Friday, October 15, 2021

The Franchise 9: Los Angeles Chargers



The last time we did this, we saw the Rams' top nine players in Super Bowl Era history. Let's stay at SoFi Stadium and hit the crosstown Chargers. The Chargers don't have the same long franchise history and the same level of success over the years that the Rams have had, but they always seem to field a consistently good team that never makes it over the hump. As I put together this team, I found that the strong suit for the Chargers is typically the offense. This makes sense, considering that coach Don Coryell developed his pioneering air attack in San Diego. It's almost team tradition now to have a high-octane offense now.

1. Dan Fouts, QB (2013 Prizm Decade Dominance)

Speaking of Air Coryell, it didn't work without a quarterback who can sling it. That's what Dan Fouts was. When he retired, he was second in NFL history in passing yards and fourth in passing touchdowns. He led the NFL in passing yards four straight seasons from 1979-1982. He earned two All-Pro nominations, a spot on the 1980s All-Decade Team, and a bust in Canton.

2. Philip Rivers, QB (2013 Topps Strata Orange)

But was Fouts the best Charger QB? Philip Rivers may have something to say about that. Statistically, he is ahead of Fouts is every category. He has more career Approximate Value than Fouts. He played in two more Pro Bowls than Fouts. I know the two eras are very different, which makes comparison difficult. I'm not going to pronounce one better than the other here because my purpose is simply trying to find the players to make this list. They both did. Suffice it to say that Fouts has a spot in the Hall of Fame and Rivers has a spot on top of every passing category in team history. They both earned their place here.

3. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB (2008 Donruss Classics Monday Night Heroes)

Here is where LaDainian Tomlinson ranks in team history: #1 in rushing yards (outpacing #2 by nearly 300%), #1 in total touchdowns, and #12 in receiving yards. Yes, Tomlinson was so versatile that he missed the top ten in receiving yards by under 1000 yards--from the backfield. He even threw seven touchdowns. There are Chargers quarterbacks who started multiple games who threw fewer TD passes than LT. In 2006, he took home the MVP award as he set the NFL record for most TDs in a season (31). He was arguably the greatest weapon in the game during the early 2000s. 

4. Lance Alworth, WR (1989 Swell Football Greats)

It has been over 50 years since Lance Alworth left the Chargers. In that time, the game has changed drastically. It has become a passing league. Passing numbers have skyrocketed since that time. And yet, only one player has passed Alworth on the Chargers' all-time receiving yard list. At the time he moved on from the team, he was #2 in the NFL history in receiving yardage. From 1963-1968, Alworth had a string of six consecutive 1st-Team All-Pro nods. Not only is he in the Hall of Fame, he was also named part of the the NFL's 100th anniversary All-Time Team.

5. Charlie Joiner, WR (1987 Topps)

The card of Charlie Joiner above is a little misleading. In 1986, he became the NFL's all-time leader in receiving yards. One might assume that he is the one who surpassed Lance Alworth for the franchise lead. That is not the case. Joiner played elsewhere before going to San Diego. For the franchise, Joiner ranks 3rd. However, most of that NFL record was accomplished while he played for the Chargers. Joiner was one of those steady performers who never got much widespread recognition. While quietly setting NFL records, Joiner only made three Pro Bowl teams and one All-Pro. He is in the Hall of Fame, though.

6. Antonio Gates, TE (2011 Panini Adrenalyn XL)

Antonio Gates is the one Charger with more career receiving yards than Alworth. Famously a former college basketball player, Gates was absolutely dominant throughout his career. His 955 receptions are most in team history, as are his 11,841 yards and 116 TD catches. His receptions and yards rank 3rd all-time among tight ends, and his TDs lead the way for his position group. He isn't yet eligible for Hall of Fame consideration, but he should be a surefire first ballot nominee. Plus, he played every game of his career for the Chargers.

7. Kellen Winslow, TE (1982 Topps)

Gates wasn't the first great Chargers tight end. Before him, Kellen Winslow was setting TE records. In fact, both great Charger QBs had a tight end who was among the elite at his position to help him out. Though he had a short career, Winslow was probably the best pass-catching tight end of his time. He led the NFL in receptions twice, was a three-time All-Pro, an All-Decade performer, and ultimately a Hall of Famer.

8. Junior Seau, LB (1995 Collector's Choice Players Club)

The Chargers selected Junior Seau with the 5th overall pick in the 1990 draft. He didn't make the Pro Bowl that year, but that was okay. Because he wound up representing the team in the next 12 Pro Bowls. Seau was unarguably the heart and soul of the team through the 90s, the decade that includes the franchise's only Super Bowl appearance. His six All-Pro nominations cemented his place as an all-time great and landed him in the Hall of Fame.

9. Eric Weddle, S (2015 Prestige)

Weddle was a do-it-all playmaker during his years in San Diego. He recorded 19 interceptions, scored four defensive touchdowns, and made 851 tackles. He was a two-time All-Pro and was honored with a spot on the All-Decade Team of the 2010s.

I'm not sure there is another team out there with such an imbalance of offensive and defensive players. In fact, I could make a pretty good argument to replace Weddle with a couple of offensive linemen. San Diego/Los Angeles has certainly had more high-powered offenses than stalwart defenses in the team's history. Was there anybody I forgot? Let me know what you think!

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, October 13, 2021

Not Quite Mint Condition

Who needs borders? Many of the "premium" card brands out there don't need them; there is a lot of borderless design on them. Stadium Club has offered borderless, full-bleed photography for almost 30 years, and the result is often stunning. For a stretch between 2016 and 2020, Topps didn't even bother with borders on its flagship set. I have seen cards that look beautiful with borders and some that look great without them.

But somewhere out there are collectors who believe that every card should be borderless. This belief runs so deep that they are willing to remove the borders from their cards. I recently received the former property of one of those collectors, with blogger Bo as the intermediary. 

These 1958 Topps cards once had borders, but somewhere along the way somebody decided they looked better without them, so off they went. For reference, I left them in the page they were shipped in. You can see how much smaller they are. And here is one of them in its full, unblemished state:


Bo put a few of these up for trade on his blog. At just about the same time, I bought a lot of vintage cards that were also in somewhat less than mint condition. Coincidentally, I had a couple for his 1969 set build, so I claimed these three obscure former All-Stars for my All-Star project.

I picked up three lots: 1969 Topps baseball, 1977 Topps baseball, and 1975 Topps football. These were some of the keepers for my collection. I'm especially pleased with the variety of football HOF players. But you can see the condition is horrid. We have creases, paper loss, writing, and poor Rico Petrocelli has a chunk taken out. But they work for my collection.

Here is another way to look at the condition of these 40+ year-old cards.

But hey, they landed me a trade with Bo. And if this type of condition doesn't bother you, here is what I have available for trade. I didn't put them for trade on TCDB because I didn't feel good about that. But for you blog readers who have seen what we're dealing with here, I don't mind making a trade if you want some of these old cards. (Links to the TCDB checklist for each set so you can see who the player is.)

1969 Topps: 114, 136, 143, 182, 217, 253, 302, 334, 337, 344, 341, 349, 363, 369, 499, 505

1977 Topps: 5, 20, 26, 178, 294, 310, 356, 474, 526, 545, 562, 597, 607

1975 Topps (FB): 24, 96, 98, 115, 139, 161, 206, 342, 360

If anything is of interest to you, these old clunkers can be yours.

Friday, October 1, 2021

The Franchise 9: Los Angeles Rams

This was a difficult franchise to choose. There have been a lot of great Rams over the years, but interestingly, some Rams Hall of Famers have had shorter stints with the team than other long-time contributors. This left some decisions with a much thinner margin than one might expect. For example, running back Lawrence McCutchen outpaces both Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk in career AV. But was he really more impactful in franchise history? What about if you throw in Steven Jackson, who is actually the franchise-leading rusher. Does he knock out another player who is enshrined in Canton? Small decisions like this abounded on this list. Roman Gabriel (who played 11 years for the team) or Kurt Warner (five years)? Tom Mack, Jackie Slater, or Orlando Pace? The result is a very solid lineup with some very solid players on the outside looking in. Here is how my analysis and opinion filled this list.

1. Kurt Warner, QB (2013 Topps Magic)

Back in 1999, the St. Louis Rams were coming off a last-place, 4-12 finish. Sports Illustrated picked them to move up in a weak division--to 3rd place--but still only finish with six wins. Expectations dropped even lower in the preseason when QB Trent Green tore his ACL. Now under center would be former Arena League QB Kurt Warner. The Rams weren't exactly high on Warner; they had left him unprotected in the expansion draft. Apparently, the expansion Browns weren't high on him, either, as they didn't take him. Suddenly, he was the starting quarterback. All he did was act as field general for "The Greatest Show on Turf" and lead the Rams to the only Super Bowl victory in franchise history that very season. He played only 53 games in St. Louis, but he was NFL MVP twice his five-year stint there. He's not in the top five in franchise history in most passing categories (with the exception of passer rating), but he stands out as the best quarterback in team history.

2. Eric Dickerson, RB (2014 Topps Fire)

Eric Dickerson set the NFL single-season rushing record while with the Rams in 1984. That record still stands. That's just part of the story; Dickerson was absolutely dominant for the first six years of his career. In that span, he led the NFL in rushing yards per game every season but one. He led the league in rushing as a rookie in 1983, then his record-setting year of 1984, and again in 1986 (and in 1988, but he wasn't a Ram at that point). He's no longer the team's leading rusher because he was traded halfway through year five. But in 4.5 seasons with LA, he was a Pro Bowler and a 1st-Team All-Pro four times and ran for over 7,200 yards. As a member of the NFL's All-Time Team who spent the best of his career with the Rams, how could he not be part of its Franchise 9?

3. Marshall Faulk, RB (2001 Playoff Contenders)

Marshall Faulk was an all-purpose machine. He joined the Rams fresh off his first Pro Bowl season, having led the league in yards from scrimmage with the Colts. He didn't skip a beat. In his first year in St. Louis (1999), he once again led the NFL in yards from scrimmage while winning a Super Bowl and gaining All-Pro recognition for the first time. For the next two years, he led the league in total touchdowns and was an All-Pro both times. He played seven seasons with the Rams, rushing for 6,959 yards (3rd all-time) and scoring a franchise record 85 TDs.

4. Torry Holt, WR (2008 Gridiron Gear)

In my mind, Torry Holt is WR1a and Isaac Bruce is WR1b in Ram history. Bruce is the franchise leader in catches, receiving yards, and receiving TDs. Holt is close behind in all categories. So why does Holt get the nod here, over Bruce? Because Bruce had 39 more games in a Rams uniform than Holt. The longevity certainly counts for something, but Holt was just more explosive for a shorter period of time. Holt was a seven-time Pro Bowler, one-time All-Pro, and led the league in receiving yards twice. His 117 receptions led the league in 2003, too. Only once in his seven seasons in St. Louis did he fail to reach 1,000 yards--his 32-year-old year, his last the with Rams and the penultimate of his career. He is a member of the NFL's All-2000s team. Isaac Bruce produced for a long time and just took his rightful spot in Canton, but he didn't spend as much time as one of the league's elite as Holt.

5. Orlando Pace, T (1996 Ultra)

The Rams selected Orlando Pace with the first overall pick in the 1996 draft. Three years later, he solidified himself as one of the game's best. During the team's Super Bowl run in 1999, Pace made his first Pro Bowl and his first All-Pro team. It was the first of seven straight Pro Bowls and the first of three All-Pro nods in that span. For his career, he was honored as a part of the All-2000's team and a spot in the Hall of Fame.

6. Aaron Donald, DT (2019 Score Epix Game Red)

Not too many active players are on these lists. Of those active players, Aaron Donald may be the youngest. Donald just turned 30 earlier this year, but he is already ninth all-time in career AV for the Rams. Among active AV leaders, Donald is the only one in the top 25 with fewer than 10 years under his belt. He has played seven seasons, getting Pro Bowl nods in all seven and 1st-Team All-Pro honors in six. In seven seasons, he has taken home the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award three times. The man is a wrecking crew in the middle. And with a long career still ahead of him, he may very well be the one we talk about as the best defensive player in NFL history when it's all said and done.


7. Deacon Jones, DE (1989 Swell Football Greats)

David "Deacon" Jones is credited with coining the term "sack" in football. Unfortunately, it didn't become an official statistic until 1982, eight years after Jones's playing career ended, so the original sack-master had no place in the NFL record books. Until 2021. Just four months ago, Pro Football Reference announced the culmination of a painstaking research project in which they credited players with sacks dating back to 1960. Deacon Jones immediately slid into the #3 spot behind Bruce Smith and Reggie White. He was honored as a member of the NFL's 100th Anniversary All-Time Team last year.

8. Merlin Olsen (2009 Upper Deck Football Heroes)

This is Merlin Olsen's second appearance on my blog this year. Many of you are familiar with seeing a certain card of his circulate through the blogs a few months ago. Olsen and Jones made up half of the Rams' "Fearsome Foursome." Olsen also benefited from the new sack stats; he was retroactively awarded 91 sacks, good for third in franchise history. As an illustration of just how dominant he was, consider this: Merlin Olsen had a string of 14 straight Pro Bowls and, within that stretch, five consecutive 1st-Team All-Pro nods. He was a member of two All-Decade Teams and is the third Ram on the NFL's All-Time Team.

9. Jack Youngblood, LB (1984 Topps)

Any reader who is paying close attention will notice that I said Merlin Olsen is third on the team's all-time sack list. So who is second? Aaron Donald hasn't quite caught him. No, #2 is Jack Youngblood, who traveled through the blogosphere with Olsen early this year. Youngblood is now credited with 151.5 sacks and retroactively became the NFL sack leader in 1974 and 1979. He ranks second in Rams' history in approximate value (behind Olsen) and spent his entire 14-year, Hall of Fame with the franchise. Youngblood most definitely belongs with the team's best nine.
It's hard for me to look at this list of greats and not feel justified in my decisions. But in some ways, the list is odd because team leaders in key categories such as passing yards and touchdowns, rushing yards, receptions and receiving yards, and interceptions are not here. The team has seemed to have short-lived, superstar streaks combined with steady stat accumulation in its past. I can think of a few more very deserving names, but none that I feel should knock any of these players out of their spots. But I'd love to hear your thoughts. Who are your best Rams?

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!

Friday, September 24, 2021

Rookie of the Year Spotlight: Bob Hamelin

Some of the collections I have been working on over the years are starting to get filled out and my goals are being reached. As a result, I'm starting to slow down a little when it comes to acquiring many cards for some of my mini-collections. Now that the collection is feeling more and more complete, I wanted to start showcasing the cards I have, player by player.

One such collection is my Rookie of the Year collection. I love collecting players who have won the award as the top newcomer in each league. This wasn't born of hot rookie hype and the desire to prospect. Rather, I became fascinated thinking about the careers of guys like Eric Karros, Jerome Walton, and Tim Salmon, who experienced varying degrees of success but may not have become superstars. I thought it would be fun to have a collection that chronicles the individual career journeys of rookie stars--whether they burned bright and flamed out quickly, regressed to the mean, or wended their way to Cooperstown.
My goal has been to fill a binder page for each player who won the award in my lifetime and to fill a row for older players. I may expand that later as I expand my vintage collection. The ultimate goal of my binder is to show a card from every different uniform the player wore, from fresh-faced rookie to grizzled vet. This series is to commemorate each Rookie of the Year's career and show my collection of their cards. I placed all of the past winners into and got my order. The next player up is:

Bob Hamelin


After toiling in the minor leagues for six years, former second-round pick Bob Hamelin got the call to the Majors in 1993. In his first taste of the Bigs, he made 55 plate appearances in 16 games. The results were underwhelming; he slashed .224/.309/.408 with two home runs and 15 strikeouts. In 1994, he was markedly better. He improved his average to .282 and started slugging a few homers. He hit 24 dingers in his first full season, increasing his slugging percentage 191 points and posting a healthy .987 OPS before a strike cut the season short. He won the American League Rookie of the Year easily, taking home 25 of 28 first-place votes. The remaining three first-place votes went to Rusty Greer, who finished third. Sandwiched between them was Cleveland outfielder Manny Ramirez.

Ironically, the 101 games of the strike-shortened season would be the most he would play in a season for the Royals. Over the next two seasons with the club, he would play almost one full slate of games: 161. After a horrendous start to 1995, slashing .168/.278/.313, he was sent back to AAA Omaha. 1996 wasn't much better. After winning ROY, slugger Bob Hamelin would only hit 16 more home runs for KC. He was released during Spring Training in 1997.

He signed with Detroit a month later and bounced back somewhat with the Tigers. He had his best season post-rookie year in 1997, hitting .270 with 18 homers in 110 games. The next year he signed with the Brewers and slumped again. As Milwaukee's regular DH, he put up a paltry .699 OPS with seven home runs. In 1999, he was back in the minors with the Tigers organization when he decided to hang 'em up.
Hamelin was a bit of a cult hero during his rookie season, probably due to the fact that he didn't look the part of elite athlete. He looks more likely to finish his shift at the plant and knock back a couple of cold ones while watching the game than to hit home runs on the field at said game. In six Major League seasons, he hit .246 with 67 HR and 209 RBI. Baseball-Reference gives him a WAR of 2.5. It's players like Hamelin that make my ROY collection interesting to me. A player that otherwise would have been largely forgotten by history has one shining breakthrough season and gets the spotlight. The subsequent and varying career trajectories are fascinating to me.

1998 Collector's Choice #89 Bob Hamelin Front

Since I scanned these cards, I've added this Tigers card to my Bob Hamelin page. I still need one to rep the Brewers and complete his career documentation in my collection.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The Franchise 9: Miami Dolphins


I haven't posted one of these since the Super Bowl, when I shared the top nine players from NFC Champion (and eventual Super Bowl Champ) Tampa Bay. Now that football season is back in full swing, it's time to finish off this series that has been years in the writing. We'll keep it in Florida and travel south to Miami. It feels like it has been a while since the Dolphins have been good. Indeed, the majority of their Franchise 9 comes from the 70s and 80s, when they were consistent title contenders.

1. Bob Griese, QB (1990 Score)

Bob Griese quarterbacked Miami to three Super Bowls, winning two of them. That alone should probably land him a spot on the Dolphins' Franchise 9. But let's just throw in eight Pro Bowls, two Super Bowls, an All-Pro season, and a Hall of Fame induction. And he was a lifetime Dolphin, to boot.


2. Dan Marino, QB (1995 Collector's Choice Players Club)

Through the 90s--and maybe even halfway into the 2000s--there was a large portion of football fans who would tell you that Dan Marino was the best to ever sling the ball. Perhaps there are still some, though I think the triumvirate of Brees, Manning, and Brady have pushed guys like Marino aside. Unfortunately, it feels like his legacy is that of "best to never earn a ring," but he was so much more. He was an All-Pro three times and MVP once. Five times he led the league in passing yards and three times in TD passes. That includes his jaw-dropping 1984 season, when he became the first QB to throw for 5,000 yards in a season and the first to throw for over 40 TDs. In fact, his single-season TD record of 48 smashed the previous record of 36 and wouldn't be broken for 20 years. His ghost has been hanging over the franchise since he retired.


3. Larry Csonka, RB (1974 Wonder Bread All-Star Series)

Forty-two years after Larry Csonka retired, he is still the franchise leader in rushing yards. And, considering that the closest active player trails him by nearly 6,000 yards, he is likely to remain in that spot for years to come still. He played eight seasons in Miami, making the Pro Bowl in five of them and the All-Pro team twice. His 145 yard, two TD performance against Minnesota in Super Bowl in Super Bowl VIII earned him the MVP award for the game. Csonka is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

4. Jim Langer, C (1978 Topps)

The third member of the Dolphins' perfect 1972 season on this list, Langer anchored the offensive line for ten years. He made six consecutive Pro Bowls from 1973-1977 and was a 1st-Team All-Pro in three of those seasons.  For his career, he earned a spot on the 1970s All-Decade Team and in Canton in the Hall of Fame.

5. Larry Little, G (1980 Topps)

Yet another 1972 Dolphin here. Larry Little played 12 seasons for Miami, being named to five 1st-Team All-Pro teams. He is the highest-rated Dolphin lineman in franchise history, going by Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value score. He joins linemate Jim Langer on the 1970s All-Decade Team and the Hall of Fame.

6. Dwight Stephenson, C (1986 Topps)

When Langer left, the Dolphins didn't miss a beat at center. Dwight Stephenson was right there to continue the positional dominance in Miami. From 1974 to 1987, the All-Pro team was manned by Miami Dolphins at center seven times. Stephenson played only eight seasons in the NFL, but he was an All-Pro in half of those years. It was enough for him to be named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1980s and the Hall of Fame.

7. Jason Taylor, DE (2007 Topps Chrome)

Since Marino retired, the Dolphins have fallen on hard times. Jason Taylor has been one of the brightest spots in this era. Taylor was a six-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, NFL Defensive Player of the Year, All-2000s performer, and Hall of Famer. He leads all Dolphins in sacks . . . by 31. He also leads the team in forced fumbles (by 21) and defensive touchdowns (by 4). He ranks second behind only Dan Marino in franchise AV.

8. Zach Thomas, LB (2006 Topps Chrome)

Taylor's defensive teammate, Zach Thomas, was also a wrecking crew. His 1,107 tackles not only top the franchise's all-time list, but also rank 5th all-time in the NFL. Seven Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams earned him a spot on the All-Decade Team of the 2000s, but he is still waiting to get the call to Canton. He is undoubtedly one of the top nine Dolphins, though.

9. Jake Scott, S (2005 Topps Chrome)

The perfect 1972 season was capped off with a victory in the Super Bowl over the Washington Redskins. Leading the team in that game was Super Bowl MVP Jake Scott. His 35 career interceptions still rank #1 in Dolphins history. He had a fairly short career in Miami, but he made the most of it. He is the team's all-time leader in AV/game, which indicates to me that his presence was felt every time he took the field. In just six seasons, Scott made five Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams.

Like many teams, there were some obvious, must-include choices and some that required some internal debate and data analysis. The Dolphins had some incredible, nickname-worthy defenses that feel underrepresented here. Unfortunately, their "No-Name Defense" didn't even lift a single player out of anonymity on this list. Dick Anderson, Nick Buoniconti, and Bob Baumhower were all considered on that side of the ball. One constant that I found in the Dolphins' most successful eras was an outstanding offensive line. I could name Richmond Webb and Bob Kuchenberg as offensive linemen on this team and feel good about it. And what about Marino's favorite Marks Brothers (Mark Duper and Mark Clayton)? I didn't find room for them over these players. The most recent Dolphin to be considered was Cameron Wake, but he just didn't have quite enough of a career impact to crack this lineup. It may be many more years before anybody else does, judging by the current roster and longevity each player currently has with the team. Let the debates begin in the comments!

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, September 16, 2021

2021 Football Packs: Panini Prestige

Last week, I wrote about a create-your-own blaster I put together from eBay. I still haven't found any blasters on a shelf for a while, but I did manage to stumble across some packs at Wal-Mart a month ago, to my great surprise. I found fat packs of A&G and Prestige. It wasn't hard to decide which to get. I'm not an A&G collector, but I wind up completing the Prestige football set about every other year. I chose two packs of Prestige.

The base cards are a little busy with all the white lines running everywhere, but it's not too bad. Definitely one that I have no problem putting together the set. In my two packs, I received 33 of the 200 veteran base cards and 4 dupes.

Each pack contained four rookie cards. No huge names, but some first round picks. I know Matt likes that Toney kid. Throwing the rookies into my set build, I have 41 of 300 base cards (13.7%)--still a ways to go.

Each fat pack had two Xtra Point Sunbursts. Jones and Henry on the top join my collection. Hardman and Shenault are up for trade.

I decided two insert sets were worth chasing. I really like the Living Legends set and the Power House has a nice look and an interesting checklist. Here is my start.

These inserts are all up for grabs. I just now am noticing all the initials in this group. CeeDee, DK, and TY FTW!

I really would like to complete this base set and the two selected insert sets. I don't have my wantlist up yet, but I don't own too much, so it's all pretty much a need. I haven't seen another pack to buy since then, which is frustrating. Needless to say, this set build hasn't reached priority status yet. But if you have some you'd like to trade, let me know!

Friday, September 10, 2021

Big XII, Here We Come!

This has been one heck of an exciting week to be a BYU fan. For those of us who have been following closely, it has seemed like a done deal. But I couldn't make myself fully believe until it became official today.


Eleven years ago, TCU and Utah bolted the Mountain West for P5 conferences. BYU took a gamble and decided to go independent in football rather than stick around with the leftovers. There were some rocky years, for sure--especially during the first few years before they had scheduling partners. We were subject to multiple FCS opponents per year. And once there was one loss on the record, the bowl destination was already confirmed due to exclusive tie-ins with certain bowls. Spoiler alert: they were never good bowls. But the past few years have been fun as AD Tom Holmoe was able to make scheduling deals with more and more programs, resulting in a schedule that includes 4-6 P5 teams that we would never have seen otherwise--Wisconsin, Michigan St., Tennessee, to name a few. But we still faced the same "lose one and what is left to play for?" predicament and a very "blah" schedule from mid-October on. Now, after a couple of flirtations with Power 5 conferences that failed to end in invites, BYU has schedule stability and a conference with better bowl tie-ins. And I am pumped.

To celebrate the day, I'm posting my self-created eBay blaster that I received about two weeks ago. I've made COMC blasters before, but never eBay. I was searching for a Dax Milne auto and came across a seller who had a deal that was something like "buy 20, get 40% off," so I started looking through his singles. The cards I picked out cost me $24 shipped, about the same as a $20 plus tax blaster.

It's BYU's big day, so let's show off some new BYU pick-ups. Congrats to Dax Milne, who was the second-to-last pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and ended up making the roster for the Washington Football Team. He's a great story: he went from walk-on to 7th round draft pick to NFL roster spot.

A good chunk of my blaster went toward my refractor frankenset. Brett Kennedy and Robbie Ray are serial-numbered to boot.

I bolstered my ROY collection, especially my cards of last year's winners, Kyle Lewis and Devin Williams.

I also took advantage to add to my most recent PC addition, All-Star Game MVP Vlad, Jr. Cronenworth, Houck, and Colon were just cards that I thought would be worth owning, even if they didn't have a specific place in my collection.

I picked up some shiny NFL All-Decade performers.

And oh, yes, I did find a Dax Milne auto.

I haven't seen any blasters in a store for a while, but I have seen them being sold on eBay for more than $30 apiece. Some of those blasters have 20 cards in them. If I could see a blaster that contained 34 cards, 18 guaranteed refractors, and three autos, I would jump on it. And if I was guaranteed to have all 34 cards be keepers in my collection? That's a no-brainer. I think I did pretty well for myself with my faux blaster.

Go Cougs! If we can beat Utah tomorrow and end the streak, this may shape up to be one of the greatest weekends of my fandom.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Wolverine Pride Fantasy League, Year 5

As always, I have multiple fantasy leagues, but the one league that really counts is our school league that I started five years ago. Entering our fifth year, we have a new defending champ. Actually, we've never had somebody win our league twice. I'm looking to be the first one after having won it in 2019. I had a great shot at it last year, but lost in the first round in the playoffs, despite that week's score being the second-highest point total in the entire league last season. Yes, my opponent happened to put up the highest total against me in the same week. What are the odds?

This year, I'm not as confident in my draft. We had a couple of new players last year who figured things out and drafted much better this year, making our auction a lot more competitive. But that's good; competitive is fun. Here is my roster for 2021.

2019 Panini Unparalleled #107 Dak Prescott Front
QB: Dak Prescott, Dallas

I wasn't expecting to spend as much as I did on a QB, but when Dak came up on the board, I had him highly rated and an excess of budget. So I took a bigger QB than I intended. If he's fully healthy, I think he'll have a big year.

I don't have a Gibson card. Image from TCDB
RB1: Antonio Gibson, Washington

When I do a standard draft, I target RBs in the first round. For an auction draft, I just make a list of top-tier players that I would like and give myself a budget. Typically what happens is the top running backs go for far beyond my budget and I get the top receivers in my budget. It also means I can find ball carriers who are "the guy" in their backfields for a good price because everyone's money is gone. Gibson is the undisputed guy in Washington, so I'll take him as my RB1.

I don't have a Robinson card either. Image from TCDB

RB2: James Robinson, Jacksonville

I found another workhouse back for my team. Neither Robinson nor Gibson are spectacular, but to have two running backs who aren't part of a committee in my fantasy backfield is a win to me. On a card note, I haven't found many cards to buy on the shelves in 2020 and 2021, so I don't a card of either of the second-year RBs on my team.

2015 Panini Prestige #285a Stefon Diggs Front 
WR1: Stefon Diggs, Buffalo
Diggs was on my shortlist of top-tier players to target. I got him within budget after all of the other top-tier players had been bid up. Again, the lack of card purchases in the past two years means I don't have a Bills card of him.
2013 Panini Prizm #225 DeAndre Hopkins Front 
WR2: DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona
So I'm sitting there bidding on Hopkins, thinking I was only going to bid him up to certain point and let somebody spend their money on him. Suddenly, I have a bid of a mere $20 in and the time is ticking down. With one second on the clock, I'm thinking I just got him for $20?! I'd take that any day. Then somebody bid it up at the last second. In the end, I got Nuk for $24, which is still a major steal to me.

2010 SAGE HIT #84 Rob Gronkowski Front 
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay
Last year, I wouldn't have touched Gronk. Now that I know he is back in football shape after his retirement, I think he still has major value working with Tom Brady. I'm banking on that at least, as I elected not to spend big money on a tight end.
2018 Donruss #311 Calvin Ridley Front
FLEX 1: Calvin Ridley, Atlanta
I make my list of top-tier and set my budget, hoping to get at least one. Then I get my second-tier list and hope for one or two. I got two of my second-tier receivers this year: Ridley and Hopkins. With Julio Jones gone in Atlanta this year, Calvin Ridley will end as a WR1 this year. And he's my WR3. I'm set at receiver, barring injury.

2019 Panini Absolute - Retail #109 Darrell Henderson Front 
FLEX 2: Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams
Our league got rid of the kicker position this year in favor of another flex. As commissioner, I just decided that kickers were too unpredictable, so to use a little more fantasy skill and knowledge, we put another flex on the field. Henderson is a borderline RB1 in LA. Many people are worried about Sony Michel taking carries from Henderson, but I think he'll still command the majority of the touches.
2020 Score #101 Darius Leonard Front
DEF: Indianapolis . . . 

for now. I will stream defenses through the season.

Myles Gaskin, RB, Miami
Phillip Lindsay, RB, Houston
Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco
Laviska Shenault, WR, Jacksonville
Marquez Callaway, WR, New Orleans

What I really learned from my fantasy draft this year is that I need some 2020-2021 football cards. I don't have last year's rookies and Diggs, Hopkins, and Gronk are on teams that I don't have cardboard representation for.

How do you feel about my team? This is how Fantasy Pros graded it:

Last year, PoinkDaChamp and I were flipped, and Poink won. So maybe I'm just where I need to be.

Yahoo's not quite as bullish on my draft:


I want to hear your thoughts in the comments. And how does it stack up against your team? And are you ready for some football?!