there is the matter of Eric Reid in the legend spot for the Panthers. I'm confused. Is an active player who hasn't made the Pro Bowl since his rookie season considered a legend for the Panthers? Or did they just mis-number this and include him after the legend for his team, breaking up the current player team set with one retired guy? For my set collecting purposes, I didn't count Reid as a legend, I kept only the former team cards of Brees and Peterson, and I'm even keeping the hideous Brett Favre Viking card.

Another more comprehensive set that includes a retired great for each team is Donruss. This set was voted Football Set of the Year on TCDB, but it's not my favorite. I have to admit that I like it a little more each time I see it, but I've decided to move most of it to the trade boxes. I'm keeping the Packers, any Heisman winners, and some other cards that I like, such as the Quenton Nelson above. As with other Panini sets this year, there was one head-scratcher with this checklist: every team set is grouped together. Except Washington. The Redskins are dispersed seemingly at random between other team sets. What?

I'd like to point out that when I was selecting cards to scan, I tried to find a good representation of a variety of teams, and I had to pay respects to recently retired Eli Manning.

Also, respects to Luke Kuechly, who also just retired. 2019 Elite posed an odd dilemma for me. As usual, the cards look fantastic. For three years in a row now, I've some way or another come across enough Elite to make an argument that I should try to build the set. I always pass. And now here is the entire veteran base in my possession...and I'll pass again. I just don't want to keep that many sets from one single year. It seems inevitable that one year I'll choose Elite. Or maybe this was its last, best chance and it didn't make it.

Finally, we have Prestige. Prestige has taken on a flagship-type role for Panini in my eyes over the years. Its design usually good-if-not-wonderful and its price point and availability usually draw me in and often wind up building the set. This year, though, I had already decided to chase Absolute and never opened any Prestige. And even though it's still a decent, simple set, I'm not going to hold onto any more than my typical Packers, Heisman winners, and a couple of cards that caught my interest like these two:

Darius Leonard is an absolute stud, and not enough people know his name yet. And how about that shot of Greg Zuerlein kicking off. What a great angle!

To recap: I am keeping the entire 2019 Absolute set (vets and rookies, minus autos), the veteran base of Prizm and Unparalleled, and the legends of Playoff. The rest of the Playoff set, along with any non-Packers of Donruss, Elite, and Prestige, is pretty much all available. Some things have been set aside for other people already, and a few have already been worked into TCDB trades, but it's mostly still there. Let me know what you need!

Now, it seems like there was something else to talk about here--something big--but it's just slipping my mind. Oh well. I hope you all find something enjoyable to do this weekend!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Franchise 9: Minnesota Vikings

Like many of the teams I've made, I found a pattern of eras with the Vikings. The Vikes enjoyed a great deal of success in the 70s, not so much in the 80s, some more in the late 90s, and recently. We have a few representatives from the 70s, none from the 80s, some more from the 90s, and one from the more recent teams. It's no surprise that the team success comes when there are multiple franchise greats on the field.

1. Fran Tarkenton, QB (2014 Panini Prizm)

"Fran the Scram" would fit right in in today's NFL. He fits the mold of good passing skills on a fast athlete. When he retired in 1978, he was the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. He still leads the franchise in both of those categories. He was well-known for his ability to scramble in the pocket and make plays, making him unique in the era of dropback passing. He rushed for over 2,500 yards over his 13 seasons in Minnesota. He also quarterbacked the team to four three Super Bowl appearances.

2. Adrian Peterson, RB (2012 Score)

The Vikings all-time leading rusher, Peterson was an explosive runner every time he touched the ball. In 10 seasons with the Vikings, Peterson put up 11,747 yards and 97 touchdowns. He led the league in the former category three times and the latter twice. After tearing his MCL in December of 2011, Peterson famously returned in time for Week 1 of 2012. That season, he rushed for 2,097 yards and an NFL MVP award. Age has started to slow him down since he left Minnesota, but he is a surefire Hall of Famer and a slam dunk for this team.

3. Cris Carter, WR (1992 Impact)

Carter spent 12 seasons in Minnesota. In that time, he became the team's all-time leader in receptions (1,004), yards (12,383), and touchdowns (110). I remember him best from Tom Jackson and Chris Berman on NFL Primetime, saying, "All he does is catch touchdowns," every time he scored. And he scored a lot. He led the league in touchdowns on three separate occasions. Carter was named to the All-Decade Team of the 90s and finally got his due in the Hall of Fame in 2013.


4. Randy Moss, WR (1999 Collector's Edge Fury)

Arguably, Randy Moss was the most explosive, dangerous playmaker in NFL history. He led the league in touchdown catches five times in his career, three times while with the Vikings. While he spent only eight years in Minnesota, he made the most of his ability during that time. As a Viking, Moss made five Pro Bowls and received three of his four 1st Team All-Pro nods. He left as the team's second-leading receiver in touchdowns (92). receptions (587), and yards (9,316), averaging 15.9 yards per catch.

5. Randall McDaniel, G (1994 Ultra)

For the 1990s, Randall McDaniel was the offensive guard in the NFL. Need proof? How about 12 consecutive Pro Bowl seasons from 1989 to 2000? Or seven 1st-Team All Pros in nine seasons from 1990-1998. He was widely regarded as the best at his position. It's no surprise that he was named to the All-Decade Team for the 90s, and, later on, the Hall of Fame.

6. Carl Eller, DE (1972 Topps)

Sitting at the top of the Vikings all-time Approximate Value rankings is Carl Eller. Eller spent 15 years with the Vikings, as one of the famed Purple People Eaters. It was Eller and his mates who comprised the backbone of the Vikings squads who made four Super Bowls in the 70s. Though stats for a defender at the time are hard to come by, Eller's achievements speak volumes about his status in the league. He made six Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams, including four straight from 1968-1971. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2004.

7. Alan Page, DT (2011 Upper Deck)

Alan Page, Eller's linemate, made his first Pro Bowl in 1968, the same year that Eller did. While Eller made four consecutive starting then, Page started a string of nine straight.  From 1969-1975, he was named All-Pro six times. To further demonstrate his dominance, Page was named NFL MVP in 1971. He is one of only four defensive players to win the MVP award, and the only defensive tackle to do so. The Purple People Eaters were indeed frightening, and Page most of all.

8. John Randle, DT (1994 Coca Cola Monsters of the Gridiron)

Shown here dressed as a monster, John Randle was probably scarier on the field. With his trademark face paint, Randle harrassed opposing QBs all day long. His 114 sacks pace all Vikings, though that achievement really can't be compared to some of the great defensive linemen of the Vikings' past. Randle played 11 seasons in Minnesota, all through the 90s, and was named to the All-Decade Team. He was also inducted to the Hall of Fame.

9. Paul Krause, S (1978 Topps)

Krause played a decade in Minnesota and retired 40 years ago. In all that time, nobody has surpassed his 53 interceptions for the franchise. He was voted to the Pro Bowl six times and made the All-Pro Team in 1975. That year, he picked off 10 passes and returned them for an average of 20.1 yards. He was a great ballhawk and playmaker, and another integral part of the Purple People Eaters defense.

Defense has been the name of the game for Minnesota. Players that I really wanted to include but couldn't fit in, such as Chris Doleman, Jim Marshall, Joey Browner, and Kevin Williams all played on the defensive side of the ball. Given that Doleman passed away yesterday, I truly would have loved to honor him here. And while he had a Hall of Fame career, he just couldn't get past the high standard his fellow Vikings have set, especially on the defensive line. Looking at the defensive players representing the team's most successful decade, the 1970s, it's easy to see why they were able to win four NFC titles.

Some notes on this series:
  1. This includes Super Bowl Era players only.
  2. The "nine" in Franchise 9 is to fill a page in a binder. There is no intent to fill a roster or even a starting lineup.
  3. A player can represent multiple teams.
  4. I tried to find a balance between steady producers with longevity and explosive players with shorter careers. Time with the team does count for something, as does impact with the team.
  5. For a link to Franchise 9 lists that I have already posted, click here.
  6. This is all subjective, so I'd love to hear whom you would choose!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Absolute-ly Unparalleled (and Others): A Big Set Building Post

Each year, I try to select one set to complete for football and one for baseball. I would like to hunt down  more complete sets, but storage becomes an issue for me. My selection process is pretty simple: I base my decision on the design that I like and the obtainability of the rookies. I’m not one to chase down the hot rookies each year, but part of my reason for wanting one set completion for every year is to keep as a sort of historical record. So I need the rookies. Some sets I love, but the rookies are all SPs or autos, and that will prevent me from pursuing them.
This year, I settled on Absolute. I loved the design with the laces on the side. Plus, the set was a good size, with 200 vets and 100 rookies. When I bought a pack to sample it, I found a good mix of veterans and rookies and thought I could feasibly finish it off.

Since I was only interested in the base set, I took a kind of unconventional route: Dollar Tree packs. Each pack contained two vets, two rookies, and one Yellow (but, really, gold foil) parallel. No inserts, no frills. And it was obviously $1 per pack. Using this method, I was able to put together about 60% of the set--including rookies like Kyler Murray, Nick Bosa, and Daniel Jones—with relatively few duplicates. Not too bad.
But then my eBay browsings brought me to a listing for 7 complete base sets from 2019. The seller was asking $70, with a Make an Offer option. I ran a $50 offer up the flagpole, just to see. Within the hour, my offer was accepted. Most of the sets didn’t contain the rookies, but for $50 I had at the very least obtained the veteran base sets of 2019 Absolute, Unparalleled, Playoff, Prestige, Donruss, Elite, and Prizm.

 I know it was probably overkill to take a route in which I received over 1400 cards when my primary goal was to find the last 120 cards or so that I needed for one particular set. But the temptation was too strong.

When the package arrived I looked through the sets, most of which I had yet to see in hand before. I already knew I wanted the Absolute, but I wasn’t sure how much of the rest I would be keeping and how much would become trade fodder. The boxes came organized like this:

Which is strange, because after taking a look through them, it seemed that the seller had pre-organized them according to my wishes.  Absolute and Unparalleled came in a box together, and they are definite keepers. Prizm came on its own, and I will be keeping that one as well. Prestige and Donruss were packaged together, and I decided that I didn’t want to keep either of those two sets fully intact. I’m still on the fence about Elite and Playoff, and wouldn’t you know, they came in the same box. They were pre-sorted!

In an effort to keep this post from running too long, I’ll just talk about one of the absolute keepers, Absolute. Absolute was the only set here that included all rookies, minus the autos. However, every rookie auto was the second card of the rookie in the set, meaning that they all had a regular base card, too. I won’t be missing out on any rookie names with this set, even though I don’t plan on picking up any of the autos.

The rookies and the vets share the same border design, but the rookies are a shiny silver foil, which sets them apart nicely. As I mentioned before, I like the look of the football laces. The design didn’t remain consistent through the set, though. Take a look at these cards below. Do you notice any irregularities?

The team logo in the corner is part of the background. It’s large enough to be covered by the border and the box with the player name. Except for the Raiders. All the Raiders cards have just a little Raiders logo superimposed on the background.


The Raider rookies didn’t get any better treatment. In fact, they got it worse, as there is no team logo whatsoever on the rookies. Every Raider is different from the rest of the set. No other player or team has a logo like the Raiders, or is missing one. I don’t know why. I’m wondering if it has something to do with the Raiders gearing up for relocation. Was there talk of changing the logo for the final year in Oakland, so Panini waited to put it on there? Or were the Raiders hiding at the bottom of the spreadsheet and whoever was putting the graphics on the cards missed them? I have no idea.

Whatever the reason, this is my first complete set of 2020, and since I had most of it before, this purchase, I have plenty of extras if anybody would like to swing a trade. You can see exactly what I have here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Franchise 9: Detroit Lions

Some franchises have all the luck. And some have, well, none of it. Welcome to the Detroit Lions Frachise 9! The Lions are one of just four teams that have never played in the Super Bowl. Two of those other teams have a history that is not even 25 Super Bowls old yet. The Lions (along with the Browns) have tried and failed to reach the Super Bowl in every single year there was a Big Game. Looking at this list of franchise greats, however, I have to shake my head. The team seems to have had some playmakers in its past. Maybe the problem was that there were never enough of them on the field together.

1. Matthew Stafford, QB (2016 Absolute)

Stafford was the #1 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. Honestly, I think he has lived up to expectations pretty well. In fact, one of the various sites devoted to drafts kept him at the top in a 10-year retrospective do-over. That said, Stafford has put up some gaudy passing numbers, but has only one Pro Bowl and three playoff games to show for. Regardless, he is the far-and-away the team's all-time leader in every passing category: attempts, completions, completion percentage, yards, touchdowns, and QB rating. All categories except one: interceptions. Despite throwing more passes than anybody else in team history, after 10+ seasons, he has still not thrown the most interceptions. He does know how to take care of ball. And he has been durable. Until a back injury ended his season last month, he had not missed a start in the previous eight seasons. He has been the one constant for the Lions this decade.

2. Barry Sanders, RB (1995 Stadium Club)

I am still convinced: Barry Sanders is the most talented player to ever suit up. The things he could do with his body were physically impossible. Sometimes I look up old highlight reels, just to be in awe. Here, treat yourself:
When he unexpectedly walked away, he was on pace to become the league's all-time leader rusher. Frank Gore passed him up earlier this year, but in his career he never failed to reach 1,000 yards. In fact, he averaged 1,527 yards per season, with a low of 1,115 (in just 11 games in 1993) and a high of 2,053. There has never been another runner like him.

3. Billy Sims, RB (1984 Topps)

Barry wasn't the first Heisman-winning running back to wear #20 for the Lions. A decade earlier, Billy Sims earned that distinction. Like Sanders, Sims had a brief, bright career. He played in only 60 games, but still sits at #2 on the team's all-time rushing list 35 years after hanging up his cleats. He is still 4th in total touchdowns. Moreover, there is nobody on the current roster with numbers that are threatening to pass him up anytime soon. His career approximate value per game was 1.05, more than any other Lion.

 4. Calvin Johnson, WR (2013 Topps)

This is starting to turn into a theme: a highly-talented player spends his entire career with the Lions, but walks away from the game while still in his prime. Like Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson was regarded by many at the best player at his position when he abruptly retired. Megatron needed only eight seasons to become the franchise leader in receptions, yards, and receiving touchdowns. His eight-year career included six Pro Bowls, three 1st Team All Pros, two seasons leading the league in receiving yardage, and one each leading in receptions and touchdowns.

5. Herman Moore, WR (1995 Collector's Choice Players Club)

So far, every player on this list played every game of his career with Detroit. We can almost include Herman Moore in that category, too, as he played in one measly game with the Giants in 2002, and the other 145 games with the Lions. He recorded no stats in that one game outside of Detroit, aside from three targets he did not catch. Let's just call him a lifer. Moore is an interesting case. As time has passed, he is not remembered as one of the best receivers in the game, or even of his generation. Much of his career he was solid, if not spectacular. But for a four-year stretch from 1995-1998, Moore was possibly the most productive pass-catcher in the league. That stretch includes three All-Pro nods, the single-season receptions record (123, since broken), and an average year of 104 receptions and 1,314 yards. Keep in mind he did all of this while Barry Sanders was still being fed plenty of carries. Somehow, in the midst of those seasons, coach Wayne Fontes was fired and replacement Bobby Ross led the squad to a losing record over two seasons. I do not understand this team.

 6. Charlie Sanders, TE (1972 Topps)

First of all, Sanders is in fact a tight end. His 1972 Topps is listed as a UER. Sanders spent his entire career with the Lions. While he wasn't a top accumulator--his career AV ranks outside the top 20 in team annals--he was elite as his position during his career. As I've mentioned before, I tried to balance the accumulators and the superstars by taking into account both longevity and superiority to peers during the playing career. Sanders has seven Pro Bowls and three All Pro nominations to his name. He has also been in the Hall of Fame since 2007.

7. Alex Karras, DT (2008 Leaf Limited Team Leaderboards)

Alex Karras ranks 4th on the Lions in career AV, yet he barely made this list. The reason? The majority of his career was before the Super Bowl Era. As it is, he barely squeezed in. Though all of his Pro Bowls and All Pro bids came before the advent of the Super Bowl, his AV after those years was at least comparable, so his level of performance during the Super Bowl Era was similar to the time before. He was quite the character, too, becoming one of the NFL's most unique personalities during his day. He used that to catapult into an acting career after his playing days, with his most memorable roles came in Blazing Saddles and the sitcom Webster. Karras was just announced as a 2020 Hall of Fame inductee.

8. Robert Porcher, DE (1995 Fleer)

Robert Porcher may not be a name on the tip of everybody's tongue, but he is the team's all-time leader in sacks and forced fumbles. He is fourth in tackles for a loss. He was a quiet, consistent force on the Lions' d-line from 1992-2003. You guessed it; that was his entire career. He made three Pro Bowls, and his career sack total is better than current big-name defenders like Calais Campbell and Clay Matthews.

9. Lem Barney, CB (1992 Pro Set)

Lem Barney spent his entire career with the Lions, finishing that career with 56 interceptions. His interception total is second in team history, while his 1,077 return yards and seven pick-6s rank first for the club. Though he retired over 40 years ago, he still ranks in the top 20 in league history in all three of those categories. His career AV is second behind only Barry Sanders in Detroit history. In all, Barney had seven Pro Bowl nods and made two All Pro teams. He entered Canton in 1992.

This an interesting group. I think this is the only team in which every player selected spent their entire career with the team (we're going to ignore Herman Moore's one appearance for the New York Football Giants). There was a fair amount of hair-splitting, trying to decide between players who aren't NFL legends, like Porcher, Chris Spielman, Dominic Raiola, or Jason Hanson. I also noticed that #20 seems to be the magic number for the Lions--Lem Barney, Billy Sims, and Barry Sanders made Franchise 9 worthy careers while wearing that number. Maybe the Lions made a mistake by retiring it. Maybe they should just suit everybody up in #20 and see if they play at elite levels. I predict that the players would all perform extremely well. . . and the team would still lose.

Some notes on this series:
  1. This includes Super Bowl Era players only.
  2. The "nine" in Franchise 9 is to fill a page in a binder. There is no intent to fill a roster or even a starting lineup.
  3.  A player can represent multiple teams.
  4. I tried to find a balance between steady producers with longevity and explosive players with shorter careers. Time with the team does count for something, as does impact with the team.
  5. For a link to Franchise 9 lists that I have already posted, click here.
  6. This is all subjective, so I'd love to hear whom you would choose!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Trade Map 2019

My final recap of 2019 will be a visual of the wide-reaching online trading community. The map above shows the location of every transaction I had through TCDB or with other bloggers. I did not include any eBay purchases or anything like that. These are all trades or care packages. I could do some kind of analysis on this, but I'll just take it at face value and look at all the pins to see where I have made hobby contact this year. There is one more spot that didn't show up on this map; way out in the Pacific, I traded with Honolulu.

Along with the map, I'll clean out my scan folder of some TCDB trades that I never got to posting this year. Some nice Packers:

 El Mago (and another great defender):

Some insert set builds and PCs:
All-Decade Players:

I especially like the Michael Strahan Skybox rookie. Thanks for checking out my page. If you're in a state that I didn't trade with this year, let's see if we can fill out my map a little more this year.

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Franchise 9: Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are one of the younger teams in the NFL. They have played in 3 AFC Championship games, but have yet to get over the hump into the Super Bowl, first in their second year of existence and most recently following the 2017 season. There are still no Jaguar Hall of Famers, but two players did make the semifinalist list this year. Both made this list.

1. Mark Brunell, QB (1996 Fleer)

The Jags didn't begin their history with Mark Brunell under center, but by the time their inaugural season ended, he was firmly entrenched as the franchise quarterback. It was Brunell who led the startup team to the Conference Championship in Year 2. And the team has never had another surpass him. His 25,698 passing yards and 103 TDs are still #1 in team history, and it's not even really close. Plus, he was pretty good on his feet, posting seasons of 396 and 480 yards rushing en route to becoming the team's third-leading rusher.

2. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB (2012 Panini Crown Royale)

With 8,061 yards, Maurice Jones-Drew is second on the all-time Jaguars list. His 68 rushing touchdowns are tops. He made three Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team, when he led the league in rushing in 2011. One crazy thing about MJD is that he started a mere 4 games over his first three seasons--and still managed 2,533 yards on a 4.8 yards per carry average. Had he not been in a timeshare early in his career, his numbers would probably top other Jaguars by a wide margin.

3. Fred Taylor, RB (1998 UD Choice)

Of course, there was a good reason for MJD to split time in the backfield. Jacksonville still had its all-time leading rusher on the roster. Fred Taylor paces all Jaguar rushers with 11,695 yards. And while we're playing the game of "ifs," imagine what Taylor could have produced if he had managed to stay healthy. He managed only 2 full seasons in his career, but still retired with 7 1,000 yard seasons. His career average of 4.6 yards per carry shows his explosiveness and explains how he achieved so many yards, even while missing time due to injury. Taylor is a Hall of Fame semi-finalist this year. I don't think he'll make it, but he definitely qualifies as one Jacksonville's greatest.

4. Keenan McCardell, WR (1999 Score)

McCardell joined the team in 1996, after three years of little playing time in Cleveland. He proceeded to post back-to-back seasons of 85 receptions and 1,100+ yards. In his first year in Jacksonville, McCardell was named to the Pro Bowl. Right now he still ranks 2nd on the team's all-time stat sheet in receptions and yards and 3rd in touchdown catches.

5. Jimmy Smith, WR (1999 Collector's Edge First Place)

McCardell is 2nd place in those categories. The Jags' leader in all three? Jimmy Smith, McCardell's running mate from 1996-2001. Smith was drafted in 1992 by the Cowboys, and then was out of the league for two years. Jacksonville signed him in 1995, and he never played for another team. For the next 11 years, Smith caught 862 passes for 12,287 yards and 67 TDs. He made 5 straight Pro Bowls, from 1997-2001. He is the franchise leader in Pro-Football Reference's Approximate Value ranking and was an easy choice for this list.

6. Tony Boselli, T (1995 Classic NFL Draft)

The other Jacksonville semi-finalist for the Hall of Fame this year (and with a far better chance to be enshrined), Boselli was the franchise's first ever draft pick. Like Taylor, he was among the league's finest when healthy, but his career was ultimately cut short after injury just a handful of games into his seventh season. He made the most of his six seasons, however, earning five trips to the Pro Bowl and an All-Pro nod. Boselli was so dominant while on the field that he was named to the 1990s All-Decade team. Five of the first six players on this list played on offense for the Jags from 1998-2001, making it easy to understand how the team made the Conference Championship game in 1999.

7. John Henderson, DT (2009 SP Authentic)

At 6'7 and 335 pounds, John Henderson was your prototypical run-stuffer in the middle of the field. He did his job well. Stats rarely tell the story of a defensive tackle's impact, but Henderson does rank seventh in team history in AV. He made two Pro Bowls, recorded 60 tackles for a loss, forced 8 fumbles, and recovered 5 of them.

8. Marcus Stroud, DT (2001 Topps)

In 2001 and 2002, the Jags used consecutive top 15 draft picks on defensive tackles. 2002 was Henderson. Marcus Stroud had joined the team in 2001. Like Henderson, Stroud was an enormous (6'6, 330) run-stopper. The Jags finished as a Top 10 defense in 5 of the 6 seasons Stroud and Henderson played alongside each other. That had only happened once in the Jaguars' first six years of existence before Stroud was drafted.

9. Rashean Mathis, CB (2007 Ultra)

It's worth noting that those Top 10 defenses also included the cornerback the team picked up in the 2003 draft, Rashean Mathis. Like so many other Jags, Mathis was solid, but little-noticed. He made only one Pro Bowl, but received 1st-Team All-Pro recognition for that same year. His 30 career interceptions are twice as much as the next player on the list. In recent years, Jalen Ramsey started to make a name for himself as a lockdown corner in Jacksonville. Had he continued at the same interception rate as he was during his stint with the Jaguars, he would have had six fewer picks than Mathis after the same number of games. In my book, Mathis was underappreciated.

For a season or two in recent years, it looked like the Jaguars were going to start making themselves into a perennial contender. Now it seems more like a flash in the pan. And as much as Jason Mendoza loved Blake Bortles on The Good Place, Bortles never stood a chance to make the cut here. A couple of players, like Leonard Fournette, could be considered here someday. Sooner than Fournette, linebacker Telvin Smith is starting to have the experience and success that could lead him to this list. Of course, he decided to take the year off from football this year, so who knows what his future holds. And that seems to be the story with this franchise: there are very few candidates who were able to sustain productivity for long periods of time with this team. Even some of their all-time greats, like Boselli and Taylor, are almost as well-known for their injuries as their performance. Nevertheless, this team still boasts some explosive playmakers.

Some notes on this series:
  1. This includes Super Bowl Era players only.
  2. The "nine" in Franchise 9 is to fill a page in a binder. There is no intent to fill a roster or even a starting lineup.
  3.  A player can represent multiple teams.
  4. I tried to find a balance between steady producers with longevity and explosive players with shorter careers. Time with the team does count for something, as does impact with the team.
  5. For a link to Franchise 9 lists that I have already posted, click here.
  6. This is all subjective, so I'd love to hear whom you would choose!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

NFL 100 All-Time Team

Last month, Rosenort mentioned on his blog that the NFL has done a poor job of commemorating the 100th anniversary of the league. I agree. Maybe it was just because I was a kid and it was exciting, but I remember very clearly the 75 Seasons book that my parents got me for Christmas that year. That book has had a gigantic influence on my collecting habits, as I was introduced to the All-Decade teams and players that I was too young to remember for myself. I remember how cool it was to see the designated throwback weeks. I can still identify a 1995 card set in a heartbeat just by the big "75" patch on the jersey. Maybe the possibility of throwback jersey games has been undone by years of teams doing that anyway. But there is not even a patch for the 100th season. It feels like the biggest thing the league has done was to make a Super Bowl commercial and try to get as much traction out of that as they can get on

Now, the league has compiled an All-Time Team. They unveiled the final cuts one position group at a time, after giving the fans a week or so to predict the team. This, I like. It's the kind of thing that I live for: making lists and rosters of the best of the best. Since the 75 year anniversary indirectly led me to my current collecting tastes, I felt the need to do something with this new All-Time Team. I wasn't sure what at first. Most of my collecting projects consist of an entire page of each person on the team. But with so many repeat names (like Jerry Rice or Reggie White on two All-Decade teams  and the All-Time Team) and guys from the 1930s, I didn't want to try to tackle that big of a project.

This is what I decided to do: one card to represent each player. However, that card must be a) vintage, b) serial-numbered to 500 or less, or c) a Hall of Fame rookie. I'm defining vintage as older than I am, so 1982 or earlier. I think these criteria will provide enough challenge and value to the project to make it fun to complete. As evidenced by the COMC watermark on some of these photos, they are in my pending shipment, but I don't have them in hand yet.

I'm also providing a page on this blog that will track my progress. As you can see, I'm not too far. But here are the cards that I have already added. I'm hoping to upgrade some of these in future, as well. (I'm looking at you, overproduced rookie cards.)

As for the selections themselves, the task of creating this team is far too big for an armchair quarterback like me to criticize. You're looking at a century's worth of players, who come from all different eras and rules and evolutions of the game. Numbers alone can't tell the story. Neither can size or strength, because so much has changed. However, there were a few changes that I, personally would make to the team.

QB: Drew Brees in, Brett Favre or John Elway out. I'm a die-hard Packers fan. I grew up watching Favre run ridiculous plays. But I also recognize his limitations as a player. He did win three straight MVPs, though, so there's that. I believe Elway is romanticized a bit because of his back-to-back Super Bowls as he rode off into the sunset. If I wanted to start a team, I think I'd take Brees over either one of them. There may be other quarterbacks that could be removed, but I would want to have representation from as many eras as possible, and the the 1980s-1990s already has Favre, Elway, Marino, and Montana. So it's one of the first two that I would exchange.

RB: It's a shame that no more modern running back was chosen. I'd like to try to squeeze Marshall Faulk, LaDainian Tomlinson, or Adrian Peterson in there. I don't know who would get the boot, though. Maybe Marion Motley with his only 2 All-Pro selections.

WR: The selection of Larry Fitzgerald caused some hubbub. I don't have a problem with it. Maybe Calvin Johnson, Cris Carter, or Terrell Owens could replace him, but I think I'd keep him there.

TE: Shannon Sharpe for Rob Gronkowksi. Gronk was dominant. His size, strength, and athleticism at the position are unequaled. I get that. But I have a hard time placing a guy who played only 115 career games on the All-Time Team. Give me Shannon Sharpe and his athleticism, instead.

DE: Doug Atkins was a weak selection, in my opinion. Well, maybe weak is a bad word to describe an 8-time Pro Bowler. But I would have taken Carl Eller, Willie Davis, or Michael Strahan over Atkins. Given another season, JJ Watt would probably be on the list of alternatives, too.

It's hard to argue with many of the selections. They might not have been I would have chosen, or even predicted, but when I think of the players I would put on the team, I struggle to see whose spot they would take.