Every so often, a player comes around that just shatters everyone's expectations. The personal attributes of each superstar may vary, but it takes more than natural ability to rise to stardom in a league as competitive as the NFL. Adrian Peterson is one of those players. Calvin Johnson is another one.
While they still need a few more years to prove to be one of the all-time greats, they’ve definitely done enough to lead a list of rising stars that are worth investing in now.
Therefore, rather than include them on a list, they become the precipice for the conversation, or the measuring stick we use to judge. It goes to show you that the most valuable football rookie cards of #1 draft picks don't always surpass guys drafted later.
As always, some players seem like ‘obvious’ choices. But keep in mind we are approaching these investments from a long term perspective, not necessarily who to buy today and sell in 6 months or a year. We’re looking at players we think can stand the test of time, and bring nice returns at the end or, or well after their careers are over.
Here 5 current stars whose NFL rookie cards could make you money later. Click the player's name to see his rookie cards available on eBay.
1. Larry Fitzgerald
Strike while the iron is cold. Criticism can be placed all around the Arizona franchise, but Larry Fitzgerald cannot be to blame for their struggles in the passing game. His career numbers would look drastically different if he had even a serviceable QB since Kurt Warner retired. But he was very young upon entering the league, and is only 28 years old having already accumulated 10,000 career yards.
Like all the members of this list, Fitzgerald isn’t as flashy as when he first entered the league. But he has the opportunity to go down as one of the all-time greats if he adds a couple more good years to his already impressive resume at such a young age.
While there are a good few Fitzgerald autos, jerseys or game used options worth consideration, the top of the line RC to own for Fitzgerald would be the 2004 SP Authentic Larry Fitzgerald Logo Patch RC Auto /299. A PSA 10 was sold on eBay in September 2012 for $660, and ungraded can even go in the $300-$400 range.
2. Demarcus Ware
It seems strange to say, but if Ware played for another franchise he would probably actually be more well known. Mired on a team that tends to focus just as much on its owner as it does the players, Ware has been the one constant on the inconsistent Cowboys teams of recent years. With just three more years with 10+ sacks (he hasn't had less than 11 since recording 8 in his rookie year of 2005), and he’ll pass Michael Strahan for 5th on the all-time list. If he does that, or continues at his current level, he's headed for the Hall of Fame. Defensive players may never be the sexiest in the cardboard world, but Ware is a wise investment now.
The best recommendation is to grab one of Ware's graded Autos, with options such as 2005 Playoff Contenders DeMarcus Ware AU R, '05 Bowman's Best Auto or '05 Bowman Crome Auto SP /50.
3. Matt Ryan
Numbers are great. Touchdowns. Yards. Completions. Numbers can measure a good few things on a football field. Generally they show some level of talent, or a measure of the talent of the players on a team, and well they can be the most important thing when it comes to fantasy football participants. But the only numbers that really matter to a quarterback are the number of victories, and eventually the number of rings.
Matt Ryan has some great numbers already, but one sticks out in particular. His career won-loss record is 56-22. Ryan has shown the poise to lead his team, and he has the opportunity to quietly rise to the top of the QB list in a quarterback dominated league. Unfortunately, his cards are at a premium already, so the timing of your purchase is key. His various UD Exquisite RC options sell in the $1,500-$2,500 range, and his '08 SP Authentic color patch RC auto is another hot option. The recommendation here, is to look to trade a card of a player that is hot now, that might not have quick the long term potential of a Ryan.
4. Darrelle Revis
Revis is a true shutdown corner, maybe not seen since the likes of Deion Sanders. Like it or not, Deion is one of the top 25 NFL players of ALL-TIME. While Revis is not in that stratosphere just yet, his market value is down due to injury, and well, the organization he plays for. So just like Fitzgerald, we are suggesting a buy now theory, and inviting the risk. As with any card in this era, you have plenty of auto options for Revis in '07, or you can fall back on the always available '97 Topps Chrome, but make sure it's a PSA 10 if you do.
5. AJ Green
Calvin Johnson may have company.
Traditionally, wide receivers were not expected to have any kind of impact until their 3rd season. The exceptions, such as the legends like Jerry Rice and Randy Moss aside, there is a growing trend of more receivers making an impact sooner, rather than later.
While 2 seasons are not enough to be anointed ‘the next coming’ of anything, barring injury AJ Green is already the next superstar WR. I’d be buying into him starting last year. But from a market standpoint, that isn't quite as easy, as rookies get more attention than veterans most of the time in today's 'hype-first' society. Normally I'd list my favorites, but for Green I would get my hands on any auto, limited print, jersey etc. This guy is going to be around for a long time, so if you can find any value here, go for it.
The disappointing thing about the most recent trend in rookies, is that it is tough to 'pull a gem' that starts out at $1 and then rises over time. The prices are astronomical from the outset, making it more difficult to find those gems. Players like AJ Green and Matt Ryan are not sleepers by any means, and if you are able to predict the Doug Martin's of the world before they hit it big, you'll be better off finding value before a player ascends to the top in a week. But if it was the easy, we'd all be rich!
Keep in mind, just because some of these cards are expensive now, doesn't mean they won't rise. As you can see, even the most expensive NFL rookie cardscards still seem to increase in value if the player continues to improve or perform at a high level. Just try not to buy at the peak of the market.