Back in 1962 when he was still a scout with the Chargers, Al Davis was dispatched to Alabama to bird-dog a rifle-armed quarterback named Joe Namath. Upon returning to San Diego, a grinning Davis told GM Sid Gillman he saw a player who "tips the field." Urged to explain further, Davis added, "This S.O.B. plays like he's going downhill."
When I look for rookies with the potential to take the league by storm, it's that "downhill, tipping-the-field" quality that is foremost in my mind. Two years ago, I promoted the idea of taking Adrian Peterson in the second round of re-draft leagues
if need be. At this time last year, I revved up the Chris Johnson hype train
. This year's difference-making rookie is Percy Harvin
. We all know that Knowshon Moreno
will be the highest rookie off the board – and deservedly so. But it's Harvin that will create the most big plays with the ball in hands.Editor's Note: For the most up-to-date player rankings, profiles, projections, cheatsheets, and much, much more that will allow you to dominate your fantasy football league, check out the 2009 Rotoworld Football Draft Guide.
Harvin averaged nearly 10 yards
per carry in college. Small sample size? Nope. Harvin carried the ball 194 times at Florida, the great majority after lining up in the backfield – not, as often suspected, taking advantage of misdirection. He finished last season with 17 touchdowns on 40 receptions and 70 rushing attempts. More impressively, his best production came in his team's biggest games.
More evidence of Harvin's difference-making talent? Teammate Jeff Demps was the fastest player in NCAA last season
, and Harvin played faster. Coach Urban Meyer called Harvin's first step the fastest in college football, which matches up well with SI.com's Peter King's description
from Vikings training camp: "Harvin is so quick off the line, then so fast, that if you give him a half-step and don't have a safety over the top for double-coverage help, the Vikings are going to throw a lot of deep touchdowns to this man." For those who believe Harvin may simply be a shake 'n' bake trick-play artist, check out how ridiculously rocked-up
If Harvin's special talent is undeniable, then why is his ADP still hovering around the late eighth to early ninth round
? A long-accepted maxim in fantasy football circles states that rookie wide receivers will always be over-valued on draft day because the production fails to match the hype. Randy Moss
and Anquan Boldin
serve to remind us that they're the exception, not the rule. Receivers take too long to get acclimated to their new offenses, coaches and quarterbacks don't quite trust them, and they simply don't touch the ball enough to accrue fantasy value.
But what if a rookie receiver came along who already had the trust of his coaches, immediately showed a high football IQ, was already incorporated as a major component of the offense, and was set to touch the ball 10-12 times per game? We're talking about not only a unique talent, but a receiver playing a newly invented position: the Percy Position
Early indications are that the Vikings will use Harvin in much the same that Florida did. As soon as Harvin was drafted, head coach Brad Childress called offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and asked, "Hey, where's the list
?" The list contained 20-to-30 plays – including 10-to-15 new plays – specifically designed to get the ball in Harvin's hands in space. As the Vikings installed the Percy Plays during OTAs, Harvin stole the show
. "I think the first thing I thought about was really the same feelings the first time we handed Adrian Peterson
the ball," Childress said. "When you see it with your own eyes … the thing that came to mind right away was, Wow."
Childress wasn't the only Vikings coach to be awestruck by the rookie. Receivers coach George Stewart went even one step further, comparing Harvin's potential impact
to that of another former Minnesota first-round pick: "You talk about what Randy Moss
brought to this football team years ago. True speed, an ability to make plays. This kid is going to make plays for us."