Percy Harvin: A Game-Changer Or a Shape-Shifter?

Duane WinnCorrespondent IApril 26, 2009

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 22:  Percy Harvin #1 of the Florida Gators catches a pass against Demetrius Jackson #1 of the Citadel Bulldogs during the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 22, 2008 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

When all was said and done, the Minnesota Vikings opted for the dazzle of a wideout with their first pick of the NFL Draft rather than the sturdy presence of an offensive tackle or a swift defender to man the secondary.

But will their pick be a game-changer or shape-shifter?

This is the question that haunts the Vikings after their selection of University of Florida standout Percy Harvin, whom they took with the 22nd pick. 

The Vikings made a bold statement when they said they believe that Harvin's character issues are behind him, and they upheld their vow to select the best player available when it came their turn to draft.

Harvin's résumé includes a litany of of transgressions dating back to high school. He bumped an official during a football game in his senior year and received a two-game suspension. He was involved in a fight during a basketball game later in the year. And to top it all off, Harvin tested positive for marijuana during a drug screening at the NFL Combine in February.

Harvin's on and off-field troubles earned him a scarlet letter of sorts. A Pro Football Weekly poll of NFL executives had the embattled Gator at the top of the list of this year's riskiest draft prospects.

The Vikings' brain trust also compiled a list of some four-score draft prospects who they wouldn't draft due to character or attitude issues. They placed red dots beside their names. Obviously, Harvin didn't make the final cut for that dubious distinction.

The fact is that, like Reggie Bush, Harvin possesses extraordinary game-breaking abilities. That's something, despite Harvin's occasional fits of fury and errors in judgment, the Vikings believed that they just couldn't afford to pass up.

During his three-year collegiate career, Harvin caught 133 passes for 1929 yards and 13 touchdowns. He rushed for 1851 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was a prime mover in the Gators' two National Championships.

In 2008, Harvin touched the ball only 110 times and produced 17 touchdowns and 1,303 yards receiving and rushing. He capped his career with 170 all-purpose yards and one touchdown in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game against Oklahoma.

Yet his big-game abilities won't silence his critics, who are naturally wondering why the Vikings, who have had so many off-field issues with their players, would risk a first-round flyer on a player like Harvin?

Coach Brad Childress, as much as he's detested by Vikings fans, did his part to ensure that the Vikings were making  the right move. He visited Harvin last week and, following a heart-to-heart, was satisfied that the Gator has learned from his mistakes.

This doesn't amount to a clean bill of health by any means.

University of Florida coach Urban Meyer voiced the hope that Harvin would be drafted by a team with a solid coaching staff. By this, he seems to imply coaches who can instill a solid work ethic and discipline in players.

Rick Spielman, the Vikings' Vice President of Player Personnel, stated that the Vikings have a strong locker room which will serve as a source of support for Harvin if they sense he is leaving the straight and narrow.

With these safeguards in place, it's up to Harvin to control his own demons.

Whichever way it goes, the Vikings' decision will be viewed as a no-brainer, depending on your perspective.