The Percy Harvin Effect



There have been a lot of arguments made for and against the trade of Percy Harvin throughout the posts and comments on the Daily Norseman. On the one hand, some media analysts were hyping Harvin as an MVP candidate early in the year, and he was clearly Ponder’s go-to guy in the passing game. On the other hand, Ponder played well the week immediately following Harvin’s injury, and then picked up the pace again to close out the year going on a 4-game winning streak and finishing with his best game of the year in the season finale against Green Bay. Some folks in the media have even gone so far as to make the claim that the Vikings were actually a better team without Percy Harvin than with him. Well, I went back and looked at the box score stats and did some calculations to see if the numbers could actually support such a claim.

So, first, let’s look at how the Vikings offense hummed along with Percy Harvin on the field by breaking down the first 9 games of the season.

Vikings Offensive Team Stats With Percy Harvin Weeks 1-9

Passing Yards

Rushing Yards

Total Net Yards




3rd Down Conversion

1st Downs









39 of 112 (34.8%)










4.3 of 12.4



Now, compare the table above to the table below, which shows the exact same stats for the final 7 games of the season without Percy Harvin in the lineup.

Vikings Offensive Team Stats Without Percy Harvin Weeks 11-17

Passing Yards

Rushing Yards

Total Net Yards




3rd Down Conversion

1st Downs









39 of 98 (39.8%)










5.6 of 14



Not surprisingly there are two stats that see a slight decline with Percy Harvin out of the lineup: Passing Yards and total 1st downs. But what surprised me is that every other meaningful offensive team stat actually sees a per-game IMPROVEMENT with Harvin out the lineup, including Total Net Yards, 3rd down Conversion and Total Points! Now, before we all jump to the conclusion that maybe the Vikings offense was better without Harvin, let’s look at the obvious. While the passing yards see a big dip when Harvin was out, the team’s rushing yards see an almost equal and opposite improvement. And when you look at the Total Net Yards, there is only a 5 yard per game improvement without Harvin.

I think the better explanation is simply that Adrian Peterson got healthy, and then went nuts. The team clearly leaned heavily on Peterson and the run game in the 2nd half of the season. So either that means that Peterson really did put the team on his back and carry the entire offense himself, or the offense as a whole, actually did ok without Harvin in the lineup. At the end of the day, for me, if Harvin is such an integral piece to the Vikings success on offense, shouldn’t we have seen a dramatic decline in all of the offensive stats during the last 7 games of the year? I would naturally expect an uptick from Peterson when Harvin went down, but can he alone account for the increase in 3rd down conversion rates, points per game, and fewer turnovers?

Next, compare Percy Harvin’s receiving stats to his replacement Jarius Wright. I pulled a few of these stats from Football Outsiders.


Avg Rec/Gm


Avg Yds/rec

Avg Yds/Gm


Avg TDs/Gm

Catch Rate


Percy Harvin (2012)










Jarius Wright










Percy Harvin (2009)










First off, It’s probably not fair to compare Jarius Wright’s rookie season to Percy Harvin’s 4th year, but when you look at the per game average of stats, the two receivers aren’t terribly far off. Sure, Harvin is better than Wright in almost every measurable I showed here, especially in receptions and yards, but the encouraging thing is Wright’s average yards per reception. This might have been due to scheme or play-calling, but I found it interesting none-the-less. Wright’s scoring potential and catch rates aren’t too far off Harvin either. And lastly, if you compare Harvin’s per game rookie stats to Wright’s per game stats this year, they are a lot closer. All of that is to say that, Wright has room for improvement, and like many wide receivers, can likely make a big jump in development during his sophomore year in 2013. This is of course only a comparison of their pure receiving talents. Obviously, Harvin brings a lot more to the table as a running back and kick returner, and I don’t mean to imply that Wright is anywhere near as talented as Harvin. I’m just showing that, as a receiver, he’s not a complete dud, and actually has some similar stats as Harvin.

Let’s take this a step further though. What if Jarius Wright had played the full year? If we take his average per-game stat line and multiple that by 16 games we might get a decent full-season projection. If we were to do that, Wright’s 2012 rookie season could have been something like this: 50 receptions, 708 yards, and 4 TDs. And to take this even further, here are a variety of slot receivers around the NFL and their stat lines from the 2012 season:

1. Andrew Hawkins (rookie, 14 games): 51 receptions, 533 yards, 4 TDs

2. Danny Amendola (11 games): 63 receptions, 666 yards, 3 TDs

3. Wes Welker: 118 receptions, 1,354 yards, 6 TDs

4. Victor Cruz: 86 receptions, 1,092 yards, 10 TDs

5. Davone Bess (13 games): 61 receptions, 778 yards, 1 TD

6. Santana Moss: 41 receptions, 573 yards, 8 TDs

7. Randall Cobb (15 games): 80 receptions, 954 yards, 8 TDs

What this list should help illustrate is that there is a TON of variety in how teams handle their slot receivers. Like Harvin is for the Vikings, some of them are their team’s primary, go-to guys: Welker and Cruz for example. While others play more of a traditional #2/3 role: Hawkins, Bess and Moss. When you compare Wright’s numbers to the traditional slot receiver role, he compares very favorably. I don’t know if Wright will develop into a primary, go-to #1 receiver out of the slot like Harvin, Welker or Cruz, but based on his limited performance last season, I think he has what it takes to succeed as a Davone Bess or late-career Santana Moss type of player. And there-in lies the rub. We’ve got two viable slot receivers on the team right now, but each one brings a different skill set to the table and both are two very different kinds of players. The Vikings are likely wrestling with whether they want to lock up Harvin to a long-term deal and continue utilizing him like they have for the past few seasons. Or, trade him for more ammunition in the draft to finish phase 2 of the team rebuild, and then rely on Jarius Wright to fulfill a more traditional slot receiver role.

So, while I love watching Harvin, and I think he’s a great athlete and an elite, versatile weapon on the football field, I also don’t feel that’s he’s as integral to the Viking’s success on offense as someone like Adrian Peterson. Wright filled in admirably as a rookie, and should only get better as a traditional slot receiver. So, if the Vikings want to trade Harvin, I’m actually ok with it from a statistical, on-the-field perspective. And that’s to say nothing of any off-the-field or injury concerns. The biggest issue in all of this for me is, what can we get in return for Percy Harvin? If I were GM, I would accept nothing less than a 2nd round pick, and ideally I’d like a 1st rounder, or perhaps a 2nd and 4th rounder.

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.

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