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The Need to Reel in Your Percy Harvin Expectations

Pro Day Florida Football
Now that the Favre Fervor has died down, Vikings fans can get back to being grumpy with the players that are already on their roster, even if they have yet to put foot in a purple jersey yet. That is, namely, to get back to analyzing how awesome or bust-acular Percy Harvin may be as a Viking.

The benefits and doubts of the Harvin pick have been critiqued by many experts and couch potatoes alike over the past several weeks. Like most Vikings fans, I had mixed emotions on the pick itself, yet felt a bit better about it when I looked at the draft as a whole. Debatable top 10 talent in the first round, debatable first round talent in the second round, and nice potential depth throughout the rest of the draft left me feeling optimistic. I became excited about Harvin’s potential in the offense with Adrian Peterson for years to come. Yet doubt started to creep into my head. He did make a pretty obtuse blunder before the combine by testing positive for marijuana, and his absence from the rookie mini-camp, while understandable, was also disheartening and curious. In one week’s time I have already been on an up and down rollercoaster with this kid more than a five year old at a birthday party, and he hasn’t even put on a Vikings jersey yet. Then I found this to add to the turmoil.

In the April 20th, 2009 ESPN: The Magazine (Which is impossible to sift through online, so I’ll just give you the relevant pieces of the article out of the magazine itself) they offer their annual draft preview. While most of it reads like an edgy grunge kid from 1996, “The Mad” did provide an interesting tidbit of relevance to Vikings fans. Vincent Verhei, actually of Football Outsiders, produces a smart blurb about predicting the success that college receivers will have in the NFL based mainly on their collegiate touchdowns per game and their yards per catch. He claims that by multiplying these two statistics together you can receive a quotient he calls a “Super Score” (SS from here on out), which acts as a reliable indicator of success. In the past, he has appropriately used this score to predict the success of several first round receiver picks between 2001 and 2005, most noticeably Larry Fitzgerald (SS of 22.6) and Ashley Lelie (SS of 22.3).

When looking at the receiving draft class of 2009, Verhei found that Michael Crabtree had the most impressive SS of 21.3. Not too surprising there. Jeremy Maclin had the fourth highest rating and Hakeem Nicks was fifth. What’s interesting for Vikings fans is that both Percy Harvin and generally accepted horrible draft pick Darrius Heyward-Bey clocked in with their SS at 5.2. That ties the both of them for 10th place in the 2009 draft for SS, behind exciting names like former Rice receiver Jarret Dillard (SS of 17.4) and former Oregon receiver Jaison Williams (SS of 6.1). Yikes. Verhei further explored the Harvin statistics by saying:

“Harvin split time between runner and receiver at Florida; his score would certainly be higher if he had been a full-time receiver. Then again, the learning curve will have to be steeper for Harvin than for his peers, making him an iffy early pick.”

So what does this mean? Taking Verhei’s data straight faced it could potentially mean that Vikings fans should lower their expectations for Harvin in purple, especially as a significant contributor and fixture in the receiving department. That being said, the Vikings were able to nab him at pick 22 in the first round when he was expected to be a top 10 talent, so the pressure should be off of Harvin to perform like he was picked in that top 10. Really, the Vikings may end up with equal value for player performance where said player was picked.

The issue with the SS predictor is that it is most definitely not a perfect science. Verhei does state that the SS predicted success for long forgotten Lion receiver Charles Rogers (SS of 22.2), so the opposite could most definitely happen, where Harvin could produce like he received an SS of 22.2. Verhei also does not clarify if the stats used were total collegiate numbers, last collegiate season played numbers or really which numbers he is specifically looking at. In addition, he fails to take into account the level of defensive competition in a player’s respective conference, the collegiate teams’ offensive style of play, or how the newly drafted player will potentially be used by their new team. To be fair, he does say that it strictly predicts receiver success in the NFL, so if Harvin ends up playing some type of hybrid role with the Vikings as he did at Florida, his indicator may invalid.

But is this the player that the Vikings really needed, or even thought they were drafting? It seemed obvious that they needed a receiver that could actually catch the ball and make dynamic plays, someone to stretch the field away from Peterson. Harvin may certainly be able to do that, in theory, but in practice how successful will he be when facing legit NFL defenses? This is why NFL scouts receive the money, while I just write off colored jokes about them.

As a fan that has been on this short rollercoaster ride with Percy Harvin, I admit I am beginning to feel more and more hesitant about picking him in the draft. I do think, at the very least, fans need to change their expectations about what Harvin will be able to do on the field. Whereas most of us were probably unfairly expecting something ridiculous like 800 yards, 40 catches and double digit touchdowns just through the air, we may need to realize that ultimately, his “NFL success” could be determined not by his own statistics, but by the statistics of those around him, whether Harvin is eventually listed as a receiver or otherwise.

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3 Responses to “The Need to Reel in Your Percy Harvin Expectations”

  1. Brendan Engle says:

    No offense, but the “SS” stats you have provided give very little insight. You quoted three players with “high” SS scores, and two were busts (Rogers and Lelie).

  2. Aaron says:

    Hey Brendan,

    Thanks for checking the post out. I agree with you to an extant, the SS stat needs further development as a whole, and the blurb that I noticed the Harvin mention in was very small indeed. Verhei did only drop a couple of previous first round receivers over the dates that he said he looked at, so the data can be called in question, as I tried to do in the post. I would disagree that Lelie was a total bust though, as I felt he had some fairly decent years with a couple of teams.

    Again, with any stat that is arbitrarily created like this SS one, it’s important to understand what isn’t included in the analysis, like style of offense, division defense, etc. But I do think that the stats he focused on for college receivers, TDs/game and YPC, are probably some of the “film” type details that you could gather simply from watching the player. From that, i think many of us would naturally assume Harvin would have been at or near the top, which he wasn’t, from a receiving stand point.

    My argument more precisely is just to temper expectations, or at least the ones that I have been hearing from fans around me.

    Thanks for checking us out though! Hope to see you again!

  3. James says:

    lol everything on this page is wrong

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