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Buffalo Wings: Percy Harvin takes Flight for the Bills

harvin

With the trade for LeSean McCoy, as well as the addition of Percy Harvin, the Bills are trying to improve an offense that ranked among the worst in the league in 2014. The addition of Harvin will affect all the skill players for Buffalo. Let’s examine exactly how in today’s free agency breakdown.

Percy Harvin, WR BUF

After being released by the Jets, rumors swirled that Harvin was looking for a “prove it,” one-year deal so he could revisit the free agent market again in 2016. It makes sense. Over the last three seasons, he’s played for three different teams, been traded twice and perhaps most importantly, has played in just 23 of a possible 48 games so he certainly has something to prove before commanding a high dollar contract on the open market.

Harvin also stated when he was given his walking papers from New York that he was sick of being a “gimmick” player and wanted to be used more as a traditional wide receiver. While on the surface it sounds like such a move would good for his career as well as his fantasy value, that may not be the case. Harvin’s best seasons came in Minnesota where he was primarily used as a “gadget” receiver, catching a lot of bubble screens from the slot as well as routinely running routes or taking handoffs while lining up in the backfield. The fact may be that Harvin is likely to be most successful as a gimmick player in an offense committed to make use of his special talents, like the Vikings did early in his career.

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Last year in New York, Harvin played a similar role for the Jets, albeit with less success than when he was in Minnesota. While his 53 catches for 483 yards and two touchdowns along with his 33 carries for 202 yards (6.1 YPC) and a score in 13 games aren’t particularly impressive numbers, he played in an anemic offense with very little firepower.

Harvin choosing to play in Buffalo seems like an odd choice for two reasons. A receiver looking to demonstrate he’s worthy of a large investment in a one-year window should be looking for stable quarterback play and a dynamic offense to display his skills in. The Bills don’t offer either. Neither Matt Cassell nor E.J. Manuel offer any real upside at the position and with Greg Roman running the offense, the Bills are sure to feature a run heavy offense. Also, if Harvin wanted to get away from being used as a “gadget” receiver, he shouldn’t have followed his head coach Rex Ryan from New York, where he was used as just that.

Some have suggested the situation he’s in now is very similar to that of Minnesota back in 2011, which was his best season as a pro. With the very defensive minded coaching staff headed by Lezlie Frazier, the Vikings featured Adrian Peterson in a very run heavy offense. Neither veteran Donovan McNabb or rookie Christian Ponder were very affective under center, nonetheless Harvin still managed to account for more than 1,300 yards from scrimmage while grabbing 87 passes and scoring eight times in the only season that he played a full slate of 16 games. With LeSean McCoy playing the role of Peterson and the duo of Cassell and Manuel in place of McNabb and Ponder as well as Ryan playing the part of Frazier, the similarities are quite extensive. While the comparisons are intriguing, it certainly doesn’t mean he’s about to repeat what he did for the Vikings – especially if he isn’t open to playing the same role as he did back then.

Overall, it’s incredibly difficult to be excited about Harvin’s upside from a fantasy perspective now that he’s in Buffalo. Although the Bills have added some intriguing pieces, with the offense undoubtedly moving to a ground and pound philosophy its unlikely Harvin approaches the numbers he once did in Minnesota. At best, he should be looked at as a WR4 with upside despite being just 26 years old. If I could unload him for anything more than that, I’d make the move.

Sammy Watkins, WR BUF

The arrival of Harvin shouldn’t hurt Watkins’ upside much due to Harvin primarily playing in the slot. Watkins wasn’t used as an inside receiver much as a rookie, running just 42 routes from the slot and catching just five passes for 43 yards. He’s far more effective as an outside receiver and should remain out there under Ryan, who knows firsthand what Watkins can do after watching him three catches for 157 yards and a touchdown (he should have scored another time as well) in New York last year.

If the addition of Harvin does anything it will help Watkins, as long Harvin plays the role of the underneath option. Having an inside threat the defense must be aware of should do nothing but take defensive coverage away from Watkins in his sophomore season. While I’m leery of Harvin making a huge impact in Buffalo, Watkins’ fantasy value depends greatly on the Bills adding more threats on offense. Between McCoy and Harvin this off-season, they’ve at least attempted to do that.

Although there are still some major question marks in Buffalo, the Bills have added firepower around Watkins and look to be headed in the right direction on offense. Ryan has struggled to find consistency at quarterback in the past so Watkins’ dynasty owners should monitor the situation closely over the next year and expect the Bills to invest a high draft pick in the position a year from now. It’s very important that Watkins gets some stability at the position as quickly as possible.

Overall, there may be some ups and downs for Watkins in year two due to inconsistent quarterback play and him having to learn a new offense again which is never good for any young player, but his upside remains the same as a potential WR1. Dynasty owners should be looking at him as a solid weekly play going into 2015.

Robert Woods, WR BUF

Many have suggested Woods is the player most negatively affected by the addition of Harvin because he ran nearly half of his routes from the slot a year ago. That’s not necessarily the case, however.

woodsstats

As you can see from the statistics above, Woods was far more efficient and productive as an outside receiver for the Bills last year. The addition of Harvin should allow Woods to move out the slot permanently and provide him the opportunity to play where he’s most effective, as an outside receiver.

At this point, it’s unknown if the Bills would prefer Harvin or Woods as the outside receiver across from Watkins in two receiver sets. How often they’ll have three receivers on the field is another question mark although offensive coordinator Greg Roman regularly employed three receivers in San Francisco a year ago. Most, including myself, assume Harvin will adopt the slot role for the Bills in three receiver sets but that’s still up in the air as well.

Despite being the clear third passing option among receivers for a run first team, Woods still carries upside to contribute to dynasty team as soon as this year. There’s a definite possibility that Buffalo’s coaching staff chooses to use Harvin strictly as a slot receiver, leaving Woods as the best outside option across from Watkins. While it certainly isn’t guaranteed that happens, dynasty owners should continue to look at Woods as an asset. He may not improve dramatically on his numbers from a year ago, but he still can take a step forward in 2015. Looking to trade him now makes little sense.

Chris Hogan, WR BUF

After surprisingly catching 41 passes for 426 yards and four touchdowns last year, mostly out of the slot, Hogan’s dynasty value takes a dramatic hit going into 2015. He’s droppable in many leagues as he’s likely to be fourth or fifth on the wide receiver depth chart for a team with an average-at-best passing offense.

Fred Jackson, RB BUF

Jackson will likely also take a hit in fantasy value in 2015. On top of being 34 years old and having McCoy ahead of him on the depth chart, he may also have to compete with Harvin for passing down snaps in the backfield. Although he’s been ageless to this point, it’d be surprising if he offers anything close to consistent fantasy value going forward. Most likely nothing more than a handcuff for McCoy, dynasty owners shouldn’t be counting on Jackson for much going into the season.

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Dan Meylor
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Don Schultz (@mchlbus36)
6 years ago

Doesn’t it seem like “too many mouths to feed” with all the big name highly paid, offensive players on the Bills?
1. QB Situation is pretty terrible. Cassell isn’t going to turn into Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning, making all these guys fantasy relevant. It seems like Ryan and CO. are making a better football team, which isn’t going to translate well for fantasy owners of these guys.
2. Rex and Roman’s run first mentality. While McCoy was brought in to be the workhorse back, they aren’t going to just forget about FJax. I can see Freddie eating up quite a bit of playing time to keep McCoy fresh. Not to mention Boobie Dixon potentially getting the goalline carries. Plus, it is a tough run defense division. Again, its not like teams really need to respect the pass with such a weak QB situation.

I love what the Bills are building. They are trying to become a playoff team. I hate it for fantasy implications. I, for one, would prefer to stay away from the players in Buffalo as much as possible. Am I wrong for seeing it this way?

John H
6 years ago

Only Bill player worth a fantasy roster spot is McCoy until they run him into the ground. The rest of the players are pretty much worthless until the Bills get a real quarterback.

langnp
6 years ago

If you call the #27 WR in PPR with a 12.4 pts/game average in a rookie campaign worthless, I guess so. Watkins will reamin a very viable starting fantasy WR in 2015. He’ll only improve on last year and I see him cracking the top 20 at least; possibly top 15.

John H
Reply to  langnp
6 years ago

My league doesn’t do PPR scoring unfortunately. This season is the Rex Ryan show and I can hardly remember Rex producing a decent fantasy worthy wide receiver in his ground and pound system. I would love Watkins to do well since I drafted him 1.02 last season but I don’t have high hopes for him in that system with journey man quarterback Matt Cassell throwing him the ball.

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