While the 2000s could still hold a few hidden gems for the NFL, most of the top players have already established themselves with the masses and in the hobby. The following guide takes a look at the top 2000s football rookie cards.
Similar to the best 1990s rookie cards and Peyton Manning, one player could easily occupy all the spots. Tom Brady rookie card values are already high and could even go higher. But to keep things more diverse, only one rookie card per player was included.
The ranking is largely based on value, but the overall significance was also taken into account. The list only covers official rookie cards from 2000 to 2009.
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Top 2000s Football Rookie Cards to Collect
Click on the card listings to shop for cards on eBay. Bolded links go to detailed profiles.
Among running backs in the 2000s, few could match what Tomlinson did on the field. He caught 100 passes in 2003, scored 31 total touchdowns in 2006 and led the league in rushing in 2006 and 2007.
For most collectors, there is only one LaDainian Tomlinson rookie card to note—2001 Contenders. The bright design and a foil sticker autograph give the card a bold look, but a rookie teammate on the list has a very similar card, as well.
While Marshawn Lynch started his career with the Buffalo Bills, "Beast Mode" fully emerged with the Seattle Seahawks. Large totals for rushing yards and touchdowns put Lynch among the top running backs in the league and helped make Seattle an elite team.
The first of several Exquisite Collection rookie cards from 2007, it is clear why this was the preferred option for collectors while Upper Deck still had an NFL license. The 2007 National Treasures NFL card is not far off from the top rookie for Marshawn Lynch, or any of the other 2007 players, for that matter.
While consistency is certainly not his strength, it is hard to argue with Eli Manning's two Super Bowl MVPs. The much-maligned younger brother of Peyton Manning will never escape the shadow of his family name but he can silence the critics with one more title run.
An on-card signature and small patch make the 2004 SP Authentic Eli Manning rookie card a top choice. Ultimate Collection and Contenders also present appealing options.
Like Manning, Ben Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl wins after starting his NFL career in 2004. His overall interest is helped the collecting power of Steelers Nation.
Also similar to Eli Manning, the best Ben Roethlisberger rookie cards come courtesy of SP Authentic, Ultimate Collection and Contenders. SP Authentic prevails thanks to the on-card signature and patch.
Off-field troubles have weakened the collecting value of Adrian Peterson, but his overall body of work is impressive.
A large patch and quality design put the 2007 Exquisite Collection rookie for Adrian Peterson in an elite class. The gold parallel, numbered to 25, is shown below.
In his prime, "Megatron" was one of the most dynamic players in the league. Injuries ultimately took away the final years of his career, but he is still a popular name.
Calvin Johnson is arguably top rookie from the 2007 class and his best rookie card sticks with the rest, making 2007 Exquisite Collection one of the most loaded products in modern football.
Another key wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald came into the NFL with a lot of hype and he has not disappointed. Despite the inconsistency at quarterback, Fitzgerald has been one of the few constants in the NFL over the last decade.
Although there are several choices for the top Larry Fitzgerald rookie card, hobby-favorite Contenders takes the crown based on a very low announced print run. Contenders and short prints go hand-in-hand, but with just 50 reported copies, nothing else on the list comes close to matching the print run of this rare Larry Fitzgerald rookie card.
Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks dominate the hobby in general, so it should be no surprise that they top the list of the top rookie cards in the 2000s. Aaron Rodgers has the most opportunity for growth in the collecting world. The Super Bowl XLV MVP and two-time league MVP hopes to add more to his list of accomplishments.
One of the few instances where an Exquisite Collection rookie card does not look so great, collectors don't care when it comes to this Aaron Rodgers rookie. However, the awkward layout and trapped autograph is not enough to diminish interest for this valuable rookie card.
After a good career in San Diego was derailed by injury, Drew Brees was sent packing. He was reborn in New Orleans, leading the Saints to their first Super Bowl win and setting a ton of NFL records along the way. Rumors have begun to grow that his time in New Orleans is coming to a close, but Brees has already put his name on the shortlist for Canton.
Although Drew Brees has seven signed rookie cards, and most are more limited than his Contenders card, it remains the preferred choice for collectors. The announced print run of 500 keeps the supply decent and the prices have climbed over the years.
Into his 40s, Brady's six Super Bowl titles and four Super Bowl MVP Awards put Tom Brady in very rare company. The legendary quarterback for the New England Patriots is easily the biggest name in NFL card collecting.
Despite the fact that multiple Tom Brady rookie cards regularly sell for thousands, there is really no debate about which is the top overall rookie card of the 2000s. Contenders has considerable brand power with football collectors, as evidenced by the other cards on the list, and sits at the top as the unquestioned favorite among collectors. While the print run was never revealed, the on-card signature and legacy of Tom Brady guarantees this will be a modern hobby icon for many years to come.