Last season a mystery receiver played on a team with three different starting quarterbacks and yet amassed 1,312 yards from scrimmage and 8 touchdowns. That included averaged 6.6 yards per rushing play, with 25% of his attempts resulting in plays 10 yards or longer. Future hall of famer Andre Johnson’s has only twice had a season better than our mystery man. His final 2011-12 fantasy point total ranked higher than Mike Wallace, Roddy White, Hakeem Nicks, and A.J. Green. If you hadn’t read the title of this post, would you have guessed it was Percy Harvin?
The Brian Westbrook Receiver
Percy Harvin’s versatility and pure playmaking talent is reminiscent of Brian Westbrook. Especially considering one could reasonably argue Westbrook is more receiver than running back in Andy Reid’s pass-first offense. In Westbrook’s best season (2007-08 season), he put up an impressive 1,333 yards and 7 touchdowns rushing… plus 771 yards with 5 touchdowns receiving. Harvin has running back DNA and has played in the backfield in addition to lining up as a receiver.
Last season with no offseason workouts, Harvin had to learn new facets of Bill Musgrave’s offense on the fly even as he was integrated all over the field. For instance, Harvin toted the rock 52 times for 2 rushing scores. To put that workload in context, Darren Sproles, the best third down back in the NFL, had 87 carries and 2 rushing touchdowns; and LaRod Stephens-Howling, another explosive third down specialty back, had 43 carries. With a full offseason Bill Musgrave should employ more schemes to get Harvin good matchups out in space to utilize his 4.3 / 4.4 speed.
One other thing to note for Harvin’s running back prospects. In the fourth round the Vikings selected a receiver with traits similar to Harvin, Jarius Wright. He can play in the slot or out wide, has good speed, and can make plays. That means on a third and long Wright can line up in the slot allowing Harvin to line up in the backfield, adding more speed to that personnel grouping to cause more mismatches.
Ability to Connect with Every Viking QB
Well almost every Viking QB. In six Donovan McNabb starts, Harvin had 25 catches and 261 yards receiving; an average of 4 catches, 44 yards and 0 touchdowns. McNabb’s (owner of a 39-yard TOTAL passing game in the 2011-12 season) one hoppers were the only thing that slowed Harvin down last season. In the other 10 games with Christian Ponder or Joe Webb starting, Harvin really turned it on as a receiver, catching 62 passes for 706 yards, including two 100-yard receiving games, and 6 scores.
The ‘Go to Guy’ with AP on the Mend
Not many guys come back from a torn ACL and dominate the following season, much less the first quarter of the season. Adrian Peterson’s week 16 torn ACL could (and should) influence how the Vikings use him in a rebuilding season. Considering the dearth of playmakers on the roster, Harvin is the obvious choice to be the number one guy who the Vikings get the ball to. The talent, opportunity, and the fact that Harvin is entering his fourth season in the league will be big pluses in the upcoming season.
Harvin is NOT a number one fantasy receiver, even based on his 7th overall in receiver fantasy points last season. He’s too streaky and still has issues with injuries that can go either way on game time activations (another Brian Westbrook similarity). However his ‘good games’ are great. He can put up 20 point plus games when he’s on. If you can snag him in the 4th round or lower in fantasy drafts, you are getting great value and explosive upside from the WR2 spot.