This dude is really, really high on Percy Harvin

I didn’t put him on my list of late-round sleepers, but after reading this glowing piece on Rotoworld, maybe I should.

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.”

If he does average 10-12 touches a game, he’s going to be fantasy starter worthy. Figure six carries at about five yards a carry and four catches at about 8-10 yards per catch, and Harvin has about 62-70 total yards (6.2-7.0 points), four catches (4.0 points) and maybe a TD. Other than Adrian Peterson, the Vikings don’t have too many playmakers on offense, so it’s reasonable to think that Childress will get Harvin the ball early and often. This might be a case where it’s okay to draft a rookie WR in the middle rounds.

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Looking at the NFL Draft with a fantasy eye

Fantasy football drafts won’t fire up in earnest for a few more months, but now that the real draft is over, it’s a good time to take a look at the rookie class and try to identify those players that have the best chance to make an impact in 2009.

At any position, a rookie’s value can be estimated with the following equation:

Value = Talent + Opportunity + Readiness

Talent is probably the tougher of the three to judge, but luckily we can leverage the work of those scouts and coaches who just put a ton of time into putting together their draft boards. A first rounder is probably a little better than a second rounder, a second rounder is probably a little better than a third rounder, and so on.

Opportunity is (usually) pretty obvious. If a team has a big hole at running back and they draft one in the first round, the chances are pretty good that he’ll be the team’s leading rusher by the end of the season.

Readiness has more to do with position than anything else. Year in and year out, running back is by far the easiest position for a rookie to excel. The big hurdle is pass blocking, so if they can get that down, they’ll see a lot of playing time. Just hand them the ball and let ‘em run. Rookie wide receivers have a tougher time finding success early on, but there are usually one or two guys each year who crack the top 30. Last year, it was Eddie Royal and Desean Jackson. In 2007, it was Dwayne Bowe. In 2006, it was Marques Colston. Larry Fitzgerald, Lee Evans and Michael Clayton thrived in 2004. The list goes on.

Generally speaking, very few tight ends and quarterbacks make a substantial fantasy impact in their rookie seasons. In 2008, Matt Ryan had the best season for a rookie QB in years, and he finished #16 amongst quarterbacks, making him only a decent backup in most fantasy leagues.

So it’s best to focus on the running backs and wide receivers. Here are a few guys to keep your eye on…

RUNNING BACKS

Knowshon Moreno looks to be the odds on favorite to lead all rookies in rushing, though the Denver backfield is crowded with Correll Buckhalter, LaMonth Jordan, Ryan Torain and Selvin Young fighting for carries. Still, the team burned a first round pick to get him, so they obviously plan to use him. He’s a great all around back and an underrated receiver…Chris “Beanie” Wells joins Tim Hightower in the Arizona backfield. Hightower seems to be more of a short-yardage guy, but don’t rule out the Cards utilizing a RBBC. Wells has had a few nagging injuries throughout his career, but he hasn’t missed much time. His competitiveness has been questioned, though he’s a superb natural runner…Shonn Greene isn’t explosive, but he runs hard and is a patient runner. He has Thomas Jones and Leon Washington ahead of him, but those are two guys that could be overtaken if he plays extremely well in the preseason…Bernard Scott is a sleeper in Cincinnati. Cedric Benson is the starter there and Chris Perry was just cut, so it’s feasible that Scott could overtake Benson if he falters, on or off the field. Scott is a good all around back from a small school (Abilene Christian) who could surprise some people…Most of the other guys drafted early on are going to situations where they’ll likely be unable to overtake the starter unless there’s an injury of some sort. Donald Brown (IND), LeSean McCoy (PHI) and Glen Coffee (SF) fall into this category.

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