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Spotlight: Percy Harvin

posted by Jason Wood on Aug 14th

Jason Wood's thoughts

Percy Harvin has been a headache for fantasy owners, pun intended. In two seasons as a Minnesota Viking, Harvin has flashed glimpses of what made him a 1st round pick out of the University of Florida. Unfortunately persistent migraine headaches have robbed Harvin of snaps, and made him next to impossible to put into a fantasy lineup because we could never be sure if he would be headache-free at the opening kickoff.

In spite of those frustrations, we need to recognize that Harvin is a talented offensive weapon. In his first two seasons, Harvin has ranked 25th and 20th, making him a fine fantasy WR3 and marginal WR2 depending on your league size.

Year Gms Starts Recs Yds YPR TDs Rush RuYds RuTDs FPTs WRRank
2009 15 8 60 790 13.2 6 15 135 0 129 WR25
2010 14 13 71 868 12.2 5 18 107 1 134 WR20

What sets Harvin apart from his peer is his ability as a runner. Harvin was a hybrid player in college, sometimes playing receiver, other times playing running back. The Vikings have lined him up mainly as a receiver, but they've utilized his open field vision and lateral quickness to their advantage.

  • Harvin ranked 2nd among all WRs with 452 yards-after-the-catch last year - which was 5th best on a per catch basis.
  • Harvin ranked 5th among all WRs with 11 missed tackles
  • Harvin has rushed for 100+ yards each season

The Donovan McNabb Era Begins
A lot of people thought Donovan McNabb would end up in Minnesota last year. Brett Favre's situation was nebulous, Brad Childress was McNabb's long-time OC in Philadelphia, and the Eagles were ready to move on. But as we know, McNabb instead went to Washington - where things ended disastrously - and the Vikings coaxed an uninspired and distracted Brett Favre out of retirement. Now McNabb comes to Minnesota with Leslie Frazier calling the shots, and a new play-caller in Bill Musgrave.

If you look at McNabb's numbers as a Redskin, it doesn't invite much optimism for the Vikings passing attack. But realize that the situation last year was clearly a mismatch, from the system to McNabb's relationship with the Shanahans. I'm not suggesting McNabb can recapture the magic that made him a 5-time Pro Bowler in Philadelphia, but he's better than his 2010 numbers suggest.

Either way, McNabb is going to be great for Percy Harvin. McNabb is great at finding receivers in motion, on short and intermediate routes - which plays into Harvin's strengths. We also know that McNabb is going to throw the ball 525-575 times, and Harvin is easily positioned to be the top target.

  • Sidney Rice left for Seattle in free agency
  • Bernard Berrian is well past his prime
  • Michael Jenkins is, at best, a WR3 in WR2 clothing

But don't take my word for it, McNabb has been explicit in his endorsement of his new #1 pass catcher:

I have played with guys that play big, but are short in stature and have been so successful," McNabb said. "You talk about guys like DeSean Jackson and Santana Moss. There is no reason why Percy can't be a perennial Pro Bowler, as a starter at the receiver position with over 1,000 yards receiving, 90-100 catches.

But What About Those Headaches?
Honestly, the headaches remain a concern. If you think he's not past them, you're simply going to bypass Harvin and let someone else roll the dice. For the rest of you, all I can say is that Harvin has been headache free in 2011, and claims that a mixture of a more stringent diet and sleep apnea treatment are working wonders. It should be noted that Harvin hasn't been tested in NFL game conditions yet, but for now this is the best we've got. I'm willing to roll the dice, because I think he can be a #1 fantasy receiver - particularly in PPR formats - for a WR3 price.


  • Harvin is unstoppable in the open field, and Bill Musgrave's offense is going to create mismatches for Harvin using lots of motion and lining him up in different spots in the formation
  • His migraine headaches appear to be a thing of the past
  • Donovan McNabb will give Harvin stability and assure a consistent stream of targets


  • The headache cure hasn't been tested during an NFL season -- any setback could severely crimp his playing time and fantasy upside
  • The lack of a viable WR2 could allow Harvin to be matched up against opposing team's top corners week in, week out
  • Donovan McNabb is coming off a tough year, and if he struggles, the Vikings may feel compelled to turn the reins over to rookie Christian Ponder -- and that likely means Harvin will struggle to get the consistent looks we're counting on

Final thoughts

Harvin has been a Top 25 receiver in each of his first two seasons, but life hasn't been all roses and puppies. His persistent migraine headaches have made him tough to count on, seemingly always lingering on the injury list. The Brett Favre/Brad Childress fiasco last year led to a seachange, with Leslie Frazier gaining the head coaching gig, new OC Bill Musgrave coming aboard, and the addition of Donovan McNabb. The departure of Sidney Rice guarantees two things: 1) Harvin will be targeted a ton each and every week, and 2) opposing defensive coordinators will scheme against Harvin. Is he talented enough to handle that kind of attention? We're about to find out. But at his ADP, I love the risk/reward. If he's "just" a top 20 guy again -- you're fine. But if he puts it all together as I suspect he might, you've got a WR1 for half the price.

Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Iwannabeacowboybaby! said:

When I think of Percy Harvin, I think of headache. We've heard so much about his headache issues that sometimes his solid play as a wide receiver gets lost in the discussion. I was mildly surprised at the growth I saw out of Harvin at WR last season. He's become someone a QB can rely upon in tough situations and should continue to be that kind of a player. However, what can't go unsaid is that the QB situation in Minnesota currently is TBD. It's hard to be overly optimistic about anyone in the Minnesota passing game but it's hard to envision Harvin not finishing in the top 30 at WR regardless of who's QB, making him a solid WR2/3 or flex option.

rzrback77 said:

Percy Harvin is an excellent athlete that is still learning ways to exploit his athleticism in the NFL. At this point in this unusual off-season though, he is a tough guy to project. To me, the pairing of Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin is an awesome duo. Each of them have good speed, good strength and athletic ability. Adding to the mix this year willbe the exciting prospects of teh rookie TE Kyle Rudolph. However, there is also the QB situation for the Vikings and the fact that Rice could be a free agent.

Just a challenging situation to analyze. I am not a huge fan of Christian Ponder and really do not expect him to be much improvement from last season. However, the Vikings top notch talent at WR, TE, and RB lend itself to solid production if they get better service from Ponder or land a free agent QB, if an when that ever happens this off season.

I will project that Rice stays and the Vikings add a solid QB, both of which are not guarantees by any means. Like always I will poroject Harvin for 16 games, but urge caution here as he has missed three games in his two previous seasons, I believe all due to the migraine issue.

MrTwo94 said:

Assuming a competent, non-Ponder QB starting for 16 games next season, Harvin could have a great year if everything falls his way. But there are too many unknowns to give any sort of useable projection. We don't know how the new coaches will want to utilize him, if he'll pick up the new system in time without OTAs, and if the new QB can take advantage of his skill set. That being said, he's a high upside guy this year with a receptions window of 70-90, likely falling in the middle if he stays healthy. He had 71 rec last year in 14 games during a very disappointing season for the Vikings.

Percy Harvin projections

Jason Wood85105071001
Message board consensus75955700