Pre-Training Camp Issues: Minnesota Vikings

Percy Harvin (Tom Dahlin/Viking Update)

Why did the Minnesota Vikings select Percy Harvin with their first-round pick and how will he be used in their offense? How will his presence affect other players? We're taking a look at these issues and more, inside.

Issue No. 1: Why did the Vikings select Percy Harvin in this year's draft and how will he be used?

Answer: This is probably the most intriguing question that this team will deal with in 2009.

When the Vikings selected the multifaceted player with their first-round pick, some were surprised considering vice player of player personnel, Rick Spielman, said before the draft that there were at least 78 players that were pulled off of their draft board due to off-the-field or character issues. Harvin's history of off-the-field issues has been well documented, so why did they make an exception?

When you look at Harvin's skill set, he might be one of the most unique players to come out of any draft in a long time. While I'm not saying that the team was looking the other way, they felt they could handle Harvin. If he was part of that list of 78 (in all likelihood he once was at one time), he clearly came off it. That's why they made an extra trip to see him before the draft. They wanted to make absolutely sure they were going to be able to deal with him. When the decision was made, it was probably head coach Brad Childress' all the way, as league sources believe he makes the final call on all personnel decisions with input of others. I'd imagine because of the possible backlash of such a move, Childress had to get ownership's approval. And once he did, Harvin was going to be their guy at No. 22 in the first round.

My opinion of the selection is this. Just as in business you realize there's a risk/reward in every decision you make. This one has a very high risk and extremely high reward. As much as I've criticized Childress in the past for various decisions, I actually applaud him for his boldness here. Sometimes, you have to go against conventional wisdom and if you think someone is that special, you go for it and don't concerned with what others outside your business think. I believe that's what Childress wound up doing. He thought Harvin was so special that he had to make the move. That's why he selected Harvin--he's that special of a talent, perhaps rare.

Now comes the exciting part.

After talking to various league sources in regard to how Harvin will be used, it became increasingly obvious that he'll be used all over the field, but in which ways?

Not only was Harvin a tremendous receiver, his skills as a running back shouldn't be diminished. Over his three years at the University of Florida, Harvin ran for an eye-popping 9.54 yards per carry. This wasn't on just 20-30 carries, it was on 194. So, he obviously can be effective in more ways than just a receiver. But as a personnel source notes, Harvin did some of that damage out of spread formation, which can make it easier to run out of. However, as the source also points out, Harvin is a "big-time space player." This means once put in space to be able to beat an unblocked defender one-on-one, he's likely to win that battle most of the time.

In-space plays are the kind of plays that Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will probably employ with him a good percentage of the time. And with Harvin in the backfield or split out wide as a receiver, he's another player opposing defenses have to worry about. And look for RB Adrian Peterson and Harvin to be on the field at the same time probably more than most expect. While many believe Harvin will line up in the backfield with Peterson, that might be in the pre-snap phase. Don't be surprised to see Harvin be moved to the slot with Peterson in the backfield.


Issue No. 2: How will Harvin's presence affect other players and what kind of impact can he have?

As alluded to above, the coaches will likely use Harvin on the field at the same time as Peterson. With teams committing more attention to Harvin, there will be at least one less defender in the box to stop Peterson. One less defender trying to stop the league's best running back means something, perhaps quite a bit. It means better rushing lanes and bigger plays for Peterson.

With the dangerous Harvin on the field, his presence means less double coverage for WR Bernard Berrian. Last season, Berrian could almost always count on getting coverage with a safety over the top at least part of each game. It will be harder for teams to do that with Harvin on the field at the same time.

Harvin will also potentially become a big upgrade for their slot position. Keep in mind the team was clearly looking to upgrade that position over Bobby Wade with T.J. Houshmandzadeh. While Harvin has to prove he has good hands, he certainly has much better speed than either veteran receiver and he's better in space.

With emerging TE Visanthe Shiancoe likely to receive more attention from defenses this season, the coaches will need to find another passing option, especially when Shiancoe is moved out wide. That's where Harvin comes in. He can be moved as an inside or slot receiver. If Peterson is going to be on the field at the same time as Harvin, Berrian, and Shiancoe, teams are going to have a tough time deciding how they are going to stop the Viking offense consistently.

All in all, Harvin's potential impact on the Viking offense is enormous not just for this season, but long-term. I wonder if Brett Favre has any idea of what he's getting with Harvin? He certainly hasn't ever played with anyone like him. But we'll touch on that topic once Favre officially signs a contract.


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