Percy Harvin is a player with a checkered history in Minnesota, and opinions on him remain strong to this day. He dealt with debilitating migraines early in his career, and as the frustrations of losing mounted in 2011 and the early part of 2012, he reportedly threw a barbell weight at then coach Leslie Frazier.
Seriously, how mad do you have to be if you throw a weight at one of the most genuinely decent human beings in the NFL?
Harvin either was suspended for the year or missed the rest of 2012 due to injuries, depending on what story you believe. When the season was over, he was traded to Seattle for a first and third round draft picks, less than a month after GM Rick Spielman famously said ‘we have no plans to trade Percy Harvin’. After he left Minnesota, he won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks, but injuries shortened what was a promising career with coffee cup stints there, in New York with the Jets, and then Buffalo before he retired.
But...what if Harvin stayed healthy and happy in Minnesota?
To this day, there are three people in Vikings history that made me legitimately believe they could score a touchdown every time they got their hands on the ball—Harvin, Randy Moss, and Cordarelle Patterson as a kick returner. In 2009, Harvin was named the NFC Rookie of the Year, and throughout his time in Minnesota he made some electric catches and runs, both as a receiver and kick returner.
I loved Harvin the player. He was fast, and one heck of a tough runner with the football. In the 2010-11 lean years, he was the only legitimate receiving threat the Vikings had, and routinely took screen passes and turned them into big gains. He literally took my breath away when he fielded a kick, as it seemed he was one tackle from housing it on every return.
But does a healthy and happy Harvin, in Minnesota, make things a whole lot different for the Vikings?
We can start with the 2013 draft. That year, the Vikings ended up with three first round picks, due in large part to Harvin. At pick 23, their original selection, they picked DT Shariff Floyd, who was a consensus top 10 guy that dropped. At 25, the pick they got from the Harvin trade to Seattle, they picked CB Xavier Rhodes, who has become one of the top CB’s in the NFL. At 29, the Vikings traded back in to the first round to grab Patterson, a rough WR project, but a speed demon who would immediately take over kick returns for...Percy Harvin.
If Harvin is still in Minnesota, they probably only take one player in the first round, and we can have a healthy debate as to whether or not it would have been Floyd or Rhodes. Mike Zimmer hadn’t been hired yet, so I still think they go with Floyd, as he had to have been the highest rated player on Minnesota’s board. That means no Rhodes or Patterson on the roster, as there is probably no trade with New England to get Flash. THAT means the Vikes get their picks in rounds two, three, four, and seven back, and the draft class looks much, much different.
Let’s ripple this to the 2014 draft, Mike Zimmer’s first one with the Vikings as head coach. With no Xavier Rhodes on the roster to develop, and Zimmer’s penchant for drafting cornerbacks, do the Vikings still take LB Anthony Barr? Spielman swung a trade with Cleveland to drop from eight to nine, and the Browns took CB Justin Gilbert. Does Minnesota stay put and take him, or still make the trade and maybe pick Kyle Fuller instead, who went to the Bears at 14?
In the 2014 draft, the Vikings also got a third round pick from the Seahawks as part of the Harvin trade, and selected RB Jerick McKinnon, who was a big part of the Vikings offense from 2014-2017, until he left as an unrestricted free agent. So, now there’s no Jet on the roster, either. Let’s jump ahead one more draft, to 2015. With a healthy and productive Harvin on the roster, do the Vikings even take Stefon Diggs in the fifth round?
On the field, the Vikings had signed Greg Jennings (or would they have done that?), and with a developing Teddy Bridgewater, Harvin and Jennings could have made a pretty impressive duo. I don’t think Harvin makes much of an impact in 2014 with a rookie QB to get the Vikings to the playoffs, but in 2015? Could Harvin have been a difference maker in a couple of close losses to Denver and Arizona? Yeah, maybe.
Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, Harvin is the difference in a close win against the Cardinals, instead of a loss. Both teams are now 12-4, and the Vikings now have the head to head tiebreaker over Arizona and consequently, a bye and the number two seed in the NFC playoffs. Assuming everything else remains the same, the Vikings would have hosted Green Bay at TCF Bank Stadium in the divisional round of the playoffs, two weeks after beating them at Lambeau on Sunday night two weeks earlier to clinch the NFC North.
Does that mean the Vikings go to and win the Super Bowl? No, but it does mean there’s no Blair Walsh infamy. Or, it was at least delayed one week.
How much of a difference does Harvin make on the field from 2016-2018? Does Harvin on the field block the emergence of Adam Thielen, for example? Are we spared the two season tease that was Charles Johnson?
Lots of what ifs on this one, but I do know one thing: I would have loved to have watched a healthy and happy Percy Harvin in a Vikings uniform for longer than 3 seasons and some change, because his talent was breathtaking.