The Minnesota Vikings selected wide receiver Percy Harvin as the 22nd pick in this year's NFL draft, despite the fact that the Florida star failed a drug test at the NFL Combine. Is the risk (that Harvin smokes his way out of the league) less or greater than the reward (that Harvin is the next Randy Moss)?
I don't think Harvin is the next Randy Moss, nor do I think he'll allow a relatively harmless drug to ruin a potentially promising career. I believe Harvin's future lies somewhere in between those two extremes - he'll be a good receiver who likes to smoke marijuana at the intersection of "occasionally" and "frequently."
In today's NFL, success is often measured in the number of trips to the Pro Bowl, while the number of trips to Roger Goodell's office is often a yardstick for failure. However, if a player can do both, it becomes much easier for teams to tolerate those trips to Goodell's office, or any type of negative behavior. Clearly, Minnesota placed greater weight on Harvin's ability as a football player than they did on his character. Thus, it was an easy decision to snatch him with the 22nd pick in the draft.
The parallels to the situation of Moss are highly similar to that of Harvin. Moss was forecast as a high first-round pick in the 1998 draft, but issues mainly related to marijuana caused his stock to fall. The Vikings gambled successfully and drafted Moss with the 21st pick, and after numerous touchdown catches, as well as the occasional mooning, misting of officials, running down of parking attendants, and early exits from the playing field, it's clear the Vikings made the right choice.
It's obvious that the Vikings scouting department is well-versed in talent assessment, and have a special ability not for weeding out those players that don't fit their desired profile, but weeding in those that do.
Players invited to the NFL Combine know full well that they'll be tested for drugs, so when Harvin tested positive for marijuana, many teams raised red flags as to Harvin's commitment and maturity. But not the Vikings. They raised a "green" flag, apparently impressed that Harvin showed up at the Combine knowing he would fail the drug test. That's either incredible confidence in one's ability, or incredible overconfidence in the quality of one's drug masking substance.
In any case, Harvin must have impressed with all but his drug test at the Combine. He ran a 4.41 40-yard dash, amazingly while under the influence of a positive drug test. That's pretty fast. So, the Vikings liked Harvin for exactly the same reason other teams didn't like him - he was a "burner."
Minnesota was so impressed with Harvin's physical workout results that head coach Brad Childress flew to Florida to spend a day with Harvin, to get a clear idea of his mental makeup, and to experience a typical day for a pot-smoking NFL prospect. Childress was impressed, and quipped that "anyone who lives under that much florescent lighting is definitely ready for the NFL limelight."
While spending time with Harvin, Childress learned, first hand, that the physical talent Harvin displayed at the Combine was no fluke, nor was the 12 he scored on the Wonderlic test, which is loosely equivalent to a 7.12 second 40-yard dash. Wisely, Childress realized that Harvin, should they draft him, would most likely be sprinting on the Metrodome turf, and not blindly filling in circles with a No. 2 pencil.
"Paper was made for rolling anyway," reportedly said Harvin, a comment that really charmed Childress.
Childress added that the Vikings personnel evaluators don't give much credence to Wonderlic scores, particularly in regards to players with 40's in the 4.4 range. So, the fact that Harvin wasn't high on the list didn't concern them. And neither did the fact that Harvin was "high" on the list.
When all was said and done, the Vikings still had to wait and cross their fingers that no other team would snag Harvin before the Vikes could. Ideally, Childress stated, Minnesota would have liked to make Harvin the twentieth pick in the fourth round, thus pick 4:20. However, there was little or no chance that Harvin would slide that far, so the Vikings sweated through 21 picks before their turn arrived, with Harvin still available.
The deal was done when Harvin walked onstage at the NFL Draft and donned a Vkings baseball cap with the familiar Viking "horn" logo, presenting fans with excitement for the upcoming season, as well as giving Harvin a clever, new idea for a marijuana pipe.
Now, it's all up to Harvin to decide his route. The NFL is littered with players who had the physical skills to succeed, but failed for one reason or another. Drug problems are often the case. In the NFL, where drugs are concerned, if you lack discipline, you will be disciplined. Harvin has a choice to make, the most important of which is whether or not to put that Bob Marley poster up in his locker. It's all about passion, and if Harvin's passion for football is weighed in grams, then he's in trouble.
But could Harvin have asked for a better situation than the one that awaits him in Minnesota? The Vikings lack a reliable playmaker at the wide receiver position, so the door is open for Harvin to make an immediate impact. And with a new quarterback in town, Sage Rosenfels, Minnesota seems committed to establishing a passing game equally as dangerous as its rushing atack with Adrian Peterson. Plus, herb already plays an important role in Harvin's life; having a quarterback named after one can only sweeten the pot.
Additionally, Harvin should reward the Vikings for their loyalty with loyalty of his own. They drafted him despite his failed drug test; the least he can do is honor that with effort on the field and discretion off the field. That means staying away from temptation, such as marijuana, strip clubs, and chartered boat rides. In other words, the things that get professional football players through a grueling Minnesota football season.
Whiles it's highly doubtful that Harvin will explode onto the scene like Moss did in his rookie year, he will certainly contribute, and add an explosive element to the Vikings passing game. And, with the growing popularity of trick formations, Harvin will give the Vikes a weapon to employ on direct snaps.
It's like people have been saying for years: the buzz surrounding this guy is immense.