Fantasy Faceoff: Percy Harvin vs. Victor Cruz

Posted: July 29, 2012 in Fantasy, Fantasy Football Draft, NFL
Tags: , , , ,


It’s time for another Fantasy Faceoff between Fantasy FB Pundit and I. According to the official scorer here at, I’m currently undefeated in our faceoffs. Pundit will try to get in the win column by arguing Percy Harvin, as I argue for Victor Cruz. Let’s just say I don’t like his chances. Here we go with Cruz vs. Harvin…

The Case for Percy Harvin

Percy Harvin was in the news recently for contract issues that, ultimately, will have little to no effect on his fantasy value for the 2012 season, but it gives me a good enough reason to talk about why I’m so high on him this year. Chet from The Fake Football noted Harvin’s silly second half production in a post of his own, how the fourth-year receiver averaged more than 15 points per game over the final seven games of the season (actually 16.3 points if you use fractional scoring), an average that includes a Week 15 performance against the Saints when Harvin managed less than a full point.

Chet also noted the spike in Harvin’s production once Christian Ponder was inserted as the Vikings starting quarterback. It’s important to examine just how much Donovan McNabb was a drag on Harvin’s production during the first six games. Removing his kickoff return TD Week 1 against the Chargers, Harvin averaged a mere 6.7 fantasy points per game during McNabb’s reign of terror — a number that,  if prorated over an entire season, would have put Harvin in Malcom Floyd territory in terms of fantasy scoring.

Harvin also did not score a single offensive TD during McNabb’s time as starting QB. Harvin averaged 5.8 targets and 2.3 carries during those first seven games. I wouldn’t be surprised if fantasy owners, frustrated with Harvin’s lack of usage and production, had put him on waivers at this point. But then, of course, two things happened that aided a spike in Harvin’s production: Ponder took over as starter, and Adrian Peterson ended up missing what amounts to essentially four full games due to injury.

It took until after Minnesota’s bye week, but Harvin’s usage started to rise dramatically. Remember, whereas before when McNabb was the starter, Harvin averaged a combined 8.1 targets + carries per game. From weeks 10-17, Harvin’s combined targets/carries line looks like this: 11, 13, 13, 14, 19, 8, 10, 21.  That’s an average of 13.6 targets/carries per game, or a notable increase of 5.5 per game.

And with more opportunity, of course, comes more fantasy points: Harvin’s 15.2 points/game average over his final eight games would have made him the No. 2 overall WR over the course of a full season; if you want to include all 10 games started by Ponder, Harvin’s average was 13.5 points/game, a number that still would have ranked him No. 2 overall at WR over 16 games.

And as we know, Ponder is entrenched as the starter this season, and though it’s too early to tell how Peterson will recover from his torn ACL — suffered only six months ago — I think it’s safe to say the Vikings will ease him back into his role as full-time back, thus providing Harvin with more rushing opportunities.

And that’s the thing about Harvin.  Much has been made about his limited role in the offense — per Pro Football Focus, Harvin played in only 59% of the Vikings’ snaps last season, and ran only 24 pass routes per game (Wes Welker, by comparison, ran 38 per game)  – but Harvin is not your typical receiver who relies on a lot of traditional routes to achieve his fantasy value. For one, Harvin’s 52 carries last season may not seem like much, but they accounted for 28% of his total fantasy value.  As it is with running quarterbacks, there’s a lot of value in wide receivers who also touch the ball via the ground game.

Second, Minnesota uses Harvin all over the field — again via Pro Football Focus, Harvin lined up 14% of the time in the backfield last season, 36% out wide, and 51% in the slot. I’ve embedded a highlight clip below of some of Harvin’s best 2011 plays. Watch him get carries from lined up in the backfield (0:45 and 2:25 marks), catch a screen pass and take it to the house (0:52), catch a short crossing route and take it to the house (1:36), and watch him explode on an end around (0:27 and 0:35, amongst others). The guy can beat you in so many ways.

Watch Percy Harvin Video

Here’s another stat from Pro Football Focus. Harvin’s aDOT of 5.9 yards — basically, how far down the field he was when targeted with pass — was the lowest amongst all receivers last season with at least 54 catches. What does that mean?  Well, again, the Vikings aren’t using Harvin as your prototypical wideout, sending him 12+ yards down the field on a pass play; instead they’re targeting him on plays half that distance in order to get the ball in his hands and allowing him run after the catch.

Don’t forget that even with his slow start to the year,  Harvin finished 8th overall in WR scoring last year. Early ADP data has him currently going off the board at the beginning of Round 5 in 2012 drafts, as the 19th WR overall. When you look at the way Harvin finished last season, knowing that Ponder is the starting QB and that Peterson won’t be completely recovered, there’s certainly value to be had in a player that’s being drafted as a low-end WR2 who is fully capable of putting up top 10 numbers.

Now, Victor Cruz. Is it lazy analysis to say that I have to see him do it again before buying into the hype that Cruz is an elite talent?  (The “it”, of course, being the ridiculous 2011 season he put together).  There’s no doubt Cruz was a beast last year, and a consistent one to boot. But Cruz relied on the big-play a little too much for my liking: he had TD grabs of 72, 68, 72, 99, and 74 yards last season.

Is that repeatable in 2012? I think that big-play ability regresses this year, and it will show in his fantasy output. Remember, Cruz came out of absolutely nowhere last season — he wasn’t even a regular contributor to start the season — so he won’t be sneaking up on anyone this year.

Also note that despite what their numbers may have suggested, Hakeem Nicks is still the No. 1 receiving option on this team, and the most talented. Nicks is also the bigger threat in the red zone, having been targeted 20 times inside the 20 last year, compared to just 10 for Cruz. Nicks also had three times as many targets inside the five-yard line (9 vs 3), while playing one less game. Now, don’t get me wrong: I certainly don’t hate Cruz, and would be fine with him as my WR2, but I think his upside will be capped there in 2012, whereas with Harvin I see legit WR1 potential.

Fantasy FB Pundit

Follow Pundit on Twitter @FantasyFbPundit

The Case for Victor Cruz

Pundit and I have done a few of these now and to be honest I pretty much agree with most of what he says. It’s just we pick a side and argue for our guy. However, this time he said something I strongly disagree with so I wanted to discuss it.

Now I should point out that I have an unfair advantage because I get to read Pundit’s argument before posting mine. Some may feel I should write my response before looking at Pundit’s argument. That’s a valid point. I don’t care but the point is valid. In all seriousness though I just happened to read through this one first because I wanted to make sure I could post his stupid video and I caught what he said about Cruz.

Pundit said he doesn’t think Cruz will produce as many big plays this year. My question is; why? Have you seen Cruz? He may be the most explosive receiver after the catch in the NFL right now. Maybe the most impressive play I saw last year was Cruz’s 99-yard touchdown reception against the Jets. How many receivers in the NFL have the skill to make this play? Now I’m not saying Cruz will score from 99 yards every season but look at that run and tell me he doesn’t have the quickness, speed and open field moves to be a consistent big-play receiver.

I think too many fantasy writers use the “well, he’s only had one big year” argument. Then they tell you that player’s production will decline. Again, why? I watched Arian Foster play two games and I said, ‘That son of a gun is no fluke.” I didn’t need to see Foster play 10 years in the NFL to know he was good. I feel the same way about Cruz.

This kid showed it all last year. He caught short passes and long passes. He went deep and he went over the middle. He lined up on the inside and on the outside. I think you can tell some guys are superstars right away and Cruz is one of those guys. I didn’t need to see Foster do it again to know he was an elite talent and I don’t need to see Cruz play five years to know he’s an elite receiver.

Sometimes it’s good to leave all the math in the classrooms and just watch football. Not many guys come out of nowhere and go for 1,500 yards receiving. That’s pretty impressive and if you watched Cruz last year and think he’s some kind of fluke, there’s not a lot I can do for you.

If you don’t want to trust me, trust Bill Belichick. Anyone who follows the Patriots knows Belichick always tries to take away who he views as the opposing teams most dangerous offensive player. Well, watch the Super Bowl over again. Cruz was bracketed by three defenders on virtually every play. Belichick was so worried about Cruz beating him that he singled up Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. Now you can argue that strategy cost him. I would argue it took one of the greatest throws in NFL history to beat him. But that’s how much respect Belichick had for Cruz and how he can change a football game.

I keep hearing that Nicks is the Giants “best’ receiver. I disagree with that statement. I would say Nicks is the Giants most physically gifted receiver but Cruz showed last year that he can do a lot of different things in the Giants offense. Nicks is a great player but the one frustrating thing about him – and this is on offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride – is the Giants don’t really move him around a lot, so sometimes he can be taken out of games. On the other hand, Cruz lines up all over the place, so unless teams want to gamble and devote three defenders to stopping him like the Patriots did, Cruz usually finds a mismatch at some point during the game.

The two things that impressed me the most about Cruz in his first season were his versatility and consistency. I already talked about how versatile Cruz is, now let’s talk about his consistency. I mean these numbers are mind-boggling.

Cruz had seven 100-yard games. He had 12 games with at least 74 receiving yards. Cruz scored a touchdown in seven games and finished the season with a Giants franchise record 1,536 receiving yards. All this despite the fact Cruz barely played the first two weeks. So that’s 82 receptions, 1,536 yards and 9 touchdowns in basically 14 games. Does that sound like a fluke to you? Cruz didn’t have a few big games. He dominated all season long. That’s no fluke.

Now let’s talk about Harvin, one of my all-time favorite players dating back to his days at Florida. I’m a big Harvin guy, I just don’t like him as much as Cruz for fantasy purposes. First of all, Harvin’s team is in shambles. This Minnesota squad is on the verge of going from bad to worse. I really believe Leslie Frazier and Bill Musgrave are two of the worst coaches on the planet and that’s why Harvin is unhappy. The good news is Harvin won’t be unhappy for long because both of those idiots will be lucky to last the season.

The other thing about Harvin is I think his carries are getting overrated by fantasy writers heading into the season. While Harvin does get some carries, there’s a guy named Toby Gerhart who is also in line for a heavier workload this season. So now we’re talking Adrian Peterson, Gerhart and Harvin. I’m sorry but how many carries do you really think Harvin is going to get?

Let’s be realistic, the Vikings coaches only use Harvin on like 58% of offensive plays to begin with for Christ sakes. Now that they have faith in Gerhart, Harvin will be lucky to get 25 carries this season. He had 52 last year and that was with Peterson hurt and Gerhart not running hard until later in the year.

Actually, 19 of Harvin’s 52 carries came after Peterson’s knee injury and the two seasons before Harvin finished with a pedestrian 15 and 18 rushing attempts. Those numbers are similar to DeSean Jackson and no one talks about him being some kind of dangerous fantasy dual threat. So there were circumstances that contributed to Harvin’s carries tripling last season. It’s not the norm. Let’s not turn this guy into the next Darren Sproles here.

You’ll be lucky to get 30 carries out of Harvin in 2012. Harvin’s carries are a gimmick. Don’t fall for the illusion. By the way, why is it that Harvin’s career best in carries almost tripled last season and we don’t need to see him do that again before we’re convinced?

I had Harvin on my fantasy team last year. He had a good season, right? Yes, he did but do you know what his final numbers were? He had 967 yards receiving and 6 scores. So Cruz and Harvin had basically the same number of receptions, yet Harvin had 569 less yards. How did this happen? Well, one guy has Eli Manning throwing him the football and the other had Christian Ponder/Donovan McNabb/Joe Webb throwing him the ball.

This leads me to my final point. Both Cruz and Harvin are excellent players in my opinion but one is clearly in the much better situation and that’s Cruz. I mean Harvin has never eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in his career. Cruz rolled out of bed and topped 1,000 yards for fun.

You don’t think quarterback play and the state of the offense has anything to do with that? You don’t think being on the field more than 60% of the time has anything to with that? Sure it does. If Harvin was on the Giants he would be putting up the same numbers as Cruz. There’s no doubt about it.

Let me ask you a question: What’s changed in 2012? Ponder may be a little better if he can even last two months of the season? Well, Eli is still pretty good. This is where the argument is won for me. I personally think Cruz is a stud. I think he showed me everything last year and there’s no doubt in my mind he’s the furthest thing from a one-year wonder. However, even if you prefer Harvin, Cruz plays in a far superior offense with a far superior quarterback. Those are the facts and they can not be disputed.

Oh, and I didn’t even mention Harvin’s history of migraines but I don’t need to. This one is a slam dunk in my favor. I think you would have a tough time arguing Nicks vs. Cruz, forget about a guy on the Vikings sinking ship of an offense. Easy call here.

The Pigskin Guy

Follow PSG on Twitter @ThePigskinGuy

  1. German C. says:

    nice read , very deep details and analysis , very impressive. 2 things though : first not so sure if that call is so easy Cruz being way better than Harvin ( i think me too i would take Cruz over Harvin , but not as no brainer here) and second ,if Cruz is realy better than Nicks : i realy need to see if Cruz goes DeSean Jackson way or is he able to put atleast 1000-1200 Yards and 8-10 TD’s season coming back from his breakout season with these unbelievable catches and stats, to make me a believer.
    Nicks is a playmaker in every aspect of the game, he is full package , only knockoff is his staying healthy, which downgrades him a bit…..but i rather own Nicks than Cruz IMO.

    still nice read , i like this site alot very nice articles and analysis indeed , and yes Jerry Jones is an idiot……but hopefully even him come to mind one day…..Go Boyz !

  2. Eric Lyons says:

    you could’ve won this argument with far fewer words…one of my draft rules….”when you like two receivers he same, take the one with the better QB”. Done.

  3. Randy says:

    This is great analysis, although in going thru several mock drafts, I’m seeing Cruz getting drafted before Harvin every time, by a several spots, due to Cruz’s huge season last year. And honestly, I’m happy about it. There are other WRs I’d rather have as my WR1 than Cruz (including Nicks) and would love to land Harvin as my WR2. So in my ideal world, I would be more apt to have Harvin on my team than Cruz, regardless of which one is actually better.

    For me, the one question I’d have, is who is better between Harvin and Lloyd? I’m seeing these two going around the same time, and I am yearning for both of them!

  4. anarchyraliv says:

    I wouldn’t mind having either of these guys on my team.

    Really enjoying this series.

  5. budrick says:

    Good quote Lyons about the qb. It seems Cruz is recieving a little more love in the mocks as of now. He is at least going 1 if not 2 rounds before Harvin. Seem to be getting Harvin in 5th 6th rd range. Where as Cruz seems to be going 3rd 4th. I’m not ready to take Cruz that early. So based on ADP, I’d go with Harvin

  6. JT Marlin says:

    Would you rather have Cruz at ADP 32 or Harvin at ADP 59? To me it’s an easy call to wait on Harvin, who’s production should be as good if not better than Cruz.

    You can talk all you want about the Giants throwing a ton and winning the SB but the reality is that the Giants barely made the playoffs. If it wasn’t for PHI horrendous start and the Cowboys ineptitude, the Giants would have been out. The team is going to rely more on Def and the run game this year, which last year finished dead last in team rushing yards. Expect the rushing yards to get back to the team norm, which will cut at least 500 yards from the passing game. PSG – you really think that Cruz is going to come close to repeating his 5 long TD, average length of 77 yards? No way is that going to happen this season. How did that work out for CJ2K in 2010 & 11?

    Cruz is a great talent but things usually balance out and return to the mean in the NFL, meaning we should expect a substantial drop in Cruz’s stats. Don’t buy high on what could have been his career year.

    • #nerd says:

      I guess if you think Bradshaw is going to have a bounce back year, or there going to drop a load on the rookies back, the G men pass for a good bit less. I don’t know why either of those happen though. AB is what he is. I can see there passing numbers coming down a bit, because no they probably wont finish 32nd in running again. But the fact that they did and won the SB, proves no team needs to run the ball even close to well to win games, which is ultimately what teams care about. Why wouldn’t they put on Eli’s shoulder again? If it ain’t broke,….
      These guys are crazy close, really points at how deep WR is if they go rounds apart from one another. My PPR ADP has them @ 3.7 and 4.1 though. I like Cruz, i think sometimes you just gotta know when a start is born, and although Percy is a bit of a star too, i think we know how bright he can shine in MIN. As Eric said, take the WR with the better QB.

  7. Someone mentioned DeSean Jackson, which is not a bad comparison for Cruz — re: big-play ability.

    In 2009, DJax had TD grabs of 71, 64, 57, 54, and 60 yards.

    In 2010, he had three TD grabs go for 50+ yards.

    In 2011, he had one TD grab go for 50+ yards.

    I do think Cruz is a better all around WR than Jackson, but when it comes to to the home-run ball, that sort of thing usually isn’t repeatable year after year.

  8. Manuel says:

    I must say I’m not sold on Ponder yet. Why? After the disaster McNabb was even I would have looked like a competent QB in comparison. So I don’t know how he’ll be that big of an upgrade as a starter. I have much more trust in Eli Manning having a great season than I have in Ponder.
    Both receivers I like but the coaching staff with the Giants is elite while the coaching staff with the Vikings is worse then high school level, so that will hurt Harvin’s game. The plus side is that the Vikings will be coming from behind almost in every game so there will be a lot of passes thrown and garbage time TDs to help Harvin’s fantasy production.

  9. Mike Ward says:

    Thank for all the info. I just found you a couple of months ago. Get well soon. God Bless you.

  10. Hubb says:

    Man I really wish you the best! I just started reading your blog a few months ago so I hope you are able to get back as soon as possible!

  11. anarchyraliv says:

    please come back soon, Casale. I just have FantasyFBpundit to bother on twitter and he largely (and wisely) ignores me.

  12. FootballQA says:

    Nice Read, just found your site and it sucks that you are going on a Hiatus. I just read this article and I have to agree with you about Cruz. I think Cruz has an upside where Harvin may never have another Brett Farve to throw to him again.

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