Spin Doctors: Cordarrelle Patterson vs. Percy Harvin vs. Michael Crabtree

Dec 29, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Cordarrelle Patterson should be much busier in '14 (USAT)
Dec 29, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Cordarrelle Patterson should be much busier in '14 (USAT)

If you look at the Yahoo fantasy wide receiver rankings, you'll find three players (Cordarrelle Patterson, Percy Harvin and Michael Crabtree) bunched together, fighting for the final spots in our top 20. For different reasons (either injury or lack of playing time), all three players offered up incomplete '13 campaigns. As the '14 season approaches, each of these players looks poised to be full season, go-to options for their respective teams. And Yahoos Brad Evans, Dalton Del Don and myself have a difference of opinion when it comes to who we feel is going to best take advantage of their situation. 

It's time to fire up the Spin machine and let the doctors debate the merits of this trio ... 

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Funston goes on a Viking quest: As a Seattle-area native and a card-carrying member of the 12th man, you might expect me to be backing Percy Harvin in this exercise. But I know full well how conservative that Seattle offense can be, thanks to arguably the best defense in the league. Frankly, it's the same scenario in San Francisco. The Seahawks and 49ers finished neck-and-neck at the bottom of the league in pass attempts, more than 50 pass attempts behind the next lowest team. And they faced each in the NFC Championship game, so don't count on the offensive script changing a whole lot for either team.

Cordarrelle Patterson stands apart from the other two when it comes to team environment. The Vikings, in fantasy, have ideal circumstances, as their defense yielded an NFL-high 30 points per game last season. There will be a far greater need to huck the rock in Minnesota than there will be in Seattle or San Fran.

With that advantage comes Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who made Josh Gordon, similar to Cordarrelle Patterson on the physical freak scale, the top fantasy wideout in '13. Turner got to work designing/installing new plays for Patterson as soon as he was hired last winter. The plan is to move him around and line him up all over the offensive formation in an effort to force-feed him the pigskin. Teammate Greg Jennings recently confirmed the Patterson-featured aerial plan, saying that he got a clear sense of that after sitting down to talk with Turner and head coach Mike Zimmer.

So it's game on from the get-go for Patterson this season. That's a tantalizing thought considering that he was a top 5 fantasy receiver the final five weeks of '13, when the Vikings really started giving the rookie some leash to work with. With a year of seasoning under his belt, the versatility and explosiveness to score from anywhere on the field (he led WRs with 158 rushing yards and three rush TDs) and a point of emphasis from the coacking staff to put the ball in his hands, you don't want to miss the ride on the Patterson rocketship, at least not in favor of Harvin or Crabtree.

Harvin flashed glimpses of his greatness in '13. (USAT)
Harvin flashed glimpses of his greatness in '13. (USAT)

The Noise heralds the return of Harvin: Watching from the sidelines while mending a hip injury, and later in the season a concussion, all but three weeks during Seattle’s magical Super Bowl run, Harvin was a hard-to-swallow footnote in a largely lost 2013. In total, he saw just 68 snaps catching five passes for 43 yards.

Woo friggin’ hoo.

His past physical missteps certainly amplify risk, but those who take the chance on him this season will be richly rewarded.

Harvin dons many gadgets on his utility belt. He’s an ultra-quick, shifty and explosive weapon who’s thrived in the slot, out wide and on backfield sweeps. His 50 accumulated yards on three touches and special teams TD in SB XLVIII showcased his dynamite skills and offered prospective buyers a sneak peak of his fantasy potential as a Seahawk.

After OTAs Harvin admitted he was in the best shape he’s felt since college. He’s motivated, hungry and ready to be Russell Wilson’s weapon of choice with Golden Tate now revving his engine in the Motor City. Yes, the ‘Hawks’ offense is ultra conservative. Wilson only chucked the rock 407 times a season ago. Still, because of his multidimensional talents he’ll receive touches in variable ways, including on kickoffs. He should also dominate targets. Recall Tate, on just 99 looks, grabbed 64 passes for 898 yards and five touchdowns last year. On roughly 20-25 more targets, Harvin should easily haul in 80-plus balls for 1,000-1,100 yards and 7-9 touchdowns.

Crabtree and Patterson, hardly wart-free in their own right, are in a similar boat value-wise, but fearless owners should stack chips on the former top-10 performer (2011).

It’s only a matter of time defenses will scream “Mercy!” over Percy.

Catches don't come easy in the NFC West. (USAT)
Catches don't come easy in the NFC West. (USAT)

Del Don plays the homer card: Crabtree has reached 875 receiving yards in just one of his five seasons in the league, so it’s understandable to criticize my high ranking of him. But over the final eight games of the 2012 season (including the playoffs after Colin Kaepernick took over starting duties just two games prior), Crabtree totaled 55 catches (on 84 targets) for 823 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Over a full season, that projects to 110 catches, 1,646 yards and 14 TDs.

Of course, this is picking a certain sample in which he looks best, but it’s safe to say he wasn’t close to 100 percent after returning from a torn Achilles last season, and it’s probably no coincidence the former top-10 pick started producing big stats once Alex Smith was replaced by Kaepernick. Crabtree should be fully healthy entering 2014, and while the additions to San Francisco’s WR corps could lead to fewer targets, it’s safe to say he’ll be the No. 1 option in a passing attack that’s fully planning to throw more.

Crabtree will turn 27 years old this season and is looking for a big payday during a contract year, and there’s pretty clear evidence Kaepernick will give him plenty opportunities (even while playing at far less than 100 percent coming off what’s arguably the most serious injury a WR can suffer, Crabtree saw 28 targets over the 49ers’ three playoff games).

I love Patterson, but the reality is that he recorded just 469 receiving yards last season and has to deal with one of the worst QB situations in the NFL. I’m also a big Harvin fan, but he’s missed 22 games over the past two seasons and has never reached 1,000 receiving yards in his career. Go with the Crabman.

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