2024 NFL Draft: Will Rookie QB Cards Live Up To Hype? Collectors Should Heed 2021 As Warning

The NFL Draft is always an exciting time for the collecting community. Fans are looking forward to seeing who their favorite teams are going to pick and what players they will be adding to their collection. And none more-so for collectors of teams looking for a top-flight quarterback. Some mock drafts have as many as six quarterbacks being taken in the first round: Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels, J.J. McCarthy, Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix. This upcoming quarterback class has been hyped up for months heading into Thursday’s draft. But collectors should take heed buying into the fanfare — and all they have to do is look back at the 2021 QB class.

That year, Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones were taken within the first 15 picks. Draft analysts thought they would not only be the centerpieces of their franchises, but the future of the league. That has not panned out in the three years since. Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, is the only quarterback remaining with his original team. The New York Jets traded Zach Wilson to the Denver Broncos; the San Francisco 49ers traded Trey Lance to the Dallas Cowboys; the Chicago Bears traded Justin Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers (as the Bears will most likely draft Williams No. 1 overall); and the New England Patriots traded Mac Jones to the Jaguars, where he will be backing up Lawrence.

Collectors poured thousands of dollars — with some even spending tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands — into their rookie cards. That same year, the football hobby world was riding high as there was a spike in what people were spending on collectibles during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, it has not worked out well. Using data from CardLadder, HobbyListings looked at the all-time rate of growth (ROG) and real dollar change (RDG) of 2021 Panini Prizm Silver raw rookie cards of the QBs taken in 2021. It reveals collectors took a massive bath.

  • Lawrence: minus-83.95 percent ROG/minus-$339.99 RDG
  • Wilson: minus-94.04 percent ROG/minus-$236.66 RDG
  • Lance: minus-97.50 percent ROG/minus-$411.28 RDG
  • Fields: minus-82.50 percent ROG/minus-$330.00 RDG
  • Jones: minus-98.82 percent ROG/minus–$543.50 RDG

Before collectors start shelling out money for upcoming rookie cards of the 2024 QB class, Ben Smith, founder of Midwest Box Breaks, says they “have to be wary when investing in a young player.”

“I think collectors can look back at the 2021 class and realize that not every rookie will pan out. A lot of time hype is just hype. Every year we get excited about a new rookie class. We don’t know how these players will react to being in the NFL,” Smith tells HobbyListings. “There are a lot of factors that come into play on and off the field. These players are in their 20s with a lot of new money and new fame. There is also the pressure of carrying the full team on your back and their success is measured by the team’s success. For some players in certain situations, patience is key. Some QBs won’t have the starting job for a year or two.”

Caleb Williams Drake Maye
Caleb Williams & Drake Maye 2023 Bowman Best U Dual Auto Orange /25. (credit: eBay)

Smith points out there’s a chance that some of the top quarterbacks in the 2024 class might not have autographs in upcoming licensed Panini products, similar to what happened last year with the Carolina Panthers’ Bryce Young and Houston Texans’ C.J. Stroud because of their deals with Fanatics.

“Will we see that again this year?” questions Smith. “These are uncharted waters in the hobby. If Stroud or Young get a licensed auto in a couple years and are still a top QB in the league, how will those autos be priced? Will they be worth more than a rookie card?”

According to On3.com, Williams and Nix have NIL deals with Fanatics — the parent company of Topps; McCarthy has cards with Topps and Leaf; Maye has cards within Topps products; Penix Jr. has an exclusive multi-year deal with Panini; and Daniels has cards with SAGE. If Williams, the most-likely No. 1 overall pick by the Bears, and other rookie quarterbacks don’t have any rookie patch autographs in licensed Panini products, it could change the trajectory of how much money collectors would invest.

In the end though, what advice does Smith have for collectors before jumping into the 2024 quarterback rookie class?

“My advice is don’t invest your money all on one player. Collect what you can within your means and what makes you happy,” explains Smith. “Be prepared to be wrong. Experienced people who are paid to evaluate football talent make mistakes every draft. We have to remember this is a hobby first and not a quick cash grab.”

Those are words every collector should live by.

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