The Vikings just hit a major speed bump in their offseason. Jon Krawczynski, an AP sports writer based in Minneapolis, just broke the story that Percy Harvin has stepped up his level of unhappiness with the organization and requested a trade.
Harvin is one of the league’s most dynamic and exciting young playmakers, has two years left on his contract, and is a player the Vikings simply can’t afford to let walk out the door.
Minnesota has been put in a tough situation, but they need to find out what’s upsetting Harvin and fix it, now.
Harvin was a character concern when he was a draft prospect coming out of Florida. He had previous marijuana red flags and was a big enough worry that then-head coach Brad Childress flew down to spend some time with him before the draft and assure himself that all would be well. Harvin has also been suffering with migraine issues, which have held him out of practices and even a regular season game, but given what he brings to the team that is a minor concern overall.
Harvin has had some durability issues, aside from the migranes, but has displayed immense toughness to play through them at times. For a player that is only 5’11″ and 184lbs, Harvin has been able to line up at running back and run even between the tackles with impressive results for the Vikings. He operates primarily in the slot where contact is far more prevalent than it is out on the perimeter and is generally one of the toughest receivers you will find playing.
A far bigger problem has been the Vikings refusal to get the most out of their dynamic superstar. Last season Harvin played just 58.8% of the Vikings offensive snaps, and never played in a game where he saw more than 80%. In his career to date, Harvin has never played in a game in which he didn’t come off the field, and the closest he came to an ever-present game was Week 7 of 2009 where he missed just a hand full of snaps against the Packers. In that game he accounted for 65 yards receiving, another 41 and a touchdown rushing the ball, and returned three kicks for an average of 27 yards per attempt.
Harvin is one of those players that needs the ball in his hands however you can get it to him. There is a reason that Leslie Frazier spent the Senior Bowl week being told by opposing coaches how much they feared Harvin. He is a player that teams can’t defend if he has the ball; he’s too quick, too direct and too liable to break one at any given time.
Last season Harvin led the NFL with a catch rate of 79.1% when working in the slot. That was well clear of the pack and more than 5% better than Marques Colston, who is as sure handed as they come across the middle. There were only four receivers who gained more yards per route run than Harvin did last season, bettering the marks set by the likes of Calvin Johnson, Steve Smith, Larry Fitzgerald and A.J. Green. Christian Ponder finished the season with a passer rating of 70.1, and Donovan McNabb was just at 82.9, but on throws targeting Harvin, the pair combined for a QB rating of 97.2.
Harvin finished the season as our 6th ranked WR with a grade of +14.3, and he had fewer snaps than any of the players ranked ahead of him.
The Vikings need Percy Harvin. You don’t find players that dangerous very often, and when you do, you keep hold of them. The last time the Vikings let a player this dynamic walk it was Randy Moss at the end of 2004, and they’re still trying to replace him.