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Player Spotlight: Percy Harvin

A detailed look at Percy Harvin's fantasy prospects for 2013

UPDATE (7/30/13):  Percy Harvin has been advised to undergo surgery for a torn labrum in his hip, which will sideline him for a significant portion of the season. Sadly that's cause to disregard our prior analysis as Harvin is no longer a viable option in redrafts.

Percy Harvin is kind of an enigma to fantasy owners heading into 2013. On the one hand, his injury history has to give you pause when you consider he had yet to play a full season in the NFL (and missed nearly half the season last year). On the other hand, watch him play for even just one quarter and you start drooling at the prospect of adding him to your roster. It's that second hand that results in a guy being the ninth receiver off the board despite finishing last year as WR43 and never finishing higher than WR7 in his first four seasons.

Entering his fifth season in the league, it is sometimes easy to forget just how young Percy Harvin still is. At just 25 years old this year, Harvin has done more than most players his age. For a frame of reference, the San Diego Chargers are hopeful of a breakout season from Vincent Brown, who is 24. The Browns hope for the same from 24-year-old Greg Little. The point is, a lot of observers look at "young" guys like Brown and Little and believe in the possibility of a huge improvement. Meanwhile, a guy like Harvin is almost looked upon as a seasoned vet -- but the reality is that he has only just scratched the surface of his talents.

He entered the league with much fanfare as an electric first round pick, and did not disappoint. His first two seasons resulted in two top-25 finishes at his position, cementing himself as a high-end fantasy prospect. The culmination of that was his third season, when he went over 1,000 yards from scrimmage on a whopping 138 offensive touches. Also included in that mix were eight touchdowns, all of which resulted in a WR7 finish for the year. He was turning in an even more impressive 2012 campaign when an ankle injury sidelined him for most of the season's second half. At the time of the injury, he was putting up Pro Bowl caliber numbers and was the clear focal point of the Minnesota passing attack. It is no wonder, then, that Minnesota QB Christian Ponder averaged roughly 200 passing yards per game with Harvin in the starting lineup and just 161 yards per game without him.

This past offseason, the Vikings elected to trade their dynamic playmaker to the Seattle Seahawks for multiple draft picks. The theory was that the mercurial Harvin was something of a distraction, did really get along with head coach Leslie Frazier very well, and the team did not want to pay a small fortune to a diminutive player with an already lengthy injury history. With Seattle, he joins a very "player friendly" head coach in Pete Carroll, and perhaps most importantly, fills the exact same role he had in Minnesota. Despite the fact that he seemingly hasn't been able to put it all together yet, there are several reasons why we can assume that this is the right place at the right time for him.

POSITIVES

  • Just like in Minnesota, he will be "the guy". The team did not give up multiple high draft choices AND grant him a large contract extension just to add him to a committee of receivers.
  • Prior to his injury last season, he was on pace for 1,374 yards from scrimmage which would have been a career high.
  • The Seahawks plan to use him much like the Vikings did, including featuring him in the run game. Those rushing duties may not seem like a great deal, but adding another 100-200 yards to his season total regularly vaults him up ahead of a handful of other receivers in the same tier.

NEGATIVES

  • Harvin is an injury risk. He has dealt with migraine headaches throughout his career, and last season an ankle injury cut his campaign short with seven games left to play. Already in spring mini-camp, he dealt with a hip flexor injury (which was deemed "minor").
  • For all of the fanfare about his big play ability, he has failed to crack 1,000 yards receiving in a single season, and his yards per reception average has actually dropped each season since he entered the league.
  • Seattle starting quarterback Russell Wilson is a legit talent and appears on the verge of joining the league's elite passers, but he still threw the football less than 400 times last season. If the Seahawks remain committed to a strong ground game and winning games with defense and ball control, that will limit Harvin's upside somewhat.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you want to land Harvin on your roster, he is going to cost you. Owners hoping for a discount after an injury-riddled season can forget about that, because the hype train filled up again when he was traded to the Seahawks. Sure, he is leaving behind Adrian Peterson, but he is also ridding himself of the underachieving Christian Ponder and now joining forces with one of the league's bright young stars in Russell Wilson. Everything about Seattle in 2013 screams excitement, and Harvin is a large reason why. People will be clamoring to grab Harvin in the third round, and with good reason. He is the kind of impact player who, if healthy, can legitimately go out and tally 1,500 yards from scrimmage and score ten touchdowns if things break right for him. There simply aren't many players in the league capable of those kinds of numbers, and you'll be paying a premium to get them. It's always tough to believe in an ascension from "good player with upside" to "elite talent". Most people want to actually SEE the results prior to paying for them. But Harvin is the rare player who can provide almost first round value for a lower price tag. Injuries can and do happen to all players. At 5'11", 192 lbs, he is just one inch and eight pounds smaller than Victor Cruz and slightly bigger than Randall Cobb. While it's true that owners won't have to pay quite as high a price tag for those two, it's just as true that neither of those two are anywhere near as talented as Harvin.

It comes down to risk assessment. Every owner is different and every strategy is different (I know, duh). Would I be comfortable spending what it would take to land Harvin? Absolutely. But I tend to factor in the injury risk less than most people. It's how you end up with Randy Moss in 2007 or Steve Smith in 2011 after several injury-riddled seasons. Of course, it's also how you end up with Miles Austin and Kenny Britt in 2012 so there is no crystal ball. I just feel like the chance to land a special player with first round upside is worth the risk of a third round pick. You can recover from a bad third round pick with safer, solid wide receivers in the later rounds to protect yourself (Anquan Boldin, Lance Moore, etc). But if you pass on Harvin for a safer wide receiver choice in round three, you won't get the chance to add that impact player later on down the line. Some have voiced concerns that with Sidney Rice and Golden Tate in town (not to mention Seattle's reliance on the ground game), there won't be enough footballs in the air for Harvin to justify his average draft position. The theory being that even if things break right for him, he won't finish higher than WR10. I would counter that by suggesting with his rushing skills and penchant for the big play at any moment, he also has a higher floor than most players around him. Sure, the injury bug could creep up again. But assuming relative health, very few projections have Harvin NOT getting 1,100 - 1,200 yards from scrimmage and between 6 - 9 touchdowns. You combine huge upside with a relatively safe floor, and he is unquestionably worth his draft slot. Put it this way: if you are a fairly savvy fantasy player, wouldn't you sign for your third round draft choice performing as a top twelve option for the season (even if you drafted him as the ninth wideout off the board)? I would. There's too much variance from year to year to not settle for that kind of reliability. Wouldn't you also love it if that top twelve option had the chance to blow away the field and finish in the top three? Well, that's precisely what Harvin gives you.

PROJECTIONS

  • 24 carries
  • 144 rushing yards
  • 1 rushing TD
  • 95 receptions
  • 1,140 yards receiving
  • 8 receiving TDs

OTHER VIEWPOINTS

Tom Powers of TwinCities.com feels the Vikings made a mistake...

"I'd have made every effort to pay Harvin and then let the coaching staff work on "handling" him. After all, that's the coaches' job...the NFL is a bottom-line league. And the bottom line is that the Vikings are significantly worse without Percy Harvin."

Vinnie Iyer of the SportingNews isn't worried about Harvin's touches decreasing...

"In Minnesota, Harvin was often the only source for the Vikings to get big plays in the passing game. In Seattle, he doesn't need many touches per game to make a big impact."


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