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The Fantasy Football Beneficiaries of Percy Harvin’s Hip Surgery

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin
 Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin

October 14, 2012; Landover, MD, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin (12) runs with the ball as Washington Redskins inside linebacker London Fletcher (59) chases in the first quarter at FedEx Field. Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

If you were like a lot of mock drafters, Percy Harvin‘s imminent hip surgery and his subsequent absence from the Seattle Seahawks’ offense in 2013 saved you from yourself.

Harvin, who griped his way out of Minnesota in April, was going in the middle of the third round in fantasy football drafts, often as the eighth receiver off the board, before it was revealed July 30 that he would have hip surgery and miss most—if not the entire—2013 campaign.

Paying that steep price for Harvin meant you were banking on Russell Wilson chucking the pigskin close to 600 times, as the good folks at rotoViz are wont to point out. The Seahawks’ offense, in that scenario, would’ve converted their run-heavy ways into one of the NFL’s pass happiest attacks.

It wasn’t going to happen. Harvin owners in standard leagues would’ve found themselves in group therapy by December.

The question burning up the circuitry of your degenerate brain, as happens with every major NFL injury, is this: who benefits from Harvin’s absence in the Seattle offense? No one will inherit the unique role Harvin was slated to take in the Seahawks’ offense, but Wilson is going to have to throw the ball to someone, and that someone will become fantasy relevant to some degree.

Seattle wide receivers Sidney Rice — he of many injuries — and Golden Tate — he of the Fail Mary — are our prime candidates.

Player/Season Targets Receptions Yards Average Yards per Attempt
Sidney Rice 2012 79 48 707 9.33
Golden Tate 2012 68 43 676 12.05

 

Tate’s AYA jumps off the screen here, but beyond that, Wilson had no clear favorite in the Seahawks’ limited passing attack last season. That 12.05 mark, by the bye, was the second highest in the NFL last season, according to rotoViz.

Both Rice and Tate vanished for large swaths of 2012 as the Seahawks ran an ultra-conservative offense through Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. That was largely a result of a team that simply wouldn’t put the ball in the air.

Wilson, amazingly, had 210 pass attempts in the first half of the 2012 season. Twenty-five quarterbacks had more. Wilson had even fewer attempts in the season’s final eight contests, throwing it 164 times, 107 fewer than Joe Flacco.

It’s important to note that Wilson, unlike a lot of young quarterbacks, didn’t lock on to any one pass catcher. He threw the ball to Rice more than anyone, yet Rice saw just 21 percent of Wilson’s throws. Colin Kaepernick, for example, targeted Michael Crabtree on 32 percent of his attempts, and Reggie Wayne saw 31 percent of Andrew Luck‘s throws.

Rice, who is six inches taller and about 10 pounds heavier than Tate, is much closer to the mold of the kind of receiver we pursue in fantasy football: a big guy relevant everywhere, including — and most importantly — in the red zone.

Rice, who was in Switzerland receiving non-surgical knee treatment (keep an eye on this) when news of Harvin’s surgery broke, has a track record Tate can’t touch. Rice in 2009 caught 83 passes for more than 1,300 yards and eight scores, finishing the year as fantasy’s eighth highest scoring receiver.

CBS scribe Jason LaConfora, in his time with the Seattle players, coaches, and front office after news of Harvin’s injury, said the organization’s belief in Tate as a legitimate game-breaking threat was evident.

“There is quiet buzz about [Tate] 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,” LaConfora wrote. “[Head coach Pete] 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.”

Wilson, LaConfora reports, is smitten with Tate, complimenting the receiver’s commitment to the small stuff in offseason workouts and training camp.

Tate is being drafted at the tail end of the 13th round, while Rice is going a full two rounds earlier. Unless and until there becomes a clear favorite in which pass catcher will enter the season as the team’s No. 1 option, I’m inclined to take the cheaper option.

That’s Tate for now. It might not be by next week.

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