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!


  1. I would trade for some of the Prizm rookies if they are available!! I am missing many for my rookie PC

  2. None of these designs really stand out to me... but I love the inclusion of legends on the checklists. Seeing Bettis as a Steeler and Ram in the same set is pretty cool.

  3. You can start me a stack of the Redskins

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