2013 Draft: Early vs Late Rounds (A collector’s perspective)

by iamthefrenzy

Many people have made the case that late round draft picks aren’t worth it. *cough* CFN – TRADE YOUR LATE DRAFT PICKS *cough* The argument goes that finding All-Pro talent outside of the top 100 picks just doesn’t happen and any collector hoping to hit on the next Brady or Romo is throwing their money away. Collectors generally make their money on first and second round picks with the remaining players usually ending up in “scrub rookie” boxes, maybe in a penny sleeve if they’re lucky. These rookies are usually bought and sold for very low prices. However, this past draft was a fairly odd one that defied several recent draft trends and was, by most accounts, a very disappointing one for collectors due to its lack of high round offensive talent. But what if the rookies found in the later (and cheaper) rounds had just as much or more potential than those in the early rounds? Wouldn’t that make 2013 a great year for collectors? (Maybe not for the rippers and flippers, but certainly for singles buyers!) So, given its strange nature, let us put aside our tears over a single QB going in the first round and critically examine the 2013 Draft in terms of collectability.

Rounds 1-2                                                 Rounds 3-Undrafted

QB                                                                       QB
EJ Manual                                                          Mike Glennon
Geno Smith                                                        Matt Barkley
…                                                                          Ryan Nassib
…                                                                          Tyler Wilson
…                                                                          Zac Dysert
…                                                                          Tyler Bray

Geno was the top prospect in this draft going back to the middle of last year’s college football season. Heading into the final weeks before the draft, many still had him as the #1 pick. Early releases like Leaf Draft Metal reflected this consensus in Geno’s prices and, even after his Brady Quinn-esque fall to the second round, many sellers have been hesitant to adjust their prices to meet reality. Manual going in the first round was one of the biggest surprises of the draft, but his prices still haven’t even reached the level of Geno. However, both Geno and Manual were recognized before the draft for having a high “boom or bust” potential and both heading to New York teams not named the Giants only accentuates this risk. The odds are one of them will bust the same way Jamarcus Russell and Vince Young did (harsh, I know), leaving only one prospect to carve out a successful career. Out of the two, I like Manual’s odds. Playing with talent like CJ Spiller and young wideouts in Woods, Goodwin, and even undrafted Rogers will make life easier in addition to playing in the city with the longest current playoff drought means that ANY level of success will be rewarded with interest from collectors.

However, if we look beyond the first two rounds, a much more exciting picture emerges. Both Wilson and Barkley have veterans in front of them in Oakland and Philadelphia, but I don’t know of anyone who is betting on either Matt Flynn or Michael Vick being starters by the end of the season, let alone next season. Wilson has first round talent and certainly would have been off the board before the first round ended had the University of Arkansas not imploded like a Kardashian marriage last season. However, Wilson was able to stand tough and absorb the hits both on and off the field like a pro. He’s a baller who, even if his talent doesn’t translate into the win column, will likely become a cult hero to rowdy Oakland faithful who value toughness almost as much as Al Davis valued speed. Barkley would have been a first round pick last year. (Think about that: Luck, RG3, Barkley, Tannehill, Weeden, Wilson…) He didn’t forget how to play football last season. Some have worried about how he might fit into Chip Kelly’s new offense, but remember, Kelly prepped for and watched film on Barkley each of the USC quarterback’s career – he knew exactly who he was drafting. As a Cowboys fan, Barkley worries me. Moving down the list, no one is particularly excited about Glennon, but everyone acknowledges that he will get his shot at being a starting QB. Possibly even at some point this year. For a team with a shaky QB situation, if Glennon is only competent, he could be a 5+ year starter, but it’s hard to see him ever competing with Brees, Newton, and Ryan in the NFC South. Nassib screams backup, but probably a good one. Eli’s not going anywhere and Giants fans have to feel good about the backup they’ll be developing. Then we get to guys like Dysert and Bray. Although Dysert went in the seventh round and Bray went undrafted due to “maturity issues,” both are in fantastic spots and possess the raw talent to take advantage. The Broncos are incredibly young and Peyton Manning is, well, not young. When Manning retires or goes down with another injury (hopefully not), it will be a two-man race between Dysert and Osweiler for the keys to the NFL’s second-most talented team. Call it an even sprint at the moment as both Dysert and Osweiler were one-year wonders in college and have huge upsides, but when you can pick up autos of a player like Dysert who’s got a 50/50 chance of leading the Broncos for dirt cheap you do it. As for Bray, he’s seen as a guy with a million-dollar arm and a ten cent head, but he finds himself playing for Andy Reid’s club in Kansas City. When you have All-Pro level physical tools and you’re being coached by Andy Reid, good things usually happen. It also doesn’t hurt that the guy in front of you is Alex Smith.

Overall, I give this one to the later round guys. Manual and Geno are so risky and the late rounders so talented that it doesn’t make any sense for collectors not to buy up guys like Wilson, Barkley, or Dysert. If you’re looking for low-risk investments, this is the perfect draft.

RB                                                                   RB
Gio Bernard                                                  Knile Davis
Le’Veon Bell                                                 Johnathan Franklin
Montee Ball                                                 Marcus Lattimore
Eddie Lacy                                                   Stepfan Taylor
Christine Michael                                        Joseph Randle
…                                                                    Zac Stacy
…                                                                    Kenjon Barner
…                                                                    Rex Burkhead

Now it gets a little closer, but I still give the edge to the late rounders. Bernard, Bell, Ball, and Lacy all find themselves in dream spots playing for high-powered offenses in search of a consistent running game. (Bernard and Lacy will have to fight off Burkhead and Franklin who were also drafted by same high-powered offenses, but more on that below.) Out of the five early rounders, Michael may have the most physical talent, but he’s also the least likely to earn a starting slot playing behind Marshawn Lynch. Couple this with his character concerns and the prospect of not being the starter makes him a risky bet. Out of the remaining four, I see Bell and Ball having the best careers. I watched a lot of film on Bernard and I just don’t see an explosive NFL back. Same with Lacy, who I see as being somewhere between Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, but much closer to Ingram.

For the late rounders, Lattimore is the most physically talented back in this draft and advances in ACL repairs (as evidenced by players like Adrian Peterson and RG3) gives hope that he’ll be able to display those talents by 2014 at the latest. It also doesn’t hurt that he is now recovering while on the roster of the most talented team in the league. A lot of collectors have figured this out, so Lattimore’s prices haven’t quite come down to where they should for an injured rookie which is a shame because I had hoped to pick up more than just a single auto of his. Johnathan Franklin is my personal favorite RB in this draft. After watching film on every top RB prospect, Franklin was the one that jumped out at me as having the speed, elusive, and second-effort toughness to be a star back in the league. (Think AP-lite and, yes, you can quote me on that) I believe Franklin will beat out Lacy, especially running a fast paced offense like the Packers do. Lacy may end up with more touches down around the goal line this season, but Franklin will produce more highlight runs and his contributions will entrench him as the starter by 2014.

Moving down the list, I’d put Taylor and Randle up against whoever the third best early rounders ends up being (likely Bernard). Taylor is a tough, tough runner who will likely struggle playing for a team like Arizona, but Randle fell into a great spot when the Cowboys picked him up. DeMarco Murray has Top-10 talent for a RB, but his injury history means that Randle find himself being called to take pressure off of Romo and the high-powered Cowboy’s passing attack by the end of the season. Out of the remaining backs, Barner and Burkhead standout the most. Barner is a home-run style speed back who knows how to play well in an offense centered around a running quarterback. If Cam Newton can take the next step in his development, the gaps will be there for Barner against defenses like the Saints, Falcons, and Buccaneers. As for Burkhead, if Franklin is my favorite back, then consider Burkhead 1B. Several draft sites actually had him ranked among the Top 3 for RBs depending on the metrics used and many had him ranked #1 when it came to “explosiveness.” Burkhead is a special back with his combination of speed, power, and work ethic. He may not take the starting role away from Bernard, but he’s going to be in the league a long time and will always have a solid fan base coming from Nebraska.

WR                                                           WR
Tavon Austin                                           Terrance Williams
DeAndre Hopkins                                  Keenan Allen
Cordarrelle Patterson                           Marquise Goodwin
Justin Hunter                                         Marcus Wheaton
Robert Woods                                         Stedman Bailey
Aaron Dobson                                        Ace Sanders
…                                                               Josh Boyce
…                                                               Quinton Patton
…                                                               Denard Robinson
…                                                               Da’Rick Rogers

And now the pendulum swings. Frankly, there is just too much talent between Austin, Hopkins, Patterson, and Woods for this to go any other way. Either Austin or Patterson is going to blow up and my bet is on Austin. With a receiving corps of Austin, Bailey, Chris Givens, and Brian Quick, Sam Bradford should finally be able to become the #1 pick he was suppose to be and Austin should be the primary beneficiary of this maturity. Patterson has Randy Moss-level talent, but he has Christian Ponder throwing to him, not Daunte Culpepper in his prime. Howpkins is in the best position of any WR drafted, slotted to be the #2 receiver opposite Andre Johnson, and has more than enough talent to shine. Woods is the most polished, mature, and NFL-ready WR to come into the league in years, though he likely won’t get the hype or recognition he deserves playing in Buffalo with a rookie QB. Expect him to be Manual or Kevin Kolb’s safety blanket by the end of the season and for the 8+ years. If Woods had gone to a team like New England or San Francisco we wouldn’t even be having this discussion – he would be the most sure-fire rookie in the draft.

There is plenty of intrigue in the later rounds guys, but it’s just that – intrigue. With the exception of Williams and maybe Rogers, none of the other WRs have put things together like the guys at the top of the draft. Williams led the nation in receiving after RG3 left school and consistently produced in a major conference his entire collegiate career. Known as locker room leader with a strong work ethic and an anti-diva personality, Williams will get to line up opposite of Dez Bryant in the Cowboy’s passing attack. He will likely push Miles Austin into the slot receiver position and could easily be the #2 receiver when Austin’s contract expires after the season. Rogers is a first round talent and his going undrafted was as big of a surprise as Manual going in the first round. Character issues are what turned teams off, but going undrafted (from the early reports) may have been the best thing that could have happened to Rogers as he appears focus and determined to show the league what they passed on. Don’t be shocked if Rogers blows up. Allen is Hopkins’ equal talent-wise, but he’s playing in San Diego and he’s got some knuckle-head issues. Goodwin has world-class speed, but is still learning how to play WR as a former (Olympic) track guy. Sanders is the mini-me version of the already small Austin. Robinson is a fascinating prospect who is being listed as on OW or “offensive weapon” by the Jaguars and will always have a strong fan base in Michigan due to his collegiate heroics. As a player who can run, throw, and catch, he has a puncher’s chance at setting the NFL on fire for a season or so until defenses adjust and could have a career similar to Kordell Stewart in the mid-1990s. Among these later guys, the best bets are (in order) Williams, Rogers, and Robinson.

TE                                                           TE
Tyler Eifert                                           Travis Kelce
Zach Ertz                                              Dion Sims
Gavin Escobar                                     Levine Toilolo
Vance McDonald                                Luke Wilson

Again, too much talent in the first two rounds. Eifert and Escobar are both behind fantastic veterans in Jermaine Gresham and Jason Witten, but they will both see heavy playing time this season and both should become stars in their respective offenses. Ertz and McDonald are both solid prospects who should have 4+ year NFL careers, but there’s not too much to get excited about. Overall this wasn’t a huge draft for TEs. Among the later round guys, only Luke Wilson stands out from a pure potential standpoint. He played behind McDonald at Rice, but was talented enough that Pete Carroll and the Seahawks still drafted him. He’s purely a project, but he’d have to succeed at a Tony Gonalez level (not likely) to swing this in favor of the later rounds.

So what does this all mean for collectors? Well, it means that for the position by which collectors judge any draft, quarterback, this is a fantastic draft to pick up singles. Guys like Manual and Geno will almost certainly never reach higher prices and, at this time, seem like only a great way to throw your money away. Guys like Wilson, Barkley, and Bray, can be had for much cheaper and offer as good, if not better, potential to become stars. Even in the secondary positions like running back and wide receiver, the later rounds provide a nice counter option to the high-priced guys like Lacy and Austin with players like Franklin, Burkhead, Rogers, and Robinson. As for busting wax, this is a terrible terrible terrible TERRIBLE year to try your luck buying boxes! If I myself had not been able to get in on Topps Chrome when it listed at $800 a case, I wouldn’t be buying ANY product this year. I have, however, had a great time picking up singles and have already completed Leaf Metal full rainbows of Terrance Williams and Tyler Wilson. It will be almost impossible for this year’s class to live up to the classes of 2011 and 2012, but I do believe that we will see a few star offensive players emerge. It always happens. The difference is I believe that, for once, there is just as much potential for these stars to come from the later and cheaper rounds as from the overpriced first two rounds. And that should make a lot of collectors very happy.

– The Frenzy