With the Super Bowl decided and the annual NFL Combine in full swing, regular fans of the game have plenty of down time. This isn't true for collectors, however. With the 2012 NFL Draft just a couple of months away, it's time to look closer at the 2012 draft class to see who will be immediate impact players and who might be a diamond in the rough.
Everyone is fully aware that both Andrew Luck (Stanford) and Robert Griffin III (Baylor) will most likely go 1-2 in the draft. Outside of those two, it's wide open. Some teams will be looking to fill specific needs while others will opt for the best available talent.
Besides Luck and Griffin, who will make a difference in the upcoming NFL trading card season? To answer that, you have to look past draft position and even the potential impact they will have on their future teams. Those who play offensive skill positions are the most coveted among collectors. Usually, backup quarterbacks are going to be worth more than a team's starting kicker. Just like in other sports, the team they play for is another key factor in hobby potential.
With these things in mind, here are five NFL prospects projected to make an impact on the collectibles market.
Trent Richardson (Running Back, Alabama)
Richardson rushed for 1,679 yards in his college career on 283 rushes for an average of 5.9 yards per carry. He also scored 21 touchdowns. He is projected to go in the first round as either the fourth (St. Louis Rams) or fifth (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) pick. Richardson is a compact, durable multi-purpose back who is just as adept at blocking and receiving as he is running the ball.
Justin Blackmon (Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State)
Blackmon accumulated 1,522 yards on 121 receptions during his time at OSU. With an average of 6.8 yards per catch and 18 career touchdowns, he possesses big-play capability with breakaway speed. He also has tremendous agility and the ability to absorb contact. The St. Louis Rams are hoping to trade down to the number four position. If available, Blackmon would be their likely first choice. He answers a big need at wide receiver and would finally give Sam Bradford the every-down receiver the Rams are lacking.
Michael Floyd (Wide Receiver, Notre Dame)
It seems Floyd has had "Future NFL Receiver" written in his bio for years. 2012 will be the moment of truth. Playing for the Fighting Irish, he caught 100 passes for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns. He is a perfect Red Zone target with good size and great hands. Many analysts have him going in the middle of the first round, somewhere between the 16th and 19th overall picks. The Chicago Bears, who currently hold the 19th spot, have expressed interest in acquiring a wide out during the off-season. Floyd could be a good fit, giving Jay Cutler a dependable possession receiver.
Ryan Tannehill (Quarterback, Texas A&M)
Tannehill is the only QB outside of Luck and Griffin with a chance of going in the first round. However, it's a slim chance. The Seattle Seahawks may surprise everyone and pick him at the 12th spot. And if the Redskins aren't able to trade up from their current sixth spot, they may be in a position of having to take Tannehill. There is little chance that Washington will go into the 2012 season with Rex Grossman as their only option. Tannehill, at 6' 4" and 222 lbs, fits the mold of a mobile, accurate NFL passer. During his career at A&M, he threw for 5,121 yards with 41 touchdowns and 20 interceptions for a passer rating of 133.9. He also rushed for another five touchdowns on 359 yards.
Kendall Wright (Wide Receiver, Baylor)
One of RGIII's key weapons, Wright possesses elite speed that stretches defenses. Coupled with solid hands and durability, Wright may be just the answer Blaine Gabbert needs in taking the next developmental step of his career. That is why some analysts have Wright pegged to go there with the Jaguars' seventh pick. At Baylor, Wright amassed 1,663 yards on 108 receptions for a big play average of over 15 yards per catch and 14 touchdowns.
Many of these players will have autographs in early products like 2012 Press Pass Rookie Football (releasing on 3/21), 2012 Sage Hit Football (3/28), 2012 Leaf Metal Draft Football (3/28) and 2012 Upper Deck Football (4/10). The first officially licensed NFL product of 2012 will be 2012 Playoff Prestige, which is scheduled for release sometime in mid-May.