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Fantasy Impact: Percy Harvin Traded to Seahawks

By Jared Smola 6:43pm EDT 3/11/13
Major wide receiver trades are becoming a recurring theme in the offseason. 

2010 saw Santonio Holmes dealt to the Jets and Brandon Marshall shipped to Miami.  2011 was quiet, but Marshall was on the move again last year -- this time from the Dolphins to the Bears. We've already seen 2 receivers change addresses this offseason.  Anquan Boldin went from one Harbaugh to the other when he was dealt to San Fran.

But today's trade sending Percy Harvin to Seattle was the biggest blockbuster of them all.  None of the others involved a 1st-round pick.  The Vikings received not only the Seahawks' 2013 1st-rounder, but also a 2013 7th-round pick and a 2014 mid-rounder.

The deal has sent ripple-effects across the NFL.  Seattle now boasts one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL with Harvin, Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate.  The 'Hawks might now be the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. The Vikings, meanwhile, are left with an empty cupboard at WR.  That'll surely affect their draft plans.  Look for them to snag a receiver with 1 of their 2 first-round picks this April.

Harvin's impending long-term deal with Seattle will also impact the WR free-agent market.  Guys like Mike Wallace, Wes Welker and Greg Jennings will attempt to use Harvin's salary as leverage. Of course, the trade will also have a big impact on your 2013 fantasy football draft.  Here's a look at the winners and losers.

WINNERS
Percy Harvin, WR, Seahawks
The most interesting aspect of Harvin's trade to the Seahawks might be his reunion with OC Darrell Bevell.  The pair worked together for Harvin's first 2 years in Minnesota before Bevell departed for Seattle.  Harvin's production under Bevell wasn't earth-shattering: 131 catches, 790 receiving yards and 11 TDs, plus another 242 yards and a score on the ground.  He's actually been better in the 2 years since.  But we like the fact that Bevell has already worked with Harvin.  He's a unique but electric talent that needs to be used correctly.  Bevell likely learned plenty from the pair's first go-around.

Of course, the best part about Harvin's move to Seattle is the QB upgrade.  Christian Ponder is only 25 years old and still might emerge as a quality signal-caller.  But Russell Wilson is already better.  He bested Ponder in completion percentage, yards per attempt and TDs this past year.  And that was without Harvin.

On top of that, Percy will benefit from a much-improved supporting cast.  Marshawn Lynch is no Adrian Peterson, but Seattle averaged just 3 fewer rushing yards per game than Minnesota last year.  And WRs Sidney Rice and Golden Tate are multiple notches above any WR the Vikings had alongside Harvin.  While he'll undoubtedly continue to be a focal point of opposing defenses, Harvin should have more room to operate in Seattle than he did in Minnesota.

Now, he might experience a dip in touches with the Seahawks.  Harvin averaged 8.9 total receptions and rushes per game over the past 2 seasons.  That lofty number will be tough to hit in Seattle considering all the other weapons on the field. But Seattle gave up a boatload to acquire Harvin -- and will hand him a huge contract.  They'll make sure they get their money's worth.  And all those other weapons should help Harvin improve his yards-per-touch average and TD production. Simply put, it's difficult to imagine a move from that Vikings offense to this Seahawks offense being a bad thing for Harvin's fantasy value.

Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
Wilson turned in a brilliant rookie campaign.  And he did it without a go-to WR. Sidney Rice had a good year.  But he finished outside the top-40 WRs in both catches and receiving yards.  Foot and knee issues rendered him pretty much useless down the stretch.  Golden Tate set new career highs across the board, but he was more of a big-play maker than a consistent weekly threat.  Doug Baldwin and Zach Miller were just complementary pieces.

In Percy Harvin, Wilson now has a bona fide go-to receiver to work with.  The biggest thing Harvin will bring to Seattle is run-after-catch ability.   Tate led Seattle in YACs this past season.  But his 276 ranked just 37th league-wide.  Harvin amassed 542 last year -- in just 9 games!  His 8.7 yards-after-catch average led the league. 

Thanks to Harvin's electric ability, a few plays that would have gone for short gains to, say, Baldwin, will go for long TDs from Wilson to Harvin in 2013. Harvin's arrival also figures to accelerate the increase in Wilson's workload.  His 393 pass attempts last year ranked 26th in the league.  Only 3 times did he exceed 30 passes.  Expect 30+ outings to become the norm in 2013.  That will more than make up for any rushing production Harvin steals.  Wilson will continue to be a threat on the ground.  And the addition of Harvin will give his passing numbers a significant boost.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings

Rudolph might be the biggest winner here.  And the argument isn't complicated.  Just look at his splits this past season with and without Harvin.  In the 9 games Harvin played, Rudolph averaged 5.4 targets, 3 catches and 27 yards per game.  He did score 5 times in those contests, but still averaged a mediocre 6 fantasy points per game.

With Harvin out for the final 7 games, though, Rudolph's numbers got a healthy boost.  He saw 6.3 targets per game and averaged 3.7 catches and 36 yards.  With 4 scores in those outings, Rudolph averaged 7 fantasy points per game.  Only 9 TEs were better over that span. The loss of Harvin will certainly mean more defensive attention on Rudolph.  And his scoring chances figure to take a hit with one of the game's best playmakers gone. 

But Rudolph now looks like the focal point of Minnesota's passing attack.  And if last year is any indication, the increase in targets will more than make up for any hit from the loss of Harvin.

Jarius Wright, WR, Vikings
We'll have to see if Minnesota brings in a slot WR like Danny Amendola or rookie Tavon Austin.  But for now, Wright is slated to step into Harvin's role. Last year's 4th-round pick was a non-factor for the majority of his rookie season.  He didn't step on the field in the team's first 9 games.  But Wright made his debut in Week 10 with Harvin sidelined by an ankle injury. 

Operating in Harvin's slot role, the Arkansas product reeled in 3 balls for 65 yards and a TD.  The highlight was a 54-yard reception that took Minnesota down to the 1-yard line.  Wright scored on a quick-out a few plays later.  The rookie came back after the bye and went for 7 catches and 49 yards.  He had a 5-catch outing in Week 16, then posted a 3-90-1 line in the season finale.  That one included a 65-yard reception -- the Vikings' longest pass play of the year.  Wright finished with a 14.1 yards-per-catch average that bests any mark Harvin has ever posted.

It's obviously a small sample size -- and we're not saying Wright is even in the same stratosphere as Harvin -- but there's definitely playmaking ability here.  If he enters 2013 as the Vikings' slot receiver, Wright will carry some sleeper appeal in fantasy drafts.

LOSERS


Christian Ponder, QB, Vikings
Your Minnesota Vikings now hold the title of NFL's Worst WR Corps.  And it's not close.  Harvin is gone.  Jerome Simpson is a free-agent.  Even the recently-released Michael Jenkins would look good on the depth chart now.

But as it stands, Jarius Wright, Greg Childs and Stephen Burton are their top 3 guys.  They've combined for 29 catches and 3 TDs at the NFL level. It's safe to say the Vikings will add to the position this offseason.  (They reportedly tried to acquire Anquan Boldin before the 49ers got the deal done.)  But it might be tough to convince a top-tier free agent to sign on the dotted line.  And it's never smart to bet on a rookie to make a major year 1 impact.

Point is, Ponder won't have much help in 2013.  And he doesn't have the skill set to elevate those around him.  Expect a lot of handing off to Adrian Peterson. Ponder wasn't looking like much of a fantasy factor this season before the Harvin trade.  He's definitely not now.

Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks

We could list Sidney Rice and Golden Tate here too.  Harvin will demand tons of targets in Seattle.  And the overall pie won't grow too much.  The Seahawks will still run it plenty.  That means fewer chances for Rice and Tate. But Baldwin is, by far, the biggest loser.  As Seattle's slot receiver, he was on the field for 51% of the offensive snaps this past season.  That number will drop significantly in 2013. 

The 'Hawks figure to go with Harvin and Rice in 2-WR sets.  Harvin will slip inside when they go 3-wide, with Golden Tate joining Rice outside the numbers.  Baldwin will only see action when Seattle puts 4 WRs on the field.  According to Pro Football Focus, that happened just 5.1% of the time last year.  That number might grow a bit this season, but not nearly enough to make Baldwin a fantasy factor. He's an underrated slot receiver, though, so we could see another team make a trade offer for him.

There's one big name missing from this list: Adrian Peterson.  That's because the Harvin trade looks like a wash for AP's fantasy outlook. Conventional wisdom would say the loss of such a dynamic weapon would hurt Peterson's production.  He'll face even more 8 and 9-man fronts than he had been.  Harvin's departure also figures to make moving the ball tougher for Minnesota, meaning fewer scoring opportunities for AP.

But conventional wisdom doesn't apply to this guy.  In fact, Peterson was better without Harvin than with him in 2012.  With Harvin in the lineup for the first 9 games, Peterson carried 168 times for 957 yards (5.7 yards per carry) and 6 TDs.  He added 26 catches and 150 receiving yards to rank 3rd among RBs in fantasy points over that span. 

But with Harvin out for the final 7, AP ripped off 1,140 yards and 6 scores on 181 carries -- good for a stupefying 6.3 yards per rush.  He tossed in 67 yards and another TD in the passing game, leading all RBs in fantasy points during that stretch. Those numbers would suggest Peterson is better off without Harvin.  We're not necessarily buying that.  It's a small sample size.  And Harvin's absence wasn't the only reason AP was better in the 2nd half of the season.  He was also further removed from that shredded knee.

To suggest the loss of Harvin will help Peterson seems short-sighted.  But AP has also proven capable of producing regardless.  Consider his stock unaffected.  He should still be the first player taken in fantasy drafts this summer. Marshawn Lynch also falls in the "wash" column.  He probably won't see the 19.7 carries he averaged per game last season, but Harvin's presence also figures to open up more running room -- and lead to more scoring opportunities.

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