Mar 11, 2013
This past Friday night, I hosted a special off-season addition of SiriusXM Fantasy Football, and my FB question of the night asked if the Vikings should try to stick with Percy Harvin or go another route with a marquee free agent receiver like Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings. Of course, most people said “both,” but that was not an option given to readers/listeners because I didn’t see Minnesota retaining Harvin and signing a top free agent at his position as being possible.
And apparently, it wasn’t an option for the Vikings, who will (as soon as tomorrow) officially trade Harvin to Seattle for the 25th overall pick in this year’s draft plus a 7th-round selection this year and a mid-round pick in 2014.
We all know Harvin is a unique and versatile athlete who can produce for a team in three ways: as a receiver, a runner, and a return man. The running is the least important element to his game, but the former high school tailback is certainly capable of helping an offense by rushing the ball. He’s a stud; we all know this. But he’s also been a pain in the ass for the Vikings who, keep in mind, took a bit of a chance on him with the 22nd overall pick of the 2009 draft. Harvin played well for Minnesota, but ultimately he did little to pay back the franchise for believing in him when some NFL teams were scared away due to his maturity issues. It’s rare we see a team give up on a young and elite talent like Harvin, but I don’t think the Vikings had a choice.
Asking how Harvin can help the Seahawk offense is like asking what kind of scoring system one can implement in his or her fantasy football league; the main limitation is ones imagination. Obviously, he’s a dynamic (and vertical) threat inside, so he’s primarily a slot receiver. But he can also certainly line up and make plays (and vertical plays) outside. There is definitely some familiarity here, since Harvin played under Seahawk OC Darrell Bevell for two seasons from 2009-2010.
Although he had missed only three games in three years going into 2012 (he missed 7 games this past year), Harvin’s availability had been in doubt from time-to-time over the years with the Vikings. Fortunately for Harvin, the situation with his migraines seems to have improved considerably. You would think that once he signs his new contract with the Seahawks, Harvin will be able to focus only on football, and if so Seattle’s offense just got a whole lot better. Even if Harvin still has some issues on and off the field, it’s impossible to be critical of Seattle for acquiring such a difference maker. Harvin’s versatility will work extremely well with QB Russell Wilson’s game, which includes the read-option. Harvin will make defending this offense – Wilson and the running game with Marshawn Lynch – a lot harder, so the move is at least good news for Wilson’s fantasy value. If there was still doubt as to whether or not Wilson was a viable fantasy starter in a 12-team league, that doubt should be gone now. Clearly, despite his lack of ideal height, Wilson will be able to get Harvin the ball all over the field due to his movement and ability to see the whole field. I’d have to also believe the presence of Harvin will help Lynch as well. The only real issue I have with this move is that I’m not sure there’s an active enough role now for all their other weapons. Harvin has played with veteran Sidney Rice, and with Rice being a tall receiver who can stretch the field from the outside, it’s a good pairing. But I don’t see much left over for guys like Doug Baldwin (who could be traded) and Golden Tate, and we might have to forget about the playoff emergence of TE Zach Miller, who finally came on late in 2012 and was the team’s leading receiver in both playoff games this past season. Miller is a volume type of player at the TE position, but it’s hard to envision a huge role for him every week with Harvin around. Still, it’s not like anyone’s fantasy fortunes are going to be tied to Baldwin, Tate, or Miller.
Harvin will also help Seattle’s fantasy defense, since he’s a deadly return man and should be a good bet to take 1-2 kicks back for scores every year.
As for Harvin’s fantasy value, I think it’s fair to keep expectations at least a little tempered. He is moving on to a new team, but most importantly he’s on a team that attempted the fewest passes in the league in 2012. Yes, they were breaking in a new rookie QB, but they were only 22nd in pass attempts the year before. This has been Marshawn Lynch’s offense, and he will continue to handle a large workload. Harvin had a similar situation with the Vikings and Adrian Peterson, but Minnesota had literally nothing other than Harvin. In Seattle, they do have some other solid players on offense. This is also a team that has a darn good defense, and I don’t see them pushing the envelope too much by throwing the ball all over the field if they are holding a lead in the second half of their games. Again, I can’t really be too critical of such a dangerous player, but between his new environment, his previous issues on and off the field, and the run-heavy approach we’ve seen in Seattle the last two years, I’d prefer to consider Harvin as a #2 fantasy wideout in 2013. Calling Harvin a top-10 or top-12 fantasy WR, even in a PPR, seems to be pushing it, at least for this year.
Obviously, this move makes the Vikings major players in the wide receiver market both in free agency and in the draft. I can see them using significant resources for a wideout for both. For example, I can see them signing either Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings and also using one of their two #1 picks on a wideout. They do have 2012 rookie Jarius Wright, whose emergence I’m sure helped the team make the decision to move Harvin, at least a tiny bit. Wright is no Harvin, but he’s a natural slot receiver whose value is about to rise because he should replace Harvin in several ways, mainly as their top inside receiver (but we’ll see who else they bring in). Losing Harvin is a shame for QB Christian Ponder, who clicked well with Harvin this year, but this move had to be done, and the Vikings deserve credit for getting so much for a player who was likely gone after 2013, anyway (and Harvin in Minnesota in 2013 could have been ugly). Ponder wasn’t going to be a hot fantasy pick with Harvin, so it’s not really worth delving into the ramifications for Ponder, or for that matter, Peterson.