Can a wide receiver be legitimately considered for the MVP?
It has been a wild season so far in the NFL, with many surprises. Included in those surprises is the 4-1 Minnesota Vikings. The more you look at it, the less surprising it seems. With the great development of young quarterback Christian Ponder, the incredible recovery by Adrian Peterson, and the MVP-type season 4th year wide receiver Percy Harvin is having.
If you’re having an MVP debate, there’s no way you can’t include Harvin. He’s on pace to catch 122 balls for 1,302 yards. The effect Harvin has had on this Vikings offense is undeniable, whether it’s getting them outstanding field position with his explosiveness in the return game, or lining up wherever they need him, whether that be in the backfield, as a slot receiver, or as a wide out. It’s his unpredictability and versatility that’s keeping defenses from shutting down Adrian Peterson with 8 or 9 men in the box. Percy Harvin just makes everyone else around him better. And while there are other viable MVP candidates (Matt Ryan, J.J. Watt), I just don’t see how you can ignore Harvin. If I were to pick one non-quarterback to play on my team, it’d be Percy Harvin. He really can do it all.
One of Harvin’s most notable improvements this year is his tremendous kick-returning ability. While Harvin has always been an excellent return man, his numbers this year have been phenomenal. Outside of last Sunday’s game against Tennessee, Harvin had amassed no less than 74 return yards in a game. You might have thought he was great at returning kicks last year, but he only went over 70 return yards twice last season. He’s doubled that in 4 weeks. Averaging a whooping 38.33 yards per return, he’s already set the tone in a victory by taking back the opening kickoff 105 yards for the score. In that game, the Lions made sure they kept the ball out his hands. Even when Harvin doesn’t touch the ball he’s making a huge difference. Teams have been more than willing to give great starting field-position to the Vikings to avoid kicking the ball into his hands.
The return game isn’t the only thing that has improved significantly so far this year for Harvin. What made him so special at Florida was that he could be just as useful as a running back or as a wide receiver. This year, the Vikings are taking advantage of that. The fact that they can line him up anywhere really jumbles up the defenses, and can sometimes lead to favorable match-ups downfield (e.g. a linebacker covering Harvin). He has also scored on a 4 yard rush, and those types of runs are usually preserved for Adrian Peterson, showing just how much confidence Bill Musgrave and Leslie Frazier have in Harvin. Percy has gone over 100 receiving yards twice this year, and has 2 TDs from scrimmage. The Vikings are using the bubble screen frequently to get him where he excels, in open space. Last week’s 10 yard TD catch by Harvin was off the bubble screen, so there’s no doubting its effectiveness.
While I do think Percy Harvin should be considered for MVP, the chances of him winning it are very slim. Since the Associated Press started giving out it’s MVP award in 1957, no wide receiver has ever won the award. Harvin would be setting a new precedent. If you think Harvin is having a great season, look back at Randy Moss in 2007 (1,493 yards, 23 TDs) or Jerry Rice in 1995 (1,848 yards, 15 TDs). Neither of them won MVP. If you want to make a case for Harvin, it needs to be about his value to the team, not stats. He changes the whole complexion of the game. If he keeps up the way he’s playing for the whole season, and manages to stay healthy (he has had no trouble with migraines this year), there’s no way you can’t mention all-purpose-Percy Harvin in your MVP debate.
Follow Jack Arfin’s football account on twitter @VikingsSundays