Harvin in the Big Apple

Ben Stockwell looks at the impact for both sides in the Percy Harvin trade.

| 3 years ago

Harvin in the Big Apple

harvin-to-jetsThis week’s Friday news drop saw a fairly monumental trade go down as the New York Jets sent a conditional pick out to the West Coast to bring Percy Harvin to the Big Apple mere hours after the Jets slid to their sixth defeat of the season. The Jets invested in the wide receiver position in the offseason with Eric Decker, but took the opportunity to add another superstar to the mix, even if he will surely have little effect on what already looks like a lost season.

Harvin’s stay in Seattle was short off the field and even shorter on it, playing just 258 snaps in eight games across two seasons. For the amount invested in Harvin by the Seahawks, both in terms of picks and money, to give up on the deal may speak volumes of issues off the field, but what about the impact for Harvin and both teams on the field?

You won’t find a breakdown of any rumored off-field skirmishes here, but Harvin’s track record is one of an explosive, if fragile, receiver, so let’s take a look at what we can expect to see between the lines.

The Harvin Threat

The biggest criticism often leveled at Harvin is that he is fragile, doesn’t play enough and as a result doesn’t produce enough to be worth the contract he now plays for, and there is certainly some merit in that. Harvin has never played more than 650 snaps in a season and that career-high came way back in his second season with the Vikings (2010) and in large part due to that, Harvin has never topped the fabled 1,000-yard mark as a receiver. He came up just shy in 2011 and added 345 rushing yards, so when he stays on the field, his production cannot be questioned.

The player the Jets will want to be getting, and the player the Seahawks thought they were getting, is the 2012 Harvin who had 677 receiving yards in nine games before he was lost for the season. That year he forced 22 missed tackles on his 62 receptions averaging 8.7 yards after the catch per reception, adding a further five missed tackles in the running game. As a result, Harvin finished the season in the Top 10 of our receiver grades with a +14.9 overall grade despite logging just 427 snaps.

That 2012 season saw the sort of “manufactured touches” that you would expect Harvin to be on the receiving end of with the Jets. Of his 81 targets, 58 of them came within 9 yards of the line of scrimmage and 27 of those were wide receiver screens. On those short targets Harvin averaged 9.6 yards after the catch against a league average that season of 5.6 yards after the catch per reception.

How Harvin Fits in New York

Clearly then Harvin is devastating on short targets, but how does that fit in with the Jets’ offense, and in particular, their quarterback? Geno Smith’s struggles as a passer since he entered the league have been well documented and bearing in mind Harvin’s route profile, it will be his short passing that will be key if the Jets are to get the most out of their new receiver.

harvin-to-jets-2A year ago Smith was league’s least accurate short passer, so on first viewing this may not be a match made in heaven. There has been progress made this season and the Jets appear to be putting a greater emphasis on short passes this season, however, he remains among the league’s worst.

Last year he completed only 64.8% of his short passes and nearly one in five of his short passes ended up incomplete through his own inaccuracy. That put him in the company of the likes of Josh Freeman, Brandon Weeden and Terrelle Pryor… not the sort of company you want to be keeping.

This year there has been progress with a greater emphasis on the short passing game, but through seven games more than 10% of Smith’s short targets are still ending up incomplete due to inaccurate passes. His completion percentage on short passes is up to 77.8% this season, but only Austin Davis and Tony Romo account for more of their incompletions due to inaccurate passes than Smith among quarterbacks with at least 100 short targets.

Smith’s inaccuracy figure sees him keep company with the likes of Nick Foles, Tom Brady and Ryan Tannehill and in stark contrast to the likes of Alex Smith and Andrew Luck who are operating their short passing games with near perfect levels of accuracy. Any inaccurate short pass to a player like Harvin is an opportunity missed that could have been a big play and with a greater emphasis on the short passing game, it’s an area of Smith’s game that he simply must improve.

The Jets have consistently proven their willingness in recent years to manufacture touches for offensive players that they bring with extensive use of wildcat plays in particular and I think we can expect to see Harvin featuring in the backfield alongside the likes of Chris Johnson as well as operating out of the slot. If Harvin can stay on the field and Geno Smith can get him the ball accurately, then there should be little doubt that Harvin will produce for Gang Green.

What Harvin Leaves Behind in Seattle

But what then does Harvin leave behind in Seattle? Well the cupboard is far from bare, even if their receiving corps now lacks any sort of big-name presence. A year ago in Harvin’s extended absence Doug Baldwin was among the league’s best slot receivers both in terms of volume and rate of production. Like Harvin you could criticize Baldwin for not getting over the goal line from the slot (no touchdowns on 50 slot targets last season) last season, but he was sure handed and both in terms of yards (568) and yards per route run from the slot (1.93) he was up there with the very best.

Baldwin leads the Seahawks in snaps at wide receiver this season so his production should remain or increase, but the pressure will be on the likes of Bryan Walters, Ricardo Lockette and Paul Richardson to step up and fill the void out wide with Baldwin likely to see more time in the slot having played only 68 snaps there thus far this season.

Harvin’s departure certainly takes away a playmaking threat from the Seahawks offense and a player who can forge long gains out of short passes. Can they cope without him? Well they worked their way to the Super Bowl without him for all but 68 snaps last season, so it’s hard to see why they won’t be able to fill that void moving forward.


Follow Ben on Twitter: @PFF_Ben

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • Chris

    Seattle got burned in this deal. Gave up a 1st and some change to get him, and get just middle round pick back for him? Must have been some serious locker room issues. Dude is a beast when he’s on the field.

    • Rob

      Harvin allegedly took himself out of plays/refused to go in on certain plays, with him missing the last 11 of 17 snaps vs. the Cowboys serving as the greatest evidence of that. Would also explain Bryan Walters being in on critical 3rd down situations throughout the season so far. As I see it, they made a mistake and decided to cut their losses before Harvin’s poison infected more of the team.

      • Chris

        I mean I can agree with that. But even still, cutting their losses doesn’t mean they didn’t get burned on the overall deal.

        That said I don’t see how he’s gonna turn out any better in NY?

        • [email protected]

          Yeah, the Seahawks made a mistake. The talent is obvious though so its somewhat understandable. At least it was an aggressive mistake with upside.

          If Harvin could have put his personal problems aside and Pete Carroll is a players coach it could have been great.

          • Chris

            It just blows my mind that these players can’t put aside their egos to win games.

            You really think the offense gets better after taking away Harvin? Getting pretty thin at WR, who’s catching balls Baldwin and Lockette?

          • [email protected]

            The coaches are very high on both Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood. Baldwin and Kearse are the top receivers, Lockette is a special teams player. He has the speed but not the receiver skills.

          • [email protected]

            The most effective formation for the Seahawks is actually a shotgun spread formation with 1 or no backs. Whenever they get desperate they let Russell run that and try to win the game. They might be forced to make that a bigger part of their normal offense. Russell Wilson is really good that way.

          • Ben Peterson

            Don’t forget Kearse.

            But yeah, this does raise some questions at Wide receiver for the Seahawks, and you can bet that they’re going to target someone in either the draft, free agency, or both.

          • Troll Chris

            Shut up. You wish the Bengals had Harvin’s talent

          • Chris

            I wish we had the Rams’ talent.

          • Troll Chris

            You wish you had any talent

          • Chris

            Wanna give me yours? You seem to have an overabundance.

    • [email protected]

      I’m really excited for the next couple weeks for the Seahawks, i think they have a chance to really fix some things and get back on track. They need to find some depth in their younger players, get back to their normal offense. They were obviously forcing the ball to Harvin the last two weeks in order to increase his trade value.

      • jody

        Seattle won’t make the playoffs.

        • jjthetraveler

          you sound like a duck blowing bubbles underwater.

        • [email protected]

          We’ll see, they have 3 really winnable games coming up with a chance to get some of their players back healthy going forward. Their schedule has been brutal especially with Dallas being much better than anticipated.

  • DrAWNiloc

    For the Jets, Harvin is just another flake in a snowstorm.
    For Seattle, this is addition by subtraction.

  • jjthetraveler

    All this BS. Seattle won the SB w/o Harvin’s help. Ya he got in some flashy plays but they would have won w/o him on the field at all. Why is a talented guy traded by 2 different teams? Because he’ a cancer and he’ll never change.

  • Chris