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Spotlight: Percy Harvin

posted by Will Grant on Jul 29th

Will Grant's thoughts

The Minnesota Vikings are a team with very few things to be excited about going into the 2012 season. Star running back Adrian Peterson is rehabbing a major knee injury and he may not be 100% by the time the season starts. Sophomore quarterback Christian Ponder went through some serious growing pains at the end of last season, and he still has a long way to go before he has fully adjusted to the game at the NFL level. The Vikings added wide receiver Jerome Simpson during the off season , but he will be suspended for the first three games of the season for substance abuse. The one bright spot on the offense for the Vikings will be top flight wide receiver Percy Harvin.

Path to a Break Out
Harvin had a solid rookie season for the Vikings, posting 60 receptions for 790 yards and six TDS. He also had 15 carries for 135 yards, and finished as the #25 fantasy WR in 2009. In his sophomore year, Harvin posted even better numbers despite missing two games due to injury. That season, Harvin finished as the #20 fantasy WR, posting 107 rushing yards and a TD as well as 71 receptions for 868 yards and another five TDS. Last season, Harvin posted career best numbers: 51 carries for 342 yards and two rushing TDS, along with 87 receptions for 967 receiving yards and six TDS.

Harvin has also posted solid return numbers throughout his career, starting with over 1150 return yards and 2 TDS as a rookie. He saw a few less returns in 2010 and last year he had just 16 kick returns, but still managed to post 520 return yards and a TD. While his offensive stats continued to rise, his return yards dropped. However, his yards per return actually increased and despite the increase in touchbacks last season, Harvin still posted some impressive return numbers.

Harvin's Role in the Offense
By now, everyone is pretty acquainted with Harvin's style of play. He is aggressive with the ball in his hands, and he's a threat to go all the way every time he touches it. The Vikings continue to find interesting ways to get him the ball, including quick dumps after the snap, screens and quick slants designed to get him the ball in space. Harvin will also motion into the backfield as the ball is snapped a couple times a game. Sometimes he will be decoy and at other times, he'll take the ball around the other end. In some cases, Harvin will even motion into an eye or single-back formation and then take the ball directly up the gut. This plays well for Christian Ponder as it gets the ball out quickly and builds his confidence with simple receptions.

The Vikings have little depth at wide receiver. Jermone Simpson probably steps in as the #2 receiver, but as mentioned, he will miss time due to a suspension. Michael Jenkins #2 last season, but he has been an underachiever for most of his career. Kyle Rudolph replaces Visanthe Shiancoe as the starting tight end, and while Rudolph has made some solid plays, he won't be posting Jimmy Graham like numbers either. Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart do contribute out of the backfield at times, but the go-to guy for clutch receptions is clearly Harvin.

What to Expect for 2012
Over the summer, rocked a few boats in Minnesota when he suddenly mentioned that he wanted to be traded. While it made for some interesting twitter buzz, Harvin was never in any danger of leaving Minnesota. He's under contract through the 2013 season, and the Vikings know he needs to be a part of their long term plans if they hope to climb out of the basement of the NFC North. As training camps began, Harvin is present and ready to go.

Adrian Peterson is on the Active Physically Unable to Play list as camp starts, and even if he comes off by week 1, he is clearly not ready to go full speed. The Vikings will lean on Harvin early and often this season, making him a prime candidate for a top 10 fantasy WR finish, especially in PPR leagues. Look for similar stats to last season, with even a potential to push the elite NFL receivers.

One side note - Harvin sometimes gets knocked for his very public battle with migraine headaches. Some fantasy owners are skeptical, thinking they could flair up and he could miss extended time. In reality, Harvin has only missed three games in his first three seasons. While Harvin does suffer from migraine headaches, it's not something to be concerned about.


  • Harvin's offensive stats have improved in each of his first three seasons, culminating in a top 10 finish last season
  • His aggressive style of play and threat to score from anywhere makes him a guy that will touch the ball multiple times per game
  • He's light-years ahead of the rest of the receiving corps, with no chance of losing his job. If he's healthy, he'll be on the field


  • He's in Minnesota, and there is little chance that the Vikings will throw for 4000 yards this season. While he's the best on the team, his ceiling is lower than someone like Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald
  • With little or no help on the opposite side of the field, defenses will double-team Harvin as much as possible
  • The miles are starting to add up, and as Harvin enters his 4th season, being the primary focus of the offense and special teams also dramatically increases his chance of injury

Final thoughts

Harvin may be the safest pick from the Vikings in the early rounds this season, especially in PPR leagues. With Adrian Peterson off to a slow start, the Vikings will need Harvin to have 15 or more touches a game. For fantasy owners looking for a stud receiver, Harvin is a guy you can draft early and expect him to produce every week. He was a top 10 fantasy wide receiver last season, and you can expect him to finish in that area again this year as well. If he gets lucky and breaks a few long TDS, he could even threaten the top five.

Quotations from the message board thread

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

jacobo moses said:

I think if Rudolph keeps developing into a threat and a No 2 WR steps up to take some DEF pressure off of Harvin. Assuming he stays mostly heatlhy. I think his receptions go down. But his yards and TD's go up just slightly.

Just Win Baby said:

I expect Peterson to be back, and I assume he will play all 16 games. But the numbers above in the games Peterson missed show that Harvin has pretty significant upside should Peterson miss any time.

Regardless, I definitely think AP's touches will be reduced from their traditional levels, and, based on Harvin's second half performance last year, Harvin should get some of those touches. Given how effective Harvin was in the second half last year, I expect him to get playing time and targets/touches more in line with the second half of 2011 than the first half.

FF Ninja said:

There is a solid case to be made for this guy to sneak into the top 10, but I can see why fantasy owners would be hesitant to draft him there. He doesn't seem like a guy who can be a standalone WR1 on his team without any other real receiving threats around him and Ponder doesn't seem like the type of QB who can make a guy a star. Plus, I don't feel that confident that they'll use him as much in the running game this year. Gerhart looked good last year and it appears that Peterson is going to be available at least in limited duty for the beginning of the season, so no need to bang up their best WR. So I'm only going to predict 30 rushes for him next year. Additionally, I think anyone predicting more than 1 rushing TD for Harvin is being very optimistic. He did have a 5 yd TD in week 17, but I doubt he gets any rushes inside the 10 next year.

The good news is that he saw an increase in targets in the second half (77). Even projecting him to come off this pace a bit, he still has a great chance to put up big numbers. The guy has a career catch rate of 68.3%, so he doesn't need a ton of targets to catch a lot of balls. At that rate he'd just need 132 targets to have 90 receptions. This is probably because he's catching a lot of short passes, resulting in just 12.0 ypr for his 3-year career.

Percy Harvin projections

Will Grant89108583051
Message board consensus87107882792