Percy Harvin to Seattle: This Offseason's Most Important Move
As first reported by NFL on Fox's Jay Glazer, Percy Harvin is headed to Seattle, with undisclosed draft picks heading back to Minnesota. This deal is just too big to let by without breaking it down numberFire style. After analyzing the numbers, it looks like this deal may just be this year's Peyton to Denver in terms of both "Holy @^"-ness as well as impact on the field.
Harvin by the Numbers
When I think of Percy Harvin, I immediately think "Playmaker". Maybe it's the stereotype about the quick Florida receiver, maybe it's the 4.41 40 he ran all the way back at the combine, or maybe it's the fact that in the Minnesota passing offense, playmakers are about as hard to find as lutefisk outside Vikings Country. Over his career, though, Harvin was much more of a sure-handed pass-catcher than you'd think.
I took a look at the numbers for Harvin, specifically those dealing with Net Expected Points (NEP). Just like the name would have you believe, this stat measures how many expected points above or below the league-average play that a player has gained his team. For receivers, this can be measured both as a function of catches (if they don't catch the ball, the play isn't charged to the receiver) and targets (as long as the ball goes their way, it counts). Alongside NEP/catch (NEP per catch) and a receiver's catch rate (the number of balls thrown his way actually caught), we can figure out just how much value a player brings to a team.
|Year||GP||Receptions||Targets||Receiving NEP (Catches)||Receiving NEP (Targets)||NEP/Catch||Catch Rate|
Think about these numbers for a second. In just 13 less targets than Harvin, Michael Jenkins gained just 11.70 expected points of value for the Vikings. Jerome Simpson had 52 targets from Christian Ponder this season; he finished with exactly 0.50 expected points of value when taking into account incompletions thrown his way. And even Kyle Rudolph, once upon a time the fantasy tight end du jour, finished with 26.96 NEP based on targets in 16 games. Christian Ponder, may Christ have mercy on your soul.
More impressive to me, though, is Harvin's catch rate. For NFL receivers, the league-average catch rate sits at around 60 percent. For young receivers, the average is usually much lower. Although Harvin is more of a catch-and-run receiver than most guys, his numbers still place him among the league's best. Among receivers with at least 50 targets thrown their way, only one - Randall Cobb - finished with a catch rate higher than Harvin's 72.9 percent last season.
And that's with Christian Ponder, may the Norse gods not strike him down for his weakness, at starting QB. Ponder completed 62.4 percent of his passes this past season and 54.3 percent in 2011. When throwing Harvin's way, though, over 72 percent of Ponder's passes were complete each season. Even when accounting That's just how much of a difference there was between Harvin and the rest of the Vikings receivers.
Run Westward, My Son
Now, place Harvin in an offense that is actually efficient, and the result could be deadly for the Seattle Seahawks offense. Just look at Russell Wilson and Ponder's numbers side-by-side from last season.
|Name||Pass Yards||Pass TDs||INTs||Pass NEP||Pass NEP/Att.||Rush Yards||Rush NEP||Total NEP|
Even without Percy Harvin lining up out wide, Russell Wilson finished 2012 as the ninth-best skill position player in terms of NEP in the NFL. His 0.27 NEP per pass ranked sixth in the league - only Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers were better. Christian Ponder, may Allah give him the mercy of an actual receiver this season, was nowhere near those marks.
Seattle's receivers, though, were nowhere near Harvin's level. Take Sidney Rice's numbers from last season, for a sad example.
|GP||Receptions||Targets||Receiving NEP (Catches)||Receiving NEP (Targets)||NEP/Catch||Catch Rate|
Rice finished with more NEP than Harvin, but then again, he played seven more games. At his 2012 rate, Harvin would have finished with 73.4 NEP based on targets, which would have shattered Rice's 50.5 mark. Most important to look at, though, is Rice's pass catching ability. Even with the accurate Wilson under center, supposed No. 1 receiver Rice could still only catch 61.0 percent of his passes. That's right about the league average.
Those numbers aren't unique on the Seahawks, though. Golden Tate, who ran considerably shorter routes than Sidney Rice, still only finished with a 67.2 percent catch rate and 48.75 NEP based on targets. Tight end Zach Miller only finished with 17.01 NEP, and even his tight-end-inflated 71.7 percent catch rate could not match Harvin from the past two seasons. All in all, Harvin gives Wilson a weapon the likes of which he's never had.
This is a match made in heaven. Russell Wilson was one of the best quarterbacks in the league last season, but he didn't have a premier weapon. Harvin has the hands and the athleticism to be one of the best in the league, but ever since The Ole Gunslinger left town (mentally first, then physically), he hasn't had a competent quarterback getting him the ball.
All of this should result in the rest of the NFC West cowering in fear. Finishing the season with 155.27 expected points over the league average last season after adjusting for opponents, Seattle already finished the year as the third-most efficient offense in the NFL. With Harvin in town? Better watch out New England, because the 12th Man is shooting for that No. 1 spot.
For a look at how Harvin compares with Anquan Boldin's move to San Francisco, check out our breakdown of that deal here.