The above picture is of Percy Harvin, the Minnesota Vikings 2009 First Round selection in the NFL Draft. A force in his three years at Florida, the Vikings took a chance by drafting him after his positive marijuana test at the NFL Combine.
While short in stature (5'11", 195), Harvin should single-handedly change the Vikings playbook in 2009 because of his versatility.
Last year at Florida, he averaged 9.4 yards per rush and 16.1 yards per catch. The Vikings drafted him for the sole reason that they believe he could improve their offense more than drafting a right tackle (the position many thought they would address in the First Round).
Two short years ago, the Vikings playbook changed immensely when they drafted Adrian "All Day" Peterson with the seventh selection of the 2007 NFL Draft. The team still ran a West-Coast offense, but the emphasis of the team became running the ball, shifting dramatically from the days when Randy Moss caught 70-yard bombs from Daunte Culpepper.
However, the ability to run with Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor has been both a blessing and a curse.
While the Vikings ranked fifth overall in rushing last year, they ranked 25th in passing. Defenses have constantly loaded up with an eighth man in the box to stop the Vikings run game, but the team has not had a formidable passing game to make opposing defenses pay.
The addition of Bernard Berrian last year helped to stretch the field and the drafting of Percy Harvin this year should make the Vikings offense one to be reckoned with in 2009.
The Vikings like to line up in a variety of single-back formations, with two-to-three WRs and one-to-two TEs—especially on early downs—in order to get Peterson established in the game. The problem is that opposing teams have realized this and stacked the box.
While Peterson is the best running back in the NFL, he does tend to lack patience and look for the home run. How else to explain his usual stat line of runs of 1,1,3,4,2,3, and then 60 yards while Chester Taylor consistently seems to get at least three or four yards per carry?
Percy Harvin should allow the Vikings to line up in more split back formations and four or five wide-receiver looks.
Many will remember Adrian Peterson's first professional touchdown was a little screen pass from Tarvaris Jackson that Peterson took 60 yards down the right sideline. This play will be featured more with Harvin in the lineup in order to utilize his speed.
Lining Harvin up in the backfield with Peterson would give opposing defenses fits. They are both explosive enough to score a TD on any touch, but would also be perfect decoys for each other. This formation would also help to set up play-action for Bernard Berrian downfield.
The Vikings should also incorporate more "bubble" screens with Harvin, if he is lined up at WR. Bernard Berrian has great downfield speed, Bobby Wade has great hands, and Sidney Rice is a great Red Zone target, but none of them possess the speed and athleticism that Percy Harvin has. The bubble screen would be a fantastic option to get Harvin the ball in space and let him go to work.
Finally, there have been rumblings that the Vikings may try some form of the Wildcat formation that the Miami Dolphins made so popular last season. With Peterson, Harvin, Chester Taylor, Berrian, and Tarvaris Jackson at their disposal, this seems like a wise idea.
The basic idea behind the Wildcat is that any of the players potentially involved have enough athleticism to pull off the duties of multiple positions. For example, if Bernard Berrian lined up at QB, he might have to run the ball (like a RB), pitch it to Peterson (like a QB), and then catch it later in the play like a WR.
Any way you slice it, the addition of Percy Harvin has the potential to significantly expand the Vikings playbook, something that the team needs to take the next step on offense and punish teams for bringing the eighth man into the box.