By Greg Bates
The 2015 NFL Draft featured big-name quarterbacks as the top two selections: Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.
Both players had plenty of hype entering the league as former Heisman Trophy winners and were highly sought by NFL teams.
In this year’s draft, the first two picks certainly weren’t household names.
No. 1 overall selection Jared Goff had a solid career at the University of California and was taken by the in-state Los Angeles Rams. The second pick, Carson Wentz, shredded apart Division I FCS defenses in helping North Dakota State University win its fifth-straight national championship this past season. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I don’t think Wentz and Goff are as good as Mariota and Winston and going back to Luck and Griffin and Wilson in 2012 – or even Bortles in 2014,” said Mitch Guttenberg, owner of The Bullpen in Marina Del Rey, Calif. “I was really shocked that the Eagles and the Rams traded up to get them one-two. I wouldn’t think they were that great of locks of No. 1 and 2. I understand the idea of getting a lifetime quarterback for your team and you don’t have to worry about it for 15 years.”
Even though there might not be the star power in Goff, Chris Fernandez – who is a dealer at the prestigious Frank & Son Collectible Show in Industry, Calif. – thinks he can be a player who will shine bright on the big stage in Los Angeles.
“The speculation is if the Rams were willing to trade up to No. 1, they obviously saw something in him to base their future on him,” Fernandez said. “People are thinking maybe he’s the real deal if the Rams gave up so much to get that No. 1 pick.”
Now, Goff and Wentz are trying to win over the cities they now call home, and the two contrasting quarterbacks are out to make a name for themselves. In L.A., Rams fans are looking forward to having the Rams back in town and having a new star to cheer for. They are picking up Goff jerseys and looking at getting as many cards and memorabilia as possible. In Philadelphia, Eagles fans, well, they are a little pessimistic. Wentz items aren’t flying off the shelves quite yet.
The two quarterbacks started strong right out of the gate. In the first week following the draft, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was the top-selling rookie for jersey sales. Wentz came in second and Goff was third.
At Dick’s Sporting Goods in El Segundo, Calif., the store is stocked with men’s, women’s and youth size Goff jerseys and jersey T-shirts. That merchandise is all selling well.
Goff brings excitement to L.A.
Guttenberg’s card shop is only about 10 minutes away from the Los Angeles Rams’ new stadium that is being built in Inglewood. That proximity to the state-of-the-art facility is creating a lot of buzz from customers stopping into the store for Goff cards.
“Adults are calling and coming in and they’re like, ‘Do you have anything in a Rams uniform?’” Guttenberg said. “I say, ‘No.’ You have all the Panini stuff that’s only in college uniforms.”
Yes, there’s not a lot of product out there for Goff. That’s unless a collector is interested in cards of the 21-year-old in his Cal Bears pads.
“We haven’t really got much of his stuff yet, although everyone is asking for him,” said Fernandez, who takes part in the twice-a-week Frank & Son Collectible Show, which is located about 30 minutes from Los Angeles.
Guttenberg is patiently waiting for Goff items to arrive in his store.
“We’ve ordered through the NFL and I’m working on how to get stuff, some memorabilia,” Guttenberg said. “We don’t do much with memorabilia, but I’m trying to get more and more stuff from the Rams. Kids are now coming back in and buying stuff again.”
When Goff cards are released, Guttenberg plans to stock up. He used to buy two cases of every football product, but had cut back recently. However, Guttenberg will get back into purchasing a pair of cases since L.A. has a team again. For the month of May, Guttenberg said his football numbers shot way up, which is a nice surprise.
“Eventually, I’ll carry photos and Rams mini helmets,” Guttenberg said. “I don’t know if we’ll get into the hats or the jerseys. We’re thinking about it.”
Guttenberg would like to get his hands on some Goff autographs, but he knows to do that he’ll have to pay top dollar. Goff has an exclusive contract with Panini this year. But Guttenberg will find other ways to nab Goff’s signature.
“L.A. has a bunch of people that follow paparazzi around,” Guttenberg said. “Those guys just come in with buckets of autographs.”
Guttenberg is expecting Goff card prices to range from about $8-$10 for his base rookies and $150-$300 for autograph cards, depending on the product, limited-edition cards and if the signature is on-card or a sticker. Fernandez anticipates Goff base cards will go for $5-$15 apiece.
“That’s kind of how the Winston’s and Mariota’s were last year early on,” Fernandez said.
Autographs will sell anywhere from $50 to a couple hundred dollars, noted Fernandez.
“There’s definitely going to be a very high demand for him,” he said.
Those prices could skyrocket if Goff over-achieves in his rookie season. Heading into training camp, he was pegged to be the opening day starter. If Goff plays well, collectors and fans might be heading to Guttenberg’s shop very frequently.
“I can only hope he has the buzz of Steph Curry,” Guttenberg said. “I’m just hoping something close to that.”
“Everything’s like a stock, it’s based on performance,” Fernandez said. “The fact that we haven’t had a team in 22 years, I think it’s going to be solid all year long. L.A.’s been dying for a football team, I’m telling you, for 20 years.”
Wentz trying to win over Philly fans
Tom Lofaro, part owner of TNT Cards & Memorabilia in Philadelphia, recalled when the Eagles drafted Donavon McNabb No. 2 overall in the 1999 NFL Draft, the team’s fans weren’t too pleased.
McNabb had to win over the turbulent Philly faithful. He certainly accomplished that over the years.
There’s a similar feel this year with Wentz going to Philadelphia.
“Eagles fans are Eagles fans,” Lofaro said. “They either love you, like you or they’ll massacre you.
“They’ll be on the bandwagon seeing how good this kid is supposed to be. If he really flops, then they’ll just do what they do with all the other ones and just put it away and go to the next person they have.”
Welcome to the City of Brotherly Love, rookie.
At Bill’s Sports Cards & Memorabilia in Philadelphia, owner Bill Mason hasn’t been hearing a lot of chatter about Wentz locally from collectors.
“With (Sam) Bradford here, everyone knows (Wentz) isn’t starting right away, so I think that effects it,” Mason said. “If he comes in and he’s the starting quarterback, it might be a bigger deal right now.”
Once training camp rolls around in late July, Mason expects the Wentz followers to emerge. That’s when Mason will get product for his customers.
“I’ll pick up some cards to sell in the store,” Mason said. “Unfortunately, I tried to get him in for signing, but Fanatics already put him through an exclusive, so that’s not going to happen. The signing thing would have been good, because he’s the new guy in town. He’s not signing for free for anybody from what I understand.”
Once Wentz cards are on the market, Mason believes prices will be steep.
“I already know the autograph stuff is going to be ridiculous on that,” Mason said. “On the card market, the cheaper stuff will be like $5-$10 range, and higher end stuff will be more.”
When Wentz was drafted, Lofaro didn’t get any items of the quarterback to sell. He is shying away from Wentz since he’s an unproven commodity. If Wentz gets a shot to play and does well, Lofaro won’t have a choice but to pick up some memorabilia.
“The hottest item is the person that’s doing the best,” Lofaro said. “And the next day if he breaks his arm or breaks a leg, you won’t even know who he is.”
There’s one place in the United States where everyone knows who Wentz is: Fargo, N.D.
When Philadelphia drafted Wentz, that night Wentz fans in his adoptive hometown – where the campus is for North Dakota State – instantly became Eagles followers.
Wentz merchandise has been flying off the shelves at Scheels All Sports in Fargo.
“It’s a really cool, small college, small community, so the following has been really great,” said Ashley Richter, Scheels assistant manager who oversees the college shop.
Scheels has NFL-licensed Wentz jerseys in the Eagles green and secondary black. The store is also selling jersey T-shirts and full-size replica Eagles helmets and products.
The jerseys have been a hot seller for adults as well as for youth.
“Just because he’s a good guy, good role model,” Richter said.
Customers are heading into Scheels on a regular basis and asking for Wentz items, noted Richter. The fans are looking for the nice premium stitch Eagles jerseys with No. 11 and Wentz on the back.
“Those aren’t available until October,” Richter said. “A lot of people are holding out for the really nice ones.”
The stitch jerseys run $150 and the replica ones that are currently being sold at Scheels are going for $100.
“They’re willing to spend the money and they’re excited to see what he does,” Richter said. “I’m sure it will just take off once the season starts.”
During her time working at Scheels, Richter has never experienced anything like the Wentz phenomenon. When the Minnesota Vikings signed Brett Favre in 2009, that was a huge deal for Scheels, since North Dakota is filled with Vikings fans.
“That’s probably been the last time I remember our store buzzing like it is now,” Richter said.
Greg Bates is a freelance contributor to SCD. He can be reached at email@example.com.