The NFL Draft and 1st Bowman Cards

The Top Picks and Their Bowman U Cards

Date: Apr 25, 2024
Author: Greg Bates, Senior Writer
Topics: 1st Bowman, Bowman U Football, Football, Greg Bates
Length: 1424 Words
Reading Time: ~8 Minutes

With the first pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select … Caleb Williams!

With an extremely deep quarterback class and plenty of teams in desperate need of a talented signal-caller, could three or possibly four quarterbacks be drafted at the top of the board? Only three times in draft history have the top three selections all been gunslingers. If four quarterbacks go in the first five picks, that would mark the first time that’s ever happened in the 89-year history of the event.

There are plenty of what-ifs and wild scenarios entering the draft, which runs Thursday-Saturday in Detroit. What we do know for a fact is collectors don’t have to look far to get their hands on cards of these future NFL stars. Since its first collegiate release in 2021, Bowman has been the leader on the gridiron for producing state-of-the-art cards of these players who have earned a name for themselves in their college uniforms.

Most of this year’s top picks are in the 2023 Bowman University Chrome Football product and the Sapphire Selections edition. The bigger names are also in the 2023-24 Bowman University Best Football release.

“Bowman is loaded. It’s got a lot of our exclusive guys,” said Adam Johnson, Brand Manager of football product development at Fanatics. “It’s a great product to open on draft day because you’re going to see all the names that are up on the screen. We’re looking forward to having Caleb get in a pro uniform, and Drake in a pro uniform. From there, we’ll start putting them in pro products. But their college stuff right now still sells well, and it looks really good. We’re proud of it.”

Top of their class

Anyone who watches college football knows the big names. These guys were flexing their abilities on Saturdays to earn the right to play on Sundays.

At the top of the board — in no particular order — are USC quarterback Caleb Williams, LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels, North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye, Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy, Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze, Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt, LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers, Georgia tight end Brock Bowers, Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner, Florida State edge rusher Jared Verse, Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold, Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell, and UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu.

It’s pretty glaring that the deepest positions in this year’s draft are at quarterback, wide receiver, edge rusher, and cornerback. Since it’s a premium position and always in demand, the quarterbacks are the most under the microscope.

“It’s a loaded class,” Johnson said. “This is a year where the top three picks will be quarterbacks. Then we’re seeing a lot of flow where teams like the Vikings, who acquired a second first-round pick, trade up to number four and potentially get a quarterback there.”

“Last year’s quarterback class was good, and next year’s quarterback class is not good. So, I think that ignites the timeline for a lot of these teams to attack this year, and these guys are even more of a premium. But this could be one of the best quarterback classes we’ve ever seen.”

Williams leads the pack under center. The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner is great inside and outside the pocket. In his two seasons at USC, Williams tossed 72 touchdowns while throwing just 10 interceptions.

Williams’ 1st Bowman card was released in 2022 Bowman University Chrome Football. He has a base card along with a plethora of autographed and insert cards. Williams is also included in the 2023 Bowman University Chrome Football product.

The next three quarterbacks in line are all highly sought-after prospects: Daniels, Maye, and McCarthy. Daniels really made a name for himself last season, winning the Heisman Trophy while throwing for over 3,800 yards, 40 touchdowns, and just four interceptions. Maye threw for 62 touchdowns during his two years starting at North Carolina. McCarthy was a great game manager for Michigan, helping the storied program capture its first national title since 1997.

Maye’s first Bowman card appears in the 2023 Bowman University Chrome set, while McCarthy is part of the 2022 release. Daniels’s first Bowman card will be in a future product.

Fanatics holds exclusive autograph contracts with Williams, Daniels, and Maye, so look for great signature products from these young stars in the future.

Other quarterbacks that could be selected in the first round or early on the second day include Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Oregon’s Bo Nix, and South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler.

Johnson and his Fanatics co-workers consider Rattler a deep sleeper in this year’s draft. If Rattler is drafted by the right organization and can sit for a couple of years to develop, Johnson believes he could be a solid starter in the league.

Rattler’s 1st Bowman card came out in the 2021-22 Bowman University Chrome release. He’s also in a number of 2023 products.

“We’ve spiked him into insert sets and short-print case hit sets that are 20 cards deep. He’s the 19th, 20th card just because we’re always trying to chase that Brock Purdy-level type of guy,” Johnson said. “He’s not going to be quite a seventh-round pick. But he’ll be an early third, maybe a late second, depending on if a team really likes him. We’ve included him in a lot of stuff.”

Anyone looking for rare parallels and inserts of these top quarterbacks should rip packs of 2022 and ’23 Bowman University Best. Those products contain plenty of sick dual and triple patch autograph cards.

“The only Caleb Williams patch auto from ’23, the only Drake Maye, the only Bo Nix, you can find those in 2023 Bowman University Best,” Johnson said. “Those are really cool. They’re jumbo die-cuts where it’s a huge swatch with an autograph on there. They turned out really nice. We were really excited about those.”

Guys to watch

A couple of non-quarterbacks that Johnson is really hyped about are Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy and Bowers.

“Worthy’s a guy we’re pumped about. Not just because he’s exclusive, but because he ran that 40 time, and broke that record,” Johnson said. “He’s not necessarily a top-of-the-first-round guy, but that’s what makes him intriguing is he falls kind of the back half of the first round where you get a Xavier Worthy on the Kansas City Chiefs or the San Francisco 49ers, you mix that speed and talent with a team that’s ready to win. That guy can catapult to be your best receiver in year one just because he’s in the best situation of the group.”

Bowers was an integral member of the Bulldogs’ offense that helped the program win back-to-back national championships in 2021 and ’22.

“He’s everywhere in all our Bowman stuff,” Johnson said. “He’s in all our short prints, all our case-hit autographs. He’s a very collectible guy with the Bowman brand—obviously, the first tight end off the board. We haven’t seen anybody like him in the last few years. Kyle Pitts was only two, three years ago, but they’re a very different style of player where Bowers is more of a three-down tight end where he can block and go out on passes; he’s a little more complete.”

The 1st Bowman cards for both Worthy and Bowers appear in the 2021-22 Bowman University Chrome set.

NIL (name, image, and likeness) contracts have helped make these first cards of budding prospects officially licensed and available to collectors. Johnson loves seeing these players land their special first Bowman before their careers really take off.

“In baseball, we use the Bowman brand for these post-drafted players, so they’re in their pro uniforms, but they’re also in the minor leagues,” Johnson said. “That’s how we view it at Topps. We view these NIL products with the Bowman brands as the minor leagues. So, a 1st Bowman for Caleb Williams, which would have come out in ’22, we value that as the same as a Bobby Witt 1st Bowman in the baseball product. Obviously, it will take collectors a bit to catch up on that. But that’s our goal, which is to say, ‘Hey, this isn’t just a collegiate product. This is their 1st Bowman, and they’re on their way to becoming Caleb Williams in the NFL.’ So, that’s the idea behind it when we’re creating these products: to get them here now — this is their 1st Bowman. And this is the card you’ll want when they blow up in the future.”

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