It was a fun three days in New York this past week full of picks and analysis galore. Any football fan certainly had a good time and those who collect are even more excited. The top college prospects now have professional homes and we can now start to predict who is this year’s Adrian Peterson, Matthew Stafford or Cam Newton. Investing is one of the most exciting and fun parts of collecting and getting in on the ground floor of a rookie’s rise to greatness can be a lucrative proposition.
Below are some players that I think landed in the perfect spots to be impact players their rookie year. I’m a hardcore collector so I’m taking into account the total package including depth charts, secondary market card prices, etc. Because of that you won’t see high marks for some names you might expect. Whether their cards are already too pricey (Andrew Luck) or they landed in a tough spot to really excel right away (Justin Blackmon), draft position and college pedigree are officially old news. Time to look forward to what these guys can actually do at the highest level of football. These are my opinions so if you feel differently about any of these players, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.
BROCK OSWEILER, QB, DENVER: First off, this isn’t a short term investment for obvious reasons. You won’t find anyone claiming Osweiler will unseat a healthy Peyton Manning. But the key word there is healthy. Manning is only on a five year deal and depending on how he holds up for his age and health the Manning era in Denver could be a little as 2-3 years. Denver acknowledged this as well by spending a second round pick on Osweiler and making him the highest drafted quarterback outside the first round guys. You don’t take a quarterback that high just for depth, Denver must believe that Osweiler could potentially tutor under Manning and step in to lead the team at some point.
If that’s the case it could be the perfect situation for Osweiler and collectors. Aaron Rodgers taught us that you can develop a stud quarterback if you give him a few years to learn under a legend and that’s what Osweiler will have. If this goes right in a few years it will be the Osweiler show in Denver and by then the young talent in Denver should be hitting its peak including the young wide receivers. Plus as a bonus to collectors, Ryan Mallett in New England has taught us that quarterbacks in waiting behind legends actually have some hobby value as people anticipate their future debuts. Grab your Osweilers now before more and more people start to realize that Osweiler could be being groomed as the heir apparent to Manning. VERDICT: I’m going to buy
RUSSELL WILSON, QB, SEATTLE: You probably didn’t realize it, but Wilson was this year’s version of Tim Tebow. He’s a guy with intangibles galore that people rave about, but like Tebow he wasn’t blessed with traditional physical traits and abilities as quarterbacks go. Wilson can probably thank Tebow for his draft position however as Tebow helped people realize that you can win some games with a guy with the “it” factor but a non-traditional skill set. I think Seattle wants to see what Wilson is made of, and more than you might realize. Matt Flynn will be the guy starting out, but his track record is very short.
It’s entirely possible that he blows it in his first shot at being a starter. If he falters at all there’s really no serious competition outside of Wilson. Wilson is going to realize this and do everything he can to push Flynn. The more Flynn struggles the more you will hears rumors about Wilson, and at some point they could make the switch especially if Seattle continues to struggle and stronger teams run away with the division. Wilson has work to do to wrestle the quarterback of the future job from Flynn, but he might have the work ethic and commitment to pull it off. VERDICT: I’m going to buy
STEPHEN HILL, WR, NEW YORK: We talked about Hill in my draft preview last week. I’m even more excited about him in New York. First and foremost, he’s going to a really popular team that will be in spotlight all season long for a number of reasons. That alone is a huge plus. Like it or not some teams are more popular among collectors than others and New York is often at the epicenter of sports in America. Polarizing personalities like Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow will only help feed the media frenzy and keep eyes on New York and hopefully on Hill.
There are questions about how the depth chart will shape up at wide receiver and Hill could step into a starting role right away. He should be getting looks all season and he has the ability to make an impact immediately. Regardless of whether Sanchez or Tebow is throwing to him, both quarterbacks have shown they can make a receiver look good. One big game from Hill and you will start hearing his name mentioned more often. VERDICT: I’m going to buy
BRIAN QUICK, WR, ST. LOUIS: I really like St. Louis as a potential landing spot for a wide receiver. With the Rams playing it safe in round one and passing on all the top wide receivers, they decided to waste no time on day two and made Quick their receiver of the future with the first pick of round two. Quick simply because of lack of competition could start the season as high as the number one option for Sam Bradford and they could become best buddies pretty quickly.
With Jeff Fisher at the helm and Stephen Jackson backing them up, Bradford and Quick could become the cornerstone of a strong passing game. It’s not a stretch to think that when the 2012 season is over that Quick could be the most productive receiver to come out of the 2012 draft class. His card prices should be nice and reasonable with multiple receivers ahead of him in the first round, so he’s certainly worth a look. He’s got the talent, but the picture perfect situation he is being dropped into could help vault him past some higher picks. VERDICT: I’m going to buy
DAVID WILSON, RB, NEW YORK: From the bits and pieces of playing time I saw of Wilson at Virginia Tech, he looked pretty darn good. Apparently the league agreed as he managed to squeak into the first round. With Brandon Jacobs gone the backup job behind Ahmad Bradshaw is wide open in New York, and it is Wilson’s for the taking. But Wilson could end up being much more, by picking him so high this indicates that he will be more than Bradshaw’s backup.
He should receive plenty of playing time and depending on injuries to Bradshaw or in the long term him opting for free agency at some point, Wilson could very likely be the starter. From there it’s off to the races on a very strong team. Eli Manning has never really taken over the offense totally, they have always kept it very balanced in terms of running and passing so running backs have good value there. Not to mention it’s another very popular New York team that will keep Wilson’s notoriety high when he breaks out. He is appealing both in the short term and as a long term investment. VERDICT: I’m going to buy
RONNIE HILLMAN, RB, DENVER: Here is another guy I mentioned in my draft preview last week that I really like. I felt that a lot of his value would be based on where he landed and as a collector I am ecstatic about where he ended up. Not as a Chargers fan since I don’t like Denver, but as an unbiased collector looking for potential, Hillman hit the lottery. First off he ended up on a very talented team and I’m not just talking about Peyton Manning. He will receive good coaching, has a solid defense backing up his offense and there is young talent all over the offense including a strong group of receivers. The scouting report for opposing defenses is going to start with Manning, Deymarius Thomas, Eric Decker, etc. That leaves a lot of room for the running game to work and Denver seems to like run the ball a lot. That will change with Tebow gone but history shows that running backs have found success changing up the pace of the offense in between Manning passes.
Of course there is Knowshon Moreno to deal with, but he is on very shaky ground. He has a history of injury problems and he has lost playing time to other running backs even when healthy. Moreno has conceded many of his carries to Willis McGahee, but at his age he’s due to start breaking down. Everything is there for Hillman to overtake both of them and get his share of carries.
He will also garner a lot of value as a potential return man. Denver let former return man Eddie Royal go so the job should be up for grabs. Denver spent a third round pick on Hillman, so they don’t intend to let him sit. They clearly like him and if it all comes together he could leapfrog all the backs in front of him at some point. It’s a very appealing situation if things go right and Hillman plays to his potential. VERDICT: I’m going to buy
COBY FLEENER, TE, INDIANAPOLIS: Sure enough Indianapolis decided to please their shiny new number one draft pick by taking his favorite target in the second round. Everything is now set up for Fleener to have a fast start to his professional career. Outside of Reggie Wayne there weren’t a ton of options available for Andrew Luck to begin with and now he already has a great relationship with a guy who should step in as one of his top options right away.
The only concern is that they brought in another highly ranked tight end in Dwayne Allen. However Fleener and Luck have the history and that could trump anything Wayne or Allen or anyone else has in the way of potential or rapport with Luck. Just like Peyton Manning was throwing to Dallas Clark all those years, Luck to Fleener could seamlessly transition from Stanford and become the next great quarterback to tight end hookup in the pros. VERDICT: I’m buying
LUKE KUECHLY, LB, CAROLINA: Thanks to Cam Newton, Carolina is on the rise. With the offense transformed, Carolina was looking for a defensive leader and found it in Kuechly. He is the model of an elite middle linebacker. He’s a tackling machine, can cover the pass and command the defense. He reminds me of Brian Urlacher and we know how his career turned out.
Defensive players are always a risky proposition for collectors, but Kuechly is so well suited for his new situation that he’s too good to overlook. Plus Carolina should be improving in the coming years so it’s not a stretch to imagine Kuechly making big plays in major games in the coming seasons. If you like collecting defensive guys, Kuechly is for you. VERDICT: I’m going to buy
The time to make a move is now as a collector. Between now and the season these guys should continue to grow in hype as people see them play and begin to understand how teams plan to value and utilize them. Post in the comments other guys you believe are in for fast starts their rookie year and stayed tuned next week for some more draft analysis for collectors!