The Player Profile series breaks down the 2012 performances of key players at each position in order to project where they should be drafted in 2013. Dig in, read up, and look ahead.
Percy Harvin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
One of the two biggest newsmakers this year, Harvin is a guy that fantasy players love and hate at the same time. There was much speculation heading into the 2012 season as to Harvin’s health, hate that was somewhat justified, though justified wrongly in my opinion. For all the injury questions Harvin has, he played in all 16 games in 2011. In 2010, Harvin played in 14 games, receiving no fewer than five targets in any one outing. All this is to say: I think the Harvin “injury” train is an overrated aberration that affected his play mostly for the first time last year.
Still, last year, Harvin was one of the best wide receivers from a fantasy perspective. In nine games, Harvin saw ten targets or more five times. He was third in the league, second amongst wide receivers, in yards after the catch, meaning he was making his primary defender miss on most plays. His 74 receiving yards per game, over the course of a sixteen game season, would have put him at barely under 1,200 yards on the year, and would have been good for 12th in the league. All of this with Christian Ponder throwing him passes. As mentioned on Living the Stream, Harvin was basically the only guy worth a lick besides Kyle Rudolph in the passing game in Minnesota. Entering Seattle with some legitimate threats around him to stretch the field, Harvin’s upside is through the roof.
At the time he got injured, according to RotoViz.com, Harvin was most comparable with Steve Smith 2009 and Wes Welker 2007. To try and put this into perspective (while certainly not a perfect measure) Steve Smith was ranked as the number 9 overall wide receiver in PPR leagues, and number 10 overall wide receiver in non-PPR leagues by ESPN’s fantasy rankings after his 2009 campaign. In 2008, Welker was the 6th best wide receiver in PPR leagues, and the 20th wide receiver in non-PPR leagues by ESPN’s rankings after his 2007 campaign.
Right now, Harvin is the 7th wide receiver off the board, which is probably about where he should be going. My sense, if I have any, is that when many more casual owners (because, let’s be honest, right now the more casual player is not drafting) start drafting, that number will fall a little bit. I think we overrate injuries quite a bit in the NFL – I believe every player in the league is “injury prone” because they play football – and I think it’s a particularly trendy or “smart sounding” thing to say about Percy Harvin. I just don’t buy that the injury bug is a) something that exists in any manifest way except for when it comes to concussions (see: Best, Jahvid), nor b) something that exists as it pertains to Percy Harvin. In an offense with competent quarterback play, I think if Harvin falls below the middle of the third round, he is an absolute steal, particularly in PPR and .5 PPR leagues (which I am partial to).
Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos
On the fifth episode of LateRoundQB’s Living the Stream Podcast, Denny and JJ really talked down my main man Wes. I have to respectfully disagree with their assessment. The more I think about it, I believe that the whole “Decker takes away from Welker, Welker from Decker” thoughts are a little bit overstated, because they ignore three things: Brandon Stokley, Joel Dreesen, and Jacob Tamme. Those three players saw a combined 201 targets in 2012. I firmly believe that Welker will be taking those targets away more than he will anybody else’s.
In fact, if Welker took only Stokley and Dreesen’s targets, he will have seen only seven fewer targets than his now-teammate Eric Decker saw last year. Additionally, if Welker takes Stokley and Dreesen’s targets and Tamme’s targets were reduced to what Dreesen saw, and Welker got those targets, he would have 143 targets – as many as Roddy White and Victor Cruz totaled last year. Now, this is not to say this will all work out perfectly. Some of Welker’s targets will be “taken” from Decker and Thomas, and Welker almost definitely will not hit the ridiculous 174 targets he saw last year, that’s not necessarily something to fear. Only Megatron, Marshall, and Wayne saw more targets than that last year, so if Welker is dropping into Roddy White and Victor Cruz range in terms of targets, or “worse” into Eric Decker and Julio Jones range in terms of targets, is that really so bad?
All of this is to say: I am not worried about Welker’s production all that much. There are plenty of targets to go around in Denver. Further, Welker is entering the absolutely abysmal AFC West. Though the AFC East was not a great passing defense, the Raiders ranked as the 30th passing defense in the league last year, and Kansas City was even worse at 31. San Diego was only slightly better at 18. The Broncos have the easiest schedule in the league for 2013 (opponents were a combined .430 in 2012). Right now Welker is the 15th wide receiver off the board, 14th in PPR leagues. While I appreciate Denny and JJ’s concern that Welker will be overdrafted by name value, I think, at the very least, it’s counteracted by people’s irrational (in my opinion) fear of Welker’s lost targets. If he’s there in the middle of the fourth round (where he is being drafted right now) I think that’s valuable. I’m not taking him as my WR1 (I like to build teams around WRs), but as my WR2, I prefer him to a lot of guys in that area, specifically Michael Crabtree and Jordy Nelson.
Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins
Wallace got a contract that some would call “absolutely ridiculous” and others might refer to as “effing crazy”. While fantasy players may shy away from guys who just got paid, myself being one of them, I can understand the logic if someone were to say “Well, they have a lot of money invested in Wallace, they better find ways to use him.” The issue is, with Wallace, I think his production is going to go away.
Over each of the last three years, Wallace’s yards per reception has dropped. In 2010 he had a whopping 21 yards per catch, which would have been good for number one overall in 2012 by nearly two yards, and put him only behind DeSean Jackson in 2010. In 2011 Wallace dropped to a much more reasonable 16.6 yards per reception, which put him 15th in 2011 but would have had him in 6th in 2012. In 2012, Wallace’s yards per catch dropped to 13.1, putting him at 48th in the league, behind speedsters Scott Chandler and Vernon Davis.
All this is to say that Wallace seems to be a speed receiver who is gradually losing his speed. It’s not just going to come back – speed is a particular skill set that does not “unerode” so to speak. The plus for Wallace is that he is leaving the tough AFC North for the weaker (in terms of pass protection) AFC East. While he may pay a visit to Revis Island twice per year – and that’s something owners should be aware of – he also gets Buffalo (number 22 in passing defense in 2012) and New England (23), as opposed to the AFC North where he got Cincinnati (9), Baltimore (13), and Cleveland (20) twice per year. But he’s not totally out of the hole. Miami hosts Baltimore, Cincy, Atlanta (11), and travel to Pittsburgh and Cleveland in 2013.
Miami’s schedule is really tough this season, and I’m not totally sold on Mr. Lauren Tannehill yet as a quarterback. I do think he could be a nice player, but it’s not going to happen overnight. Having a target that still is basically impossible to overthrow in Wallace will be nice, but it’s going to take some time. Right now Wallace is going in the middle of the fifth, ahead of Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon…and a full round ahead of Dwayne Bowe and Steve Smith. I don’t love a ton of guys in this area, but I’d much rather be relying on those four over Wallace, as I think he is going to begin trending further downward. If you want speed, I’d wait until the 8th to grab Shorts or Hilton. They have similar skill sets but without the risk of relying on them as your WR2.