Saturday, April 27, 2024

2024 Facebook purchase: the Champs Feel a Draft

In case I haven't mentioned it lately, the Michigan Wolverines football team won the 2023 NCAA Championship. Yep, they did that! 15-0 including beating Ohio State for the third year in a row, taking the Big Ten Conference crown (ditto), triumphing over Alabama in an instant Rose Bowl classic, and finally suffocating Washington to put the icing on the cake.

I knew I planned to celebrate by buying various memorabilia to help me enjoy what's sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime type of team, and one of those purchases came about a week after the last of the confetti fell in Houston.

A Facebook Marketplace seller had listed complete 110-card sets of the NIL-funding 2023 Valiant Michigan Wolverines base cards, and while I skipped last year's due to the cost, I knew I wanted one from this past season. He was asking $175 each, and I talked him down to $150 each for two of them by meeting up with him and paying cash--one for me, and one for Jeff, naturally.

It worked out nicely for both the seller and me, despite being an absolutely skin-burningly freezing day where I was bouncing all over frozen drifts of snow. The guy had clearly bought a lot of packs and was making money back selling sets while compiling the autographs and other cool stuff.

I got back home, built the checklist, uploaded it to TCDb, and then got to work scanning the fronts and backs of all 110 cards. And now that I'm catching up from January, I thought today, the last day of the 2024 draft, would be a great day to recap them a bit.

Don't worry, I won't show off all 110 cards; You can head here to see the whole thing if you feel like it. But I am going to do a quick run through of the guys in the set who got drafted this year, the players still available as UDFAs, and a few stars that are sticking around for at least one more season.

First, here's a look at a typical front and back courtesy of scary returning DL Kenneth Grant. You've got white borders on two edges, black accents, number/player/position info inside maize and blue sections, and part of that iconic winged helmet up front. The photos of college action look great, and in a corner you can see the logo of Valiant, the marketing company that funnels money from purchases of these and other items to the players.

The back offers a different helmet, more of the same name/number/position data, a bit of biographic info, and notes from their Michigan and high school careers. These cards are unnumbered and I sorted them alphabetically by last name.

On to the draftees:

J.J. McCarthy (QB): 10th overall (first round), Minnesota Vikings
A few players got two cards and it's no surprise that the former five-star that promised to get the team back to the playoff and win it all is one of them. He'll take his athleticism and zen mindset to Minnesota to eventually replace absolute chud Kirk Cousins.
Kris Jenkins (DT): 49th overall (second round), Cincinnati Bengals
Jenkins was part of a defense that consistently stifled opponents, and he finished with career highs in TFL (4.5) and sacks (2.5) while also tacking on a fat guy interception.
Mike Sainristil (CB): 50th overall (second round), Washington Commanders
The converted WR who made the play of The Game against OSU in '21, Mikey is the embodiment of this team and played with zero selfishness after a positional switch. He made big plays and got to wear the Turnover Buffs very often. He'll be a football coach and/or US president when all is said and done.

Junior Colson (LB): 69th overall (round 3), Los Angeles Chargers

Colson is another bigger name guy that gets two cards here. He didn't put up gaudy numbers but was ultimately reliable in his three college seasons. His reaction to former college coach and new NFL boss Jim Harbaugh "choosing him again" was heartwarming.
Blake Corum (RB): 83rd overall (round 3), Los Angeles Rams
What else can you say about "Blake the Great?" The RB with tree trunks for legs isn't a speed burner but he was almost automatic at moving the chains and getting into the end zone from 10 yards out or less. The program TD leader leaves a legacy of big plays in big moments.
Roman Wilson (WR): 84th overall (round 3), Pittsburgh Steelers
The Hawaiian WR more than earned his #1 jersey by becoming a favorite target of McCarthy, finishing with 48 receptions, 12 of which were scores. His TD catch against a Nebraska player's helmet will be a highlight for years, but no play was bigger than the rising catch he made in comeback mode against Alabama in the Rose Bowl.

Zak Zinter (OG): 85th overall (round 3), Cleveland Browns
Zinter was a huge piece of the interior of an O-line that protected McCarthy and run-blocked for Corum and the other running backs, so when he went down with a broken leg in the OSU game, the team could have folded. Instead, Blake Corum scored a TD for "6-5" on the very next play, and the team finished their job without missing a beat.

A.J. Barner (TE): 121st overall (round 4), Seattle Seahawks
The Indiana transfer made the best decision of his life heading northeast to Ann Arbor for the '23 season. Though his numbers don't stand out, he appeared in all 15 games and got himself drafted after proving himself to be a solid TE2.

Trevor Keegan (OG): 172nd overall (round 5), Philadelphia Eagles
Another absolute monster that fits the stereotype of offensive linemen, he'll likely be a fan favorite on a team that just saw Jason Kelce retire.

Michael Barrett (LB): 240th overall (round 7), Carolina Panthers
Michael Barrett is a guy who'd been around since the 2019 season, meaning he saw the lows of the goofy 2020 COVID campaign and still stuck around through everything. His reward: glory and lots of hardware.
(No card) LaDarius Henderson (OT): 249th overall (round 7), Houston Texans
The Arizona State transfer tackle doesn't appear in this set, but he did a sold job at that position despite not being a star. Very cool that he gets to hang out with fellow Wolverine Nico Collins and troll his QB about winning The Game.

Jaylen Harrell (EDGE): 252nd overall (round 7), Tennessee Titans
I believe Harrell had another year of eligibility left but obviously opted to forgo that, and there's nothing wrong with going out on top. He improved on a pretty nice '22 season--7.5 TFL and 3.5 sacks, with 9.0 and 6.5, respectively, along with a pair of forced fumbles.

Cornelius Johnson (WR): 253rd overall (seventh round), Los Angeles Chargers
While Michigan didn't break the record of 15 players drafted, CJ's former/new coach Harbaugh made him #13, a program record. He scored just one TD on 47 receptions in a run-heavy offense that tended to favor Roman Wilson and the TEs, but he was often reliable with an occasional drop. The replays of him torching OSU DBs for long catch-and-run TDs will forever be burned in my brain.

A few ex-Wolverines who were also drafted:
  • Xavier Worthy (WR), #28, Chiefs: he doesn't really count but was a one-time commit who couldn't enroll due to some of the usual admissions ridiculousness that tends to happen around here. I'm happy that he went on to have a great career at Texas that earned him a first-round selection
  • Erick All (TE), #115 (4th round), Bengals: a very talented TE, All will forever be remembered for a game winning catch-and-run score against Penn State in '21. Injuries shortened his '22 season and then he transferred to Iowa, only to have his season cut short there. It's nice to see him get a chance in the league.
  • Joe Milton (QB), #193 (6th round), Patriots: a QB that could amaze you and baffle you on consecutive plays, Milton opened the 2020 season with a bang, then lost his job to Cade McNamara. He could throw the ball the length of the field and sometimes even within a few yards of one of his teammates. He put up 20 TDs through the air and another seven on the ground in his third and final season with Tennessee, and reportedly isn't interested in a position switch. We'll see how that works out.
The following players, most of whom were in the set, are now undrafted free agents:

Karsen Barnhart (OG)
I'm a bit surprised the Paw Paw native didn't get drafted, but at least the team valued his versatility in Ann Arbor, where he played all along the OL except for center.

Trente Jones (OL)
Jones is one of a number of guys who could have come back, and in his case he very likely would have been able to put more on film after being a swing lineman, filling in ably as needed and working well in jumbo sets.

Braiden McGregor (EDGE)
I believe McGregor is another guy that could have stuck around for one more season. He put up career highs with 9.0 TFL and 4.5 sacks along with a forced fumble, and he made some important plays, though didn't pop up as much as some of the team's bigger stars.
(No card) Drake Nugent (C)
A transfer from conference foe Nebraska, Nugent came in and handled the center position well. I guess some of the transfers just didn't make it in time to be part of the set for whatever reason.
(No card) Josh Wallace (CB)
Wallace transferred in from UMass as a grad student and quietly had a pretty solid season that ended with some excellent plays in the two playoff games.

Two other former players who transferred also went undrafted (and weren't part of this set):
  1. Eyabi Okie-Anoma (EDGE): a bit of a nomad, he suited up for Alabama in 2018, Michigan in 2022, and Charlotte last year.
  2. Taylor Upshaw (DE): Upshaw was a Wolverine from 2019-2022 then headed to Arizona for his final season. He finished with 8.5 sacks but missed out on winning a title.
Finally, here's a few returning stars from the set who we'll get to see in 2024:

Donovan Edwards (RB)

Mason Graham (DL)

Will Johnson (CB)
Colston Loveland (TE)

Semaj Morgan (WR)

Alex Orji (QB)

That takes care of the 2024 draft for now, at least until I can start buying up and trading for cards of some of the above players. I'll be back with more posts soon but until then, as always, GO BLUE!


  1. Hope JJ does well (but not too well) in Minnesota. Kirk Cousins is indeed a chud, lol. Excited to see what Corum can do in LA and future President Sainristil in Washington. And it looks like the Packers signed Trente as a UDFA.

    I have to ask - is Alex Orji in line to start at QB this season? Announcers (and fans) are gonna have fun with that name. As if Penix isn't bad enough, lol.

    As for the set design, it's very reminiscent of 2016 Topps baseball other than the rounded border and cleaner card back.

    1. Oh yeah, Orji's definitely a candidate, and if you haven't seen the clip with Robert Griffin III calling the game where he scored for the first time (RGIII was ready!), check it out. I think you're right about how you're comparing the design to 2016 Topps.

  2. I was tempted to buy some of this stuff (for Michigan and UW). It kept popping up on Facebook, but I never actually did. Anyways... I was casually following the draft on ESPN's website and everytime a Wolverine popped up, I thought of you Michigan guys. Congratulations on the Championship... and having so many guys getting drafted. Should provide a lot of cards for you guys to collect.

    1. Thanks, Fuji! I love that some folks think of me when they hear about Michigan sports, like the way you're my first thought when folks mention Tony Gwynn and Rickey Henderson. I do indeed look forward to collecting even more of these guys, even if the number of cards I'm chasing increases exponentially.