Offseason Extra: The Harvin fallout
The biggest news in the real and Fantasy Football so far this offseason is the trade between the Seahawks and the Vikings that sent multi-talented receiver Percy Harvin to the Pacific Northwest. If my twitter timeline is any indication, people are hungry to get a jump on what this deal means for their 2013 Fantasy Football Drafts. With that in mind, I am going to take a deep dive into some of the key numbers for Percy Harvin and the passing attack of his new team to answer that very question.
Harvin has long been one of my favorite receivers in the NFL and I have consistently ranked him near the top of my wide receiver draft board in each of the last two seasons. Harvin has been a model of consistent efficiency, catching over 65 percent of his targets and averaging at least 8.0 yards and 1.0 Fantasy points per target in every one of his NFL seasons despite shaky quarterback play (save the Brett Favre season). In 2012, Harvin was at his efficient best, as he caught a career-best 72.7 percent of his targets (second among all wide receivers) and averaged 8.0 yards per target despite playing with Christian Ponder , who completed just 62.1 percent of his targets and averaged 6.1 yards per attempt. In other words, Harvin had a 1.9 yards per target differential (YPTD = his yards per target - his team's yards per pass attempt) and had a ridiculous 10.6 percent catch rate differential (CRD = player's catch rate - his team's completion percentage).
Harvin ranked 16th with his 1.9 YPTD and his 10.6 CRD was the best in the league among the 70 most targeted receivers. To put into perspective how monumental an accomplishment that was, consider this: of the 16 receivers who had a YPTD of 1.9 or more, only six had a positive CRD and no other receiver was even at 5.3 percent or better! Don't forget that in nine games, Harvin caught 62 passes for 677 yards and three touchdowns and taken over 16 games, he would have produced 110 catches, 1,203 yards and five scores. If you were to add that to his rushing totals, Harvin would have finished the year as the No. 10 Fantasy receiver in 2012, giving him back-to-back Top 12 finishes. In other words, Harvin made the most of a bad situation in Minnesota with Ponder as his quarterback and will now get to spread his wings as a member of the Seahawks.
The Good for Harvin
Russell Wilson : There I said it. We are going to start with an obscure point that I am sure has occurred to no one: Harvin will sub Russell Wilson in for Ponder as his quarterback. In his rookie year, Wilson completed 64 percent of his passes and averaged 8.0 yards per attempt.
The Hawks as a team ranked seventh in completion percentage and third in yards per attempt, whereas the 2012 Vikings ranked 12th and 31st, respectively. The craziest part of all is that if you were to take Harvin's YPTD and CRD and apply them to Wilson's stats, he would have averaged 9.9 yards per target and caught just about 75 percent of his passes.
In 2012 for example, both Sidney Rice and Golden Tate (who are good, but nowhere near as talented as Harvin) averaged 9.2 and 10.3 yards per target, respectively, finishing 16th and second among the 70 most targeted receivers. Tate was also tied for 10th in the NFL with a 2.3 YPTD (Rice was further down at 1.2) so they were not only efficient in baseline terms, but even when factoring in how good Wilson was.
Also, both Rice and Tate averaged at least 15 yards per catch, which should bode well for Harvin, who picked up just 10.9 yards per reception on 2012.
In conclusion, pairing arguably the most overall efficient receiver in the NFL with one of the most efficient passing attacks in NFL has to be a darn good thing.
Fantasy Points Per Target: So we highlighted just how good the Seattle passing game was in terms of the key efficiency metrics, but for Fantasy owners all that matters are the points Harvin will score. Well, no team in the NFL, not one, averaged more Fantasy points per target than the 2012 Seahawks (1.22 points per target).
It should also come as no surprise that the Hawks were the only team in the NFL to have all five of their top targets among wide receivers and tight ends to all average at least 1.0 Fantasy points per target. Golden Tate was fourth in the league at 1.65 Fantasy points per target and Sidney Rice was ninth at 1.44. Keep in mind that Harvin was on a Top 10 pace despite averaging exactly 1.0 point per target in Minnesota last year. Again, this is nothing but good for Harvin's Fantasy value, as he should clearly benefit in terms of points per target from the move to Seattle.
Darrell Bevell/Pete Carroll: Back in 2010, Bevell was the offensive coordinator for Harvin's Vikings, so he knows what Harvin can do. Also in that season, Harvin was used much more extensively down the field than he was last year, which was one of his big gripes. In 2010, Harvin averaged a solid (by his terms) 12.2 yards per catch and thanks to the good folks at ProFootballFocus, we know that 14 percent of his targets were 20 or more yards down the field.
In 2010, Harvin was also targeted behind the line of scrimmage on just 18 percent of his targets, so he had a good mix of long and short. By comparison, in 2012 Harvin was targeted behind the line of scrimmage on 40 percent of his targets and passes of 20 or more yards down the field accounted for just six percent of his overall looks. The down field increases under Bevell did cause a drop in Harvin's catch rate from 72.6 percent the last two years to 65.6 percent in 2010, but he was steady at 8.0 yards per target.
Bevell and Carroll are extremely smart offensive minds and they brought Harvin to Seattle at a steep price to make this offense even more dangerous. Look for Harvin to be utilized both down the field and at the line of scrimmage, so that he can truly employ his unparalleled speed and elusiveness combination.
Marshawn Lynch : There were only a handful of teams that Harvin could have gone to where he would have maintained the edge over a defense that can only come from playing with a dominant running back.
Lynch certainly fits that bill in Seattle and Harvin will not have to worry about facing a massive increase in defensive scrutiny. In fact, with a dominant running back and his status as the top option in the passing game, things will be very similar to how they were in Minnesota except with a better quarterback and more innovative, strategic play calling.
Everything seems to point to a massive season for Harvin following his trade to Seattle, but there is one thing that has me just a little bit hesitant.
The Bad for Harvin
Target Volume: Last year, Seattle was the only team in the NFL that did not have a single receiver average at least 5.2 targets per game. Harvin averaged more catches per game (6.9 on 9.4 targets) than any receiver on Seattle averaged targets per game. Last year, Seattle was also the only team in the NFL that did have not have a single pass catcher see at least 10 targets in any one game! Harvin was targeted 10 or more times in five of his nine games last year.
I should also point out that he did have three games of 10 or more targets with Bevell back in 2010, but that was still below his 2012 pace. In just nine games, Harvin had more targets (85 to 81) and more catches (62 to 50) than the leader on the Hawks produced over 16 games. Harvin also averaged 75.2 yards receiving in those nine games -- which is not crazy -- but it sure seems like a lot when you consider that Sidney Rice and Golden Tate averaged just 46 and 45 yards per game, respectively.
The Hawks had the fewest passing attempts (405 which equates to 25.3 per game) and completions (259) of any team in the NFL in 2012, so this is not a big time passing attack. The interesting thing is that on a per game basis, Harvin's 9.4 targets per game accounted for 31 percent of his team's overall throws. No one in Seattle accounted for even 20 percent of the team's throws last year, and even if Harvin were at 31 percent of the Seattle targets in 2013, he would still see a drop-off of nearly two targets per game if they do not bump up their passes per game.
I do expect the Hawks to throw the ball more in Wilson's second season, but they will also blow a lot of teams out again which could lead to some quiet second half passing games. Wilson threw the ball more than 25 times just twice in the second half of the season, but did so in both playoff games. Hopefully, Seattle will continue to build on this, but I just don't see this becoming a pass-happy offense that will allow Harvin to stay around the 10 targets per game level.
The target issue is a hard one for me to shake, because it ties into a feeling I have that he will not match his 11-plus total opportunities per game (targets plus carries) that he has enjoyed over the last two years in Minnesota. Don't forget that Calvin Johnson and Harvin were the only receivers who saw at least 11 opportunities per game over the last two seasons. Tate and Rice averaged 9.8 opportunities per game combined last season, so Harvin has an uphill battle here.
I do believe in the creativity of Carroll/Bevell, but I would be remiss if I did not point out that Harvin received just 18 carries in 14 games in 2010 with Bevell calling the plays. By contrast, Harvin has taken 73 carries in his last 25 games as a member of the Vikings in 2011 and 2012.
The only other issue I have with Harvin is health/durability, but there is no denying what he can do when he is on the field.
My early Harvin conclusion: Harvin will enjoy his most efficient receiving season yet in 2013, but a decrease in targets will keep his production just below where it has been the last two years. I think he could set personal bests in both yards per target and Fantasy points per target, but the decrease in his overall workload and catch rate could lead to a downturn in weekly reliability. That puts Harvin just outside of the Top 12 on my draft board (he was firmly in my Top 10 pre-trade) at wide receiver and while he has clear No. 1 receiver potential, I would feel a lot better about him as my second receiver.
1. Russell Wilson : Wilson is the big winner here for me, as he adds one of the most dynamic and reliable playmakers in the NFL to his arsenal. If he could post the numbers he did with Golden Tate and Sidney Rice as his top targets, imagine what he can do with Harvin. Wilson has moved to No. 9 in my quarterback rankings ahead of Tony Romo and Andrew Luck following this trade and I would be very happy with him as my starting option. After all, he has Top 5 potential if he runs like he did in the second half of 2012 and throws the ball a little more with Harvin in the mix this year. Do not forget to wait on a quarterback this year; you will reap the rewards.
2. Marshawn Lynch : Lynch now gets a legitimate threat for opposing defenses to worry about in the passing game for the first time in his Seattle career. He was already No. 3 on my running back rankings and he will stay there. Look for more beastly performances from Beast Mode in 2013.
3. Sidney Rice and Golden Tate : With Harvin in the mix, it is hard to imagine an increase in targets for either Rice or Tate this year. They were both Top 10 in efficiency last year, but were not targeted enough to be counted on week in and week out. Fewer targets means that both are spot starters at best who will likely be best utilized as Bye Week Broskis.
4. Zach Miller and Anthony McCoy : Both were very solid at times last year, but it seems unlikely that either will see enough targets to be counted on as weekly options. The combination of a dominant running back and Harvin in the slot will definitely occupy defenses in the red zone (just ask Kyle Rudolph ) and perhaps they will see a nice bump in touchdowns this year.
5. Christian Ponder : You are still NOT drafting him
6. Adrian Peterson : He thrives against eight- and nine-man fronts and seemed to perform pretty well (if 1,140 yards rushing and six touchdowns in seven games is good enough for you) down the stretch with Harvin out last year. AP remains the top running back on my board.
7. Jarius Wright : I am sure that the Vikings will be adding receivers either through free agency or the draft, but file Wright away as a sleeper. Wright led the Vikings by averaging 8.6 yards and 1.2 points per target last year. His YPTD of 2.5 was the seventh best figure among the 105 receivers who saw at least 36 targets last year. Wright is highly regarded in the Viking organization and is someone to keep an eye on in 2013 as a potential late-round steal.
8. Kyle Rudolph : The guy is a touchdown machine, scoring nine times in 2012. He led the NFL with nine red zone scores, but was held under 40 yards receiving in 11 of his 16 games. No pass catcher will have the relationship with Ponder that Rudolph will have entering 2013 and I expect his target volume to increase following Harvin's departure. He will have to improve on his yards per catch (9.3) and yards per target (5.3) numbers from a year ago, but if he does that and sees increased looks, Rudolph has full breakout potential.
9. Anquan Boldin : He was not in the Harvin trade, but as I was writing this, he was traded to the 49ers. Boldin will be an excellent role player for the 49ers, helping out young quarterback Colin Kaepernick on third downs and in the red zone (where Kap had the worst touchdown pass rate of any quarterback in 2012).
Boldin will not be an every week starter for Fantasy purposes but will help Kap, Michael Crabtree , Frank Gore and Vernon Davis all meet their lofty expectations. I will admit that I have scaled back Crabtree just a bit because I think Boldin will cut into his targets ever so slightly. He will be able to win one on one matchups (I know he will still be covered due to a lack of separation, but as Pete Prisco knows, he will still win) and he is one of the best blocking receivers in the NFL, which should further help an already dominant rushing/read-option attack.