The Harvin Debate

Two of our top analysts, Sam Monson and Ben Stockwell, go toe-to-toe to debate the merits of trading for Minnesota's explosive star Percy Harvin, amid rumors he could be on ...

| 4 years ago

The Harvin Debate

In the past few days the internet has been awash with rumors the Vikings have finally tired of mercurial talent Percy Harvin, and are prepared to listen to offers for him.

Harvin is arguably the league’s most explosive weapon and one of the most dangerous playmakers around, but he has long come with a bundle of red flags that caused him to slip in the draft much further than his playmaking ability dictated. Now those red flags have soured his relationship with the Vikings and Harvin just might be available at the right price.

So we put the question to our top two analysts to see if teams really should pursue Harvin in a trade. Here’s what they said:

Ben Stockwell — Why I’d Trade For Harvin

The bottom line is this — when you trade for Percy Harvin you are trading for the most dangerous and versatile offensive weapon in the NFL. That a team with a conservative offensive play-calling outlook was able to make good use of Harvin’s diverse skill set should speak volumes for what one of the new “creative” offensive “gurus” in the NFL could do with him at their disposal.

Harvin’s overall grade for the season put him inside the Top 10 of our receiver ranking, even though he missed half the season. His production this season was absolutely astronomical, and he is able to blend the attributes of a runner, with the explosive ability to work in these new read option offenses, with the receiving ability to make plays all over the field. Harvin was in a league of his own in terms of creating yards after the catch, (well, almost, along with Cecil Shorts) among receivers with 50 receptions. He collected an astonishing 8.7 yards after the catch and broke 22 tackles as a receiver to go with five tackles broken as a runner. And when you think the Vikings were only just starting to realize how devastating Harvin is when you run the offense through him, imagine what an offensive coordinator fully aware of his talents and making use of his versatility for a full 16-game season could achieve?

The one thing you have to realize, and plan for, with Harvin is that you’re getting a unique football player — you have to be aware of that and be planning for it when you try to acquire him. You can’t do as the Jets did with Tim Tebow this season and just pick him up and hope to work it out when you get him. The Vikings principally worked Harvin on short routes this season (27 targets on throws at the line of scrimmage, 16 crossing patterns), but he still showed the versatility to make catches on every route on the tree. Combine the fact that he will lineup absolutely anywhere and you not only make it very difficult for teams to track and cover him, but you also create the potential of miscommunication on defense opening up the field for other receivers.

If a team decides not to track Harvin then you can move him to various spots in wide, slot, and backfield formations to work out matchups against whichever defender you see fit. If a team does track Harvin then you can move him to various spots to open up the field for other receivers to do damage. Harvin may not be your conventional down-the-field, scare-the-life-out-of-a-defense receiver, but he has a similar effect on a defense with his ability to shed a tackle and break a play open from anywhere.

At the end of the day, with Harvin you are trading for a football player and an offensive weapon, the best and most versatile in the league. When players are as special and productive as Harvin then teams have this habit of finding ways to work with the baggage they bring with them. If I have the right offensive mind on my staff, then as a general manager I’m looking at Harvin as the most devastating offensive weapon I can get my hands on. At the right price he is a piece of the puzzle I absolutely want on my football team.

Sam Monson – Why I Wouldn’t Trade For Harvin

Teams don’t look to move on from a player as talented as Harvin without good reason, and that reason is that he has begun to cause more problems than he solves for the team. Dating all the way back to high school, Percy Harvin has been in hot water and stepping way over the line of acceptable behavior. He was actually banned from playing in all Virginia High School sports after punching a referee, and his issues continued during his college career at the University of Florida.

In Gainesville, Harvin was known to skip workouts, was involved in a fight with his receivers coach, and missed time due to a suspension for marijuana. Those problems haven’t disappeared as a Viking. He has already been involved in sideline screaming matches with Bill Musgrave and Leslie Frazier, and had to be physically separated from former head coach Brad Childress in one altercation. The bottom line is Harvin has a legitimate history of flying off the handle and overstepping the boundaries of acceptable behavior, whether it has been punished or not after the fact.

He also has a long injury history. His time in the NFL hasn’t been too bad, missing just 10 of 64 career games (seven of which came this year with a torn ankle ligament), and he is undoubtedly tough as nails, but including college he has missed time with ankle, neck, rib, heel, and more ankle injuries, as well as a well-documented battle with migraines. He is tough, but Harvin is just 5-foot-11′ and 184 pounds, being tackled by players that outweigh him by 60 pounds or more on a regular basis — that doesn’t add up to a player you can rely on week in, week out.

Part of his current unrest in Minnesota is his contract situation, and any team that trades for him not only needs to understand the baggage he comes with, but needs to pay handsomely to lock him up long-term,  while somehow structuring the new deal so that they are protected if he does go off the deep end and forces his way out of his new home. This is easier said than done, and teams are loathed to commit major dollars, as well as draft picks, to a risky character and person.

Perhaps the most worrying thing for any team looking to bring Harvin in is the parallels with the last dominant, problem-child receiver the Vikings tired of and sent packing in a trade, Randy Moss. After the 2004 season Moss was the league’s most dominant receiver, and one of the best players period, but Minnesota had grown tired of the headache and trying to keep him happy. They accepted a trade with Oakland, which ultimately gained them little after selecting Troy Williamson as Moss’ replacement.

However, it is what happened to the Raiders that will put off some teams. Moss saw that the grass is not always greener on the other side, and soon simply stopped trying when saddled with a hopeless quarterback situation. Harvin is not a dissimilar player to Moss in attitude, and actually connected with his predecessor during his short second stint in the Twin Cities. A new team might see Harvin as a player that can help them, but will Harvin be happy if he doesn’t think that new team can win it all?


Follow @PFF_Ben and @PFF_Sam on Twitter. 

  • Mike Weisel

    As vikings fan i will miss him, but all the baggage does not garner the money he wants.  Use that on a true #1, that can take the 8th man out of the box.  I don’t see a year where, getting the ball 8+ times a game, he lasts a whole season.

  • LightsOut85

    Wow, I had NOT heard about that “all-state ban” thing. That’s crazy.  To return to the Moss comparisons – Percy could follow the same (basic) path, and go to NE.  I wouldn’t doubt they’d be able to corral any of his issues. This would be quite unpleasant for all the other teams in the AFC however. The best short-ball WR in the NFL on the best short-passing team — who also happens to love spreading it around and has the talent to keep attention off of Harvin (or have defenses pay if too much is on him).

  • Anders

    As an Eagles fan I say trade Harvin for Maclin+4th rounder

  • Bhay1987

    Not really much interest in Maclin. We have a 4th rounder in Jarius Wright that filled in admirably in Harvin’s role when he went down with an ankle injury. A high draft pick better be coming back otherwise we might as well let him hold out. He’d be unhappy but if he just played out the last half of the season and then walked we could get a compensatory pick for him anyways. His production down the stretch run would outweigh any 4th rounder IMO. Patriots make the most sense really.

  • Walker8084

    Theres a big difference in Harvin and Moss.  When Moss got disgruntled he quit on the field, Harvin has never done that.  With whatever draft pick or picks the Vikings get, they will not be able to replace a top 5 receiver, their backup running back (hes better than Gerhart), and a Pro Bowl kick returner.  If Frasier is a worthwhile leader, he should be able to handle an occasionally volatile player. PAY THE MAN!!!

    • PFF_Admin

      Moss hadn’t quit on the field for the Vikings by the time they got fed up with him. Harvin hasn’t quit on the field yet, and he may never, but it might at some stage if he gets more frustrated.

      • Walker8084

        Moss is one of my all time favorite players, but was already getting a rep for taking plays off here and there before he issued his infamous “I play when I want to play” in 2001.  He was still with the Vikes another 3-4 yrs after that.  He never totally quit on the team, as much as dogged it on a lot of plays.  Walking off the field in Wash. was, I think, the final straw with Vikes management.
        My point is I’ve never seen Harvin take a play off, and hes more physical than any receiver in the league.  He’s basically a stronger faster Wes Welker, and hes in the prime of his career.  I’d hate to see the Vikes let him go.

        • joefan71

          First, that quote was taken out of context. No number 1 receiver is going to stretch the field play after play after play. Running 30-50 yard routes is not the same as running 5 or 10 yard routes. The complete quote, “I play when I want to play. Do I play up to my top performance, my ability every time? Maybe not. I just keep doing what I do and that is playing football. When I make my mind up, I am going out there to tear somebody’s head off. When I go out there and play football, man it’s not anybody telling me to play or how I should play. I play when I want to play.”

  • Herelobous

    New England is a no-brainer to trade to:
    Need At Receiver: Welker, Edelman, Branch and poss Lloyd gone, Check
    Offense that likes to move players around: Check
    Short Passing Game: Check
    Coach that handle troublesome players: Moss, Harrison, Dillon, Check

    Mallet plus 2nd rounder or 1st rounder, just do it.

  • Rs

    Denver would be a great fit. Harvin, gets to play with Manning that will pad his stats. Denver, gets a dynamic weapon that fills a need. Manning can’t throw downfield as well as he used to and needs an underneath presence like Harvin.

  • Ken3580

    Harvin is okay as long as he respects his coach. The players love Pete Carrol. If Harvin was that bad so as to threaten Carrol, the other players would much more than likely step in. With that said, Harvin is a freak of nature. He’s extremely elusive and fast, but he’s also proud, arrogant, a spoiled brat and a royal pain in the butt. He really needs to grow up, and it could just be that some of the more mature players on his team, perhaps some of the big defensive linemen, might just be the ones to put him in line.