Faceoff: Percy Harvin
Jason Wood: Let's be clear about something, my optimism for Percy Harvin is born out of the expectation Brett Favre will return for the 2010 season. If Favre surprises everyone and hangs up his cleats, all bets are off. So long as Favre suits up in Minnesota, Harvin is one of a handful of young receivers positioned to jump into the top tier. In just eight starts, as a rookie, Harvin caught 60 passes for 790 yards and 6 TDs. He also lived up to his billing as a multi-faceted weapon by rushing 15 times for 135 yards and paced the team with 1,156 kickoff return yards. All that was good enough to win him offensive rookie of the year. This year, there's little reason to think Harvin won't continue to improve as the learning curve for a West Coast offense receiver is a steep one. The fact he delivered Top 25 fantasy numbers as a rookie bodes well for his present and future.
The most ridiculous thing I've heard about Harvin is a fear that he won't get enough targets to take a big step forward this year. But that gives Bernard Berrian WAY too much credit, and also assumes that Sidney Rice is capable of doing what he did last year. Yet, Berrian is no bet to stay healthy, nor is it logical to think Minnesota is going to keep its 2nd year emerging star off the field in favor of a guy that was overpaid when Minnesota signed him in his supposed prime. And Rice, who I do think is quite talented, is dealing with a little hip injury that, according to his own agent, should HOPEFULLY not keep him out into the start of the regular season. If you had to line up the cadre of Visanthe Shiancoe, Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin and rank them by the most logical to see an increase in their touches, Harvin is atop that list every single time.
This season, HC Brad Childress plans on using Harvin more out of the backfield in addition to his regular receiving duties. Harvin could easily have 250-300 yards rushing if Childress follows through on his promise, and with the Vikings being among the all-time greats in red zone offensive opportunities, Harvin is going to get a lot of chances to score if he's used as a runner on top of being a pass catcher. No matter what you think about the other Vikings weapons, so long as Brett Favre is back in 2010, Harvin will be the Viking most likely to show considerable growth. And "considerable growth" would mean Top 15 productivity.
Andy Hicks: Few players sum up the high risk, high reward situation that Percy Harvin does this season. Few can doubt the electrifying playmaker we saw on the field last year, but is this is not your usual 2nd year wide receiver and progression isn't assured, nor can consistency be counted on. The Vikings have many playmakers and with the return of Brett Favre still not certain it is hard to figure out how they are all going to contribute in the Minnesota offense. Also one of the biggest concerns relating to Harvin is his continual battle with migraine issues.
With the Vikings loaded on offense, just how many more touches can we expect from Harvin? Adrian Peterson will still be an elite RB, Sidney Rice the No. 1 WR, Bernard Berrian the No. 2, and Visanthe Shiancoe will continue to be a reliable target over the middle. This leaves the question of how Harvin can exceed last year's performance, especially if Favre does not return. Maybe he eats into the departed Chester Taylors targets, but rookie Toby Gerhart has to figure in here as well as Peterson and Shiancoe. That's also assuming that the Vikings continue to pass at the rate they did last year. I just can't see a big enough increase in targets to justify his current draft slot.
There is no doubt that Harvin will be an integral part of the Minnesota offense no matter who is throwing the ball this season, but for a guy that will be involved running the ball as well as catching it I find it difficult to project how we can progress his career. This was discussed before his rookie season, but after comparing rookie stats is Harvin similar to Peter Warrick? Warrick recorded 16 rushes in his first season as well as 51 catches and 6 TD's? Harvin 15 rushes, 60 catches and 6 TD's. The similarities don't end there. Both were 1st round picks, 5-11 and around the same weight. Heading into his 2nd season most assumed that Warrick would make the progression to an elite fantasy prospect. He didn't and although he had a couple of decent seasons, he never lived up to the promise of his rookie season. Harvin is faster and seems a better proposition, but he has his career ahead of him, unlike Warrick's whose career we can now dissect.
The issue that probably concerns drafters the most however are his battles with migraines. Harvin missed practice frequently and was a weekly addition to the injury reports. He even missed a game with his migraines and struggled through other games, particularly towards the end of the year. It looks like this situation hasn't improved and until a remedy is found he is a risky start week to week. Sure if things come off he may have a good game, but the 1 or 2 catch games will be a distinct reality as well. With a 5th round draft pick the price to pay this season, I'd rather let someone else cross their fingers every week.