Harvin trade boosts Wilson's value
The NFL's silly season kicked off with a bang Monday, as the Seattle Seahawks have agreed to a trade with the Minnesota Vikings that would bring Percy Harvin to Seattle in exchange for the Seahawks' first- and seventh-round picks in April's draft and a mid-round pick in '14. This is a potentially landscape-altering deal, both in the NFC West and in fantasy football. Let's dig into it.
First off, I'm a sitting board member of the Percy Harvin Fantasy Fan Club; he was already my No. 7 wide receiver before this trade. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Harvin had zero drops on his 82 targets last season and his 62 receptions were the most of any WR who didn't drop a pass. While the Vikings haven't typically thrown it much to Harvin in the end zone -- in his nine games last season, he had four end-zone targets and one reception -- they used him often as a receiver inside an opponent's 20 (13 targets and eight catches). Plus, he had four rushing attempts in goal-to-go situations. And lest you believe that Harvin is only a slot receiver, according to Pro Football Focus, 156 of his 261 routes came from the slot; that 59.8 percent slot rate is significantly lower than players like Randall Cobb (84.4 percent), Wes Welker (82.2 percent) and Victor Cruz (69.7 percent). Harvin is as versatile as he is dangerous.
Of course, at less than 6 feet tall he isn't a great end-zone target, and the Seahawks do have Sidney Rice and Golden Tate around, as well as touchdown-making Marshawn Lynch in their backfield, so I'm not sure how much higher this move can push Harvin on my WR rolls. I can't put him above Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas or Brandon Marshall, even with Russell Wilson throwing it to him instead of Christian Ponder. So Harvin stays at No. 7 on my WR list. He should get a new contract with Seattle, and the injured ankle that cut his '12 season short is reportedly fine. Meanwhile, Rice and Tate figure to be drafted in most fantasy leagues, but could cancel one another out a bit. At the moment, each is just outside my top 40 WRs.
The man this helps most is Wilson. Already a playmaking Fran Tarkenton type, Wilson gets one of the NFL's most unpredictable and dynamic receiving weapons, a smart receiver who plays great in the kind of broken-field, extended-play scenarios Wilson produces regularly with his legs. My hesitation in getting overly excited about Wilson for his sophomore campaign was caused by Seattle's play calling during his rookie year: Despite starting all 16 games in '12, Wilson only tied Robert Griffin III for 25th in pass attempts. Even from Week 9 forward, when Wilson exploded onto the national scene, he mustered more than 27 attempts in a game just once. It's definitely possible that the Seahawks will continue their conservative ways even with Harvin around, but I tend to think not. I think we're going to see Wilson unleashed. Lynch will still threaten double-digit TDs, but Wilson is a threat to run (his 489 rush yards were third-best among QBs in '12) and almost has to improve on his 3,118 passing yards from 2012 (among QBs who played 16 games, only Ponder had fewer yards). Before this trade, Wilson was No. 10 on my quarterback list. For the moment, I think this pushes him into the No. 7 spot, ahead of Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and Tony Romo. Man, the QB position sure seems deep, doesn't it?
Talking about what's left behind with the Vikings is probably premature. Certainly this doesn't do Adrian Peterson any favors, but AP was dominant during November and December with Harvin injured, so this doesn't change my contention that Peterson should be the first player off all draft boards this summer. Ponder was already undraftable when we believed Harvin would be catching his passes, so he remains that way now. And who's in this receiving corps? Not Harvin, not Michael Jenkins (who was released last week) and not Devin Aromashodu, who's a free agent. Jarius Wright is an undersized (5-foot-9, 182-pound) player with great quickness, but as of now he's nobody's idea of a No. 1 receiver. Greg Childs has a No. 1 wideout's body, but he's coming off patellar tendon tears and figures to be a long shot to contribute soon. Stephen Burton enters his third year as fully unrealized potential. Unless a major WR acquisition is coming, only TE Kyle Rudolph figures to be on the fantasy radar in this receiving corps.
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