I’ve had a good cry now. That doesn’t make this particular Wednesday much different than most Wednesdsays, but this time, there’s especially deep sorrow.
As we learned last night, Percy Harvin will be cut up tomorrow by a man who’s hopefully trained in such matters, and he isn’t Dr. Nick. This is sad, not only from a fantasy perspective, but more importantly, from the perspective of people who enjoy watching great football players do great football things. That’s all of us.
Alongside Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, Harvin was set to immediately add an element of “where the hell did he go?” and “who do I cover? Oh, he’s gone” to the Seahawks’ offense, and especially their growing read-option attack. Just as he was in Minnesota, he also would have been used sporadically as a running back, giving defenses far too much quickness to contemplate. Hell, I don’t think our brains can compute the amount of speed and slashing ability in a backfield that consists of Harvin, Lynch, and Wilson.
For fake footballing, our giddiness had reached such bubbling extremes that we were drafting Harvin as a top 30 pick, pretty lofty territory for a player at an exceedingly deep position. We were dreaming big dreams, and now they’re gone. Well, almost.
The initial timetable for Harvin’s recovery from surgery to repair his partially torn labrum is three-to-four months. As I noted last week while writing with visions of sugar fairies and pixie dust, the most optimistic end of that range would have Harvin out until mid-October, and he’d likely miss about half the season. That sucks, because any absence at all sucks. But half a season of Harvin is still eight games from an elite receiver with a very unique skillset, which means there would be justification to spend a late-round pick on him, and stash him deep in the mildew-filled cracks of your bench.
Consider the other scrubs and chumps you’re selecting from in the 14th round, and then think about half a season from Harvin again. Yeah, that would have been nice. But unfortunately (and oh, so predictably), we can’t have nice things…
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 31, 2013
So as we feared but wholly expected, if Harvin returns at all this season, he’ll most likely be doing it at the pace on the far end of his projected timetable. The Seahawks hopes and finger crossing relayed by Rapoport above will have Harvin back by Week 13, which is also known as the end of the fantasy football regular season in most leagues (some go to Week 14, but yeah).
How should you handle this then? It’s simple, really. Run, and run far.
For those of you thinking about wasting a draft pick on Harvin and stashing him for the playoffs, you should stop that now. The NFL season is a long and meandering road filled with broken bones and busted cartilage, and it’ll likely be just a week or two before an injury of some significance pops up, and you have a difficult time keeping Harvin on your roster just for the off chance that he could play and maybe do something, but realistically he probably won’t. If Harvin actually sets foot on a field in a meaningful capacity in Week 13, he’ll be there on the waiver wire as a sweet little playoff add. If you whiff on that, so be it.
But the impact of Harvin’s absence goes beyond just Harvin, of course. Let’s explore who’s trending up or down now that a guy who cost the Seahawks multiple picks maybe won’t play a single snap this year:
Golden Tate: Tate becomes the Seahawks wide receiver to own with the increase in targets he’ll receive, and because of Sidney Rice’s dumb injury luck. Slowly, Tate and Wilson developed a connection last year, culminating in an impressive stretch for the former Notre Dame standout starting in Week 17 to end the season, and extending into the playoffs. It featured Tate’s first two 100-yard games (a career high 105 yards in Week 17, and then 103 yards during Seattle’s playoff loss to Atlanta), and 243 yards overall on 18.7 yards per catch.
Prior to that, Tate was targeted sparsely due to Wilson’s rawness early in the season, the continued emphasis on the running game powered by Lynch, and the new mobile quarterback running the read-option. However, he was still able to turn his 67 targets into 688 yards, which included five catches of 40 yards or more. Most importantly, he was often targeted in the red zone and scored seven times, meaning he averaged a touchdown once nearly every six catches.
So how much, exactly, will Tate be targeted? Go ahead and guess numbers, because that’s fun. But from Jason La Canfora’s early camp report, it sure sounds like a lot:
Tate, himself entering his fourth season, tops that list. There is quiet buzz about him in the coaching and front office here, with every belief that he is ready to make a leap into the upper echelon of receivers and not just a guy who flashes remarkable skills but then fades in and out of games. (I smell a fantasy steal here).
Carroll said the Seahawks have Tate in pretty much every package they run, and will use him not just deep but in the shallow, tempo passing game, across the middle. “We’re using him in everything,” the coach said.
Oh and also, like Harvin, he’s pretty damn slippery after the catch, which will lead to diverse usage around the formation…
Percy Harvin’s 27 missed tackles last season led all WR (incl. playoffs). Second-most, with 21, was Golden Tate. #Seahawks
— Pete Damilatis (@PFF_Pete) July 31, 2013
Tate’s fantasy value is about to take a 90-degree soar with the expected targets set to land somewhere in his general vicinity. Eventually, he’ll likely settle at about the 11th or 12th round, which is still fine value for a WR3 with a lot of upside.
Sidney Rice: It’s not difficult to remember a time when Rice was capable of being great, and producing great numbers. But none of those times have come during his injury-plagued Seattle tenure.
Last year long before the Seahawks employing Harvin was even a thought, the difference between Rice and Tate was minimal. They both scored seven times, their targets were nearly identical (Rice had 82), and therefore so was their yardage (Rice had 748), and receptions (Rice had 50, Tate finished with 48). The difference lies in risk management.
Rice has already taken a trip to Switzerland for a knee treatment. Redundant reminder: it may be the last day of July, but it’s still July, and the receiver in question is already crossing oceans to have stem cell therapy on his knee, and he could be playing in pain for a while. You’ve seen this particular movie, and it’s awful.
Although Rice is still narrowly ahead of Tate on some tried and trusted ADP sources, that should change soon due to sheer fear. Since his 1,312 yard season as a Viking in 2009, Rice has missed 17 of the possible 48 games he could have appeared in. In Tate we trust.
Russell Wilson: This is where the real suck lies, just because of the potential for a spike in Wilson’s production that Harvin is taking away. The ceiling for Wilson this year with Harvin behind or beside him while being stupidly versatile was high. So high that among those who populate ESPN leagues, he’s currently being drafted only narrowly behind Colin Kaepernick. That will change soon, but likely not by much
Clearly Wilson had much more promise with Harvin’s ability to turn a short throw on a crossing route into significant chunk yardage, and maybe a score or three. But in this same offense with now the same group of receivers, as a rookie quarterback last year Wilson had nine games with a passer rating of at least 100.0, and even more incredibly, three with a YPA in the double digits. Throw in his rushing ability (489 yards and four touchdowns), and Wilson’s 259 fantasy points in 2012 were better than much more proven quarterbacks like Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. He was particularly effective after the Seahawks’ Week 11 bye, averaging 23.1 fantasy points per game.
He remains a great target for those who wish to duck the early trampling for quarterbacks named Rodgers and Brees, and he’ll be just fine. But with Harvin for a full season, Wilson would have much better than fine.