Before you look at the title of this blog post and inevitably ask, yes I’m aware the 2022 NFL Draft is *checks calendar* in precisely 8 months. I’m also aware the NFL regular season hasn’t even kicked off yet, most of this year’s top football card products are still weeks/months away from hitting shelves, and it’s entirely too early to be discussing the 2022 Draft.
However, with college football officially kicking off today, I figured now is as good a time as any to at least take a look at next year’s rookie class from a hobby perspective. While much is sure to change in the course of the next 8 months, a few of the top prospects are locks to be early 1st Round picks (and by default top chases in 2022 Panini releases). So let’s take a look at three names to watch at the college level that you’ll surely be collecting at this time next year.
Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler
If you listen to NFL Draft analysts, the narrative building around the 2022 class is that it’s light on QB prospects. Don’t tell that to Spencer Rattler.
The former #1 QB recruit in the nation didn’t disappoint in his first full season of action as a redshirt sophomore, throwing for 28 TDs and 3000 yards with 6 rushing TDs to boot. Rattler’s sooners are also a consensus top 3 team in the Preseason Polls, and are an overwhelming favorite to win the Big 12. As if that wasn’t enough, Rattler already has ties to the hobby, as the new NIL rules allowed him to attend The National and sign autographs last month. Rattler is a lock to be one of the first QBs drafted in April, and a solid showing for the Sooners this year could easily catapult him to the 1st overall pick.
North Carolina QB Sam Howell
What if I was to tell you there’s a soon-to-be 3-year starter at QB, entering this season in a major conference with 76 total touchdowns under his belt. Is that something you might be interested in?
Experts have discussed Sam Howell as a 2022 Draft target since his true freshman season, and this year could take Howell to the next level of superstardom. While other QBs might have a Joe Burrow-esque season and fly up the boards, Howell joins Rattler as established big names that have potential to shake up both the football and hobby landscapes. While we likely won’t see anything close to the depth and talent of the 2021 QB class, that may actually be a win for collectors. Absent of an unprecedented Lawrence/Wilson/Lance/Fields/Jones chase at the top of this year’s class, sealed wax prices in 2022 are likely to dip. But with the high ceiling of Rattler and Howell, you can already see the value building.
Clemson WR Justyn Ross
QBs are the talk of every draft class, and that’s even more true in the hobby community. However, don’t sleep on the skill position players this year, especially Clemson’s Justyn Ross.
After missing all of 2020 with a spinal cord injury that threatened his career, seeing how Ross bounces back this year is easily one of the most important stories of the 2021 college football season. The Tigers are far and away the biggest favorite to win a Power 5 conference even following the departure of Trevor Lawrence, which means Ross will get plenty more chances to shine on a big stage. If Ross can replicate anything close to his 2018-2019 form with new Clemson QB D.J. Uiagalelei, he will surely be the first QB shaking hands with Roger Goodell in April.