Percy Harvin’s hip injury certainly wasn’t good news for fantasy owners. Often selected at the beginning of Round 3, his ADP quickly fell faster than Lindsay Lohan’s career. With his projected return still unknown, the newly acquired Seahawks' wideout isn’t even draftable in any sort of standard format.
His absence won’t necessarily be felt from a real football standpoint: The Seahawks are still going to be good – their defense, their quarterback, their running game…they’re all fantastic. From an imaginary pigskin perspective though, Harvin’s injury has brought Golden Tate and Sidney Rice back into the limelight. And that’s not as bad as you may think.
Sidney Rice’s Opportunity
When the Harvin news first broke a few weeks ago, plenty of fantasy owners scrambled to secure Sidney Rice in any active league. At a high level, it made sense: He was technically slotted to play behind Percy Harvin in the first place, so naturally he’d take over a bigger role with Harvin out.
And that’s somewhat true. There’s a good chance that Rice will assume a larger role in the Seahawks offense this season, especially when we consider his efficiency scores. Last season – one that saw just 50 catches for 748 yards – Rice finished third out of 84 receivers (minimum 50 targets) in terms of receiving net expected points per target. To put this another way, on each target, Sidney Rice was doing more for his squad than all but two receivers.
Now, we have to keep in mind what Sidney Rice is: A vertical receiver who can stretch defenses and make big plays. With regards to NEP, it’s actually easier for someone like him to contribute a high score per target because each catch is typically a big one. He’s adding more for his team with each look, because his targets are normally on deeper passes.
Rice has potential this season in the Hawks offense as a deep threat, especially considering the team should pass the ball a little more with an experienced Russell Wilson. However, his health is a huge concern. He’s already gone through an odd knee procedure this offseason (in Switzerland), and he’s missed three or more games in four of his six NFL seasons. Rice hasn’t been incredibly relevant since his monster year with Brett Favre in Minnesota, and anytime you mention Brett Favre, you know it’s been a while. Keep that in mind as you look to draft him.
Golden Tate’s Ability
Pre-Percy Harvin injury, NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling wrote a piece on Golden Tate’s potential for 2013. In it, Wesseling mentioned, “With reliable hands and the ability to make defenders miss after the catch, Tate's skill set is eerily similar to that of Harvin. This shifty, tackle-breaking hurdle into the end zone versus the Minnesota Vikings looks like it was lifted from a Harvin highlight reel.”
Though that’s the film side of things, it’s an interesting comparison considering Harvin is now missing from the offense. We, as a fantasy community, seemed to be high on Harvin’s skill set in Seattle, as we were drafting him in the third round during early fantasy drafts. If Tate’s abilities are similar to Harvin’s, is there a legitimate chance that Tate steps up and becomes a potential top-20 wide receiver?
Let’s dive into the analytical side – the side that we like most here at numberFire.com. As I noted before, Sidney Rice ranked third in terms of receiving NEP per target last season, due mostly to the fact that he was a vertical threat. And although Golden Tate has been compared to Harvin, making him appear like a short yardage wideout, he actually was used more on the outside last season with the Seahawks, making big plays himself.
His receiving NEP per target actually ranked fourth in the NFL among 50-plus target receivers last year, just behind Sidney Rice. Don’t look at Tate’s frame and think he can’t make plays on deep passes; he can, as evident by his high NEP per target and 15.1 yards per catch average.
So is he just like Sidney Rice then? No, because as Chris Wesseling noted, Tate has the physical attributes of a Percy Harvin, meaning he’s able to play a physical, short yardage role as well. In other words, Golden Tate is incredibly versatile. That’s something we all want in a fantasy football asset.
ADP Comparison and Fantasy Potential
According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, Sidney Rice is leaving the board at the tail-end of Round 10, the typical 46th receiver drafted. Golden Tate, on the other hand, is exiting at the beginning of Round 9 as the 38th selected receiver.
Which one is the better value?
Really, they both could be considered value picks at their current ADP. Take a look at our projections for this season. We have Sidney Rice ranked as our 35th-best wide receiver, a whole 11 slots ahead of his average cost. And while Golden Tate is our 42nd-ranked wideout, his ceiling is much higher – according to our analytics – when compared to the players ranked around him. He’s a risk, sure, but a risk that could pan out given his versatile abilities.
In 2013, feel confident about drafting either of these guys. They could end up being serviceable plays each week, especially with a more experienced Russell Wilson.