Analyzing The Trends: The Hottest Rookie Quarterbacks

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Jason Koeppel // ONE37pm

Recent NFL drafts have yielded some exciting rookie quarterbacks, and their impacts on the card market have not gone unnoticed.

In 2016, we had Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott. In 2017, we had hobby darlings emerge in Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. In 2018, five were taken in the first round, including Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield. In 2019, Kyler Murray was selected by the Cardinals with the top pick, just one year after they chose another quarterback in the first round (Josh Rosen). In 2020, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert headlined a class that also included the emerging Jalen Hurts. Finally, in 2021, we saw an exciting new crop of rookie signal-callers, with Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance selected with the top three picks.

Card prices for the largely unproven rookie quarterbacks tend to be strong out of the gate, but the hype typically dies down a bit and prices drop over time.

Below, I will analyze the card prices and trends of some of the hottest young quarterbacks dating back to 2018 (the point at which the hobby started to rapidly grow) to see if we can form some expectations about this year's recently drafted rookies.

1. Baker Mayfield - 2018 Round 1, Pick 1

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When analyzing football cards, I tend to look at three flagship Panini rookie cards: Prizm Silver, Contenders Cracked Ice, and National Treasures Rookie Patch Auto /99.

While accurate and reliable historical data is not available for Baker's latter two cards, we still have some good data on his base and Silver Prizms, and can use recent sales data to gauge where his cards are in the market.

The first recorded Prizm Silver PSA 10 sale for Baker Mayfield occurred on March 13th, 2019 with a sale price of $1,299.99.

For hobby context, on 3/19/2019, a Patrick Mahomes Prizm PSA 10 sold for $180. Mahomes was announced the MVP the prior month. It's important to remember that Mahomes' Prizm Silver is not a true Silver, in that it wasn't short printed with a higher print run base version.

On 8/9/2019, the Mahomes' /49 Red Power Prizm sold for $1,500, just slightly higher than Mayfield's Silver Prizm.

While Mahomes hadn't yet won a Super Bowl, the data shows that rookie quarterbacks can command significant prices at the thought of their potential performance vs. actual performance of accomplished veterans. Mayfield didn't win "Rookie of The Year", but had a strong season and it was enough that everyone was clamoring for his cards during new product releases.

Due to a very low population (13) of the Silver Baker Mayfield PSA 10s, there aren't many recent sales:

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However, after the 2019 season, the price of this card dropped by 38%.

In 2021, after a promising play-off run and strong off-season acquisitions by the Browns, his cards are again on an upward swing:

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This is Mayfield's base Prizm PSA 10 and with a pop of 859, we have plenty more sales data to look at. The card bottomed out in November 2020, dropping to $107.50 from a previous high of $345, but has since climbed to new heights at a price of $415.

Because of this rise in his base price, his silver Prizm is predicted to be worth $4,909.22 by Cardladder.

Mayfield's National Treasures Rookie Patch Auto /99 last sold on May 11, 2021 for $6,000 (ungraded), which is a data point we'll use later to compare with new rookie quarterbacks Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow.

2. Kyler Murray - 2019 Round 1, Pick 1 (ROTY)

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The initial recorded sale of a Kyler Murray Silver Prizm PSA 10 occurred 1/23/2020 for $320. The card quickly climbed to it's peak price of $4,950 on 9/4/2020, representing 1446% growth!

The Cardinals are in a competitive division, finishing 8-8 overall in the 2020 season, but the acquisition of Deandre Hopkins proved to contribute some new value to Murray's cards.

After record prices leading into his second year, the card has retreated in value to $2,247, a 54% decrease.

Mayfield had similar hype going into his second season, with his Silver Prizm PSA 10's hitting a record-high of $1,350 on July 20th. It then retreated 46% to a new low of $718 on 3/2/2020.

These are two examples of first overall picks, both with record highs just prior to their 2nd season, with an average dip of 50% in the following offseason.

3. Joe Burrow - 2020 Round 1, Pick 1

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Justin Herbert - 2020 Round 1, Pick 6 (ROTY)

Justin Herbert is the sought-after quarterback of the 2020 draft class, but it's prudent to look at both Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert heading into the 2021 season.

Burrow's Prizm Silver PSA 10 (pop 42) is currently valued at $2,900, while Justin Herbert's Silver PSA 10 (pop 45) recently brought in $6,200.

It's important to recognize that the populations of Burrow, Herbert, and future rookies are going to be higher.

Baker Mayfield has just 13 Silver Prizm PSA 10s - there may still be some raw versions floating out there, but I wouldn't expect a huge rise in those numbers. Kyler Murray's Silver Prizm has a pop 142 and has been out a year longer than Burrow and Herbert.

That's a 992% increase in PSA 10s from Mayfield to Murray.

It's important to consider gem rates (% of cards submitted to PSA receiving a 10 grade), so let's look at some data:

2018 Prizm Silver Baker Mayfield: 21% gem rate on 61 total submitted cards

2019 Prizm Silver Kyler Murray: 38% gem rate on 366 submitted cards

2020 Prizm Silver Justin Herbert: 13% gem rate on 346 submitted cards

2020 Prizm Silver Joe Burrow: 19% gem rate on 224 submitted cards

At this point, with card grading companies raising prices and temporarily suspending operations on certain packages, combined with lower than normal gem rates for the 2020 draft class, it might help with PSA 10 population control.

Next, we turn to the National Treasures Rookie Patch Auto that is numbered to 99 copies and won’t be affected by direct population increases. It can be argued that there are more rookie patch autos available for newer rookies between new sets and parallels, but the /99 copy is recognized as the true rookie patch auto amongst collectors. 

Burrow's latest National Treasures Rookie Patch Auto /99 sale (it's a redemption to receive the card in the future, not the actual card) sold for $19,995.

Herbert's latest National Treasures Rookie Patch Auto /99 sales were for $36,300 and $50,000.

These are big numbers for unproven players, especially when we saw the previous two top quarterbacks prices retreat 50% after their second season.

Mayfield made the playoffs, but his National Treasures RPA /99 sold for 83% less than Herbert's $36,300 RPA. 

4. The Trevor Lawrence Effect

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The 2021 draft class is an intriguing one with three quarterbacks going off the board in the top three picks, featuring Clemson mega-prospect Trevor Lawrence. 

Lawrence has been described as a generational talent by some, and it’s likely to build excitement around the football card market. While it’s hard to show direct cause and effect, top players prices do seem to influence the rest of the market. 

For example, Patrick Mahomes National Treasures Rookie Patch Auto sold for $50,000 on July 9th, 2020. The following March, it sold for $297,660:


Would Herbert’s RPA /99 still sell for five-figures if former MVP and Super Bowl Champ Patrick Mahomes’ RPA was still sitting at $50,000? 

It’s unlikely. 

It’s also interesting that after the 3/6/21 record sale of Mahomes’ RPA, Deshaun Watson’s RPA /99 set a record on 3/20/21 for $19,680: 


This represents a 228% increase. It’s not quite the 495% increase the Mahomes’ RPA experienced, but it is an indication that the top of the market pulled up another promising young QB. 

It’s worth noting that Lamar Jackson’s RPA /99 has experienced a decline in the month after the Mahomes’ new record sale, when the price dropped from $18,000 to $12,000: 


However, Jackson’s RPA peak sale of $24,990 occurred on July 30th, 2020, three weeks after Mahomes’ initial record price of $50,000 on July 9th 2020. 

The peak Jackson sale was 25% above it’s previous sale, while the Mahomes record was 54% higher than its previous sale. The Mahomes to Jackson growth ratio was about double, similar to the Mahomes to Watson growth ratio. 

The takeaway here is that top-of-market record sales don’t automatically bring up every other card, but it does seem to elevate the next hot player and in a similar growth pattern. 

We’ll look at two more data points before discussing Lawrence and his potential impact on the card market: 

Patrick Mahomes Prizm PSA 10 (pop 865): Sold on July 26th for $8,488, a 39% increase 

Lamar Jackson Silver Prizm PSA 10 (pop 24): Sold on 8/9/2020 for $16,320, a 230% increase

These two sales may not be directly related, but many collectors and investors try to use comps to figure out how much to pay for a card. In the case of Jackson’s Silver Prizm, the low population makes it hard to come up with a price on an exact comp. 

It’s possible that buyers used Mahomes’ new prices as a data point when making a bid, thus pushing Jackson’s silver into a record price. 

So, could Trevor Lawrence have a similar effect on the rookie market? 

While Lawrence’s flagship rookie cards (Prizm, Contenders and National Treasures) won’t be released until after the season begins and in some cases after the season ends, it’s possible he shows signs that he’s playing to his potential and that it could influence the overall market. 

As we’ve seen with Murray and Mayfield, the market can quickly forget about once-promising quarterbacks and move to the next batch. 

Many are likely chasing the next Mahomes, and who wouldn’t? If you make that $40,000 bet on a Justin Herbert card, and you’re right, you could potentially have life-changing gains. 

If Lawrence plays well, and his initial cards command high prices, who wouldn’t want to start chasing the next Lawrence? There are a lot of variables to play out, but other rookies may benefit if Lawrence plays to his potential. And that’s a big if. 

5. Tying it All Together

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There are a lot of quarterbacks in the NFL who show potential and collectability in today’s market, but it’s critical to remember that only one team walks away a Super Bowl champion each year. There’s only one league MVP, and the team (and coaching) around a player matters significantly in their chances of success. 

Tom Brady has set the top of the market, followed by Patrick Mahomes. Brady has won seven Super Bowls. Mahomes has one, but has been to three straight AFC championships and back-to-back Super Bowls. 

Brady is an anomaly, and even Mahomes might still have more to prove to match his card values, but he has a stellar team and coaching staff around him. 

Players like Lawrence, Herbert, Mayfield and Murray will have a lot of time to prove their worth and win championships (barring injury) but the market quickly forgets, so tread carefully as you make your football card investments. 

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