Seattle and San Francisco's offseason pickups by position Seattle and San Francisco's offseason pickups by position

Numbers Game: The Anquan Boldin vs Percy Harvin Debate


Yesterday I wrote an article grading Seattle and San Francisco’s offseason pickups by position and apparently a few of you didn’t understand what I was saying or didn’t read the article. In it, I gave both the Hawks and the Niners an A+ at receiver and received some flack for it. It was even called “some kind of sick joke.” Actually, it’s not a sick joke. Let’s discuss the facts of the matter. Please don’t take offense to my straight forward approach. I don’t want to come across as a know-it-all. I’m just pointing out facts.

Sep 23, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin (12) gains 14 yards on a pass play as he passes by San Francisco 49ers safety Dashon Goldson (38) in the fourth quarter at the Metrodome. Vikings win 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

First a disclaimer. I’m not in any way comparing Boldin to Harvin athletically. There is no comparison there and I understand that. Of course Harvin is a better pickup overall and, in terms of “sexy personnel moves,” looks better than Boldin by a mile. Also, I’m not necessarily saying that the two will have equally productive seasons. (Personally, I think they will.) Again, I am comparing the all-inclusive position pick-ups.

Seattle gets an A+ because Harvin makes Seattle better at three different positions and is one of the most explosive, game-changing players in the NFL at all of them. He makes the Hawks better in every offensive phase of the game. He also gives Seattle exactly what they were missing in the receiving corps, which is the more important mark for that grade.

Meanwhile, San Francisco gets an A+ at the position because of what they get in Boldin compared to what they gave up (a 5th round draft pick). Also, Marlon Moore will add nice depth to their already solid rotation. Moore hasn’t done much in his NFL career, but I watched enough of his games at Fresno State to project that he’ll break out in the next year or two. If you consider what Boldin adds to the San Francisco receiving rotation of Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham (albeit returning from injury), Vernon Davis, and A.J. Jenkins, I feel my point is driven home.

Here’s the kicker. If you insist on doing a head-to-head comparison and believe that Boldin isn’t as productive, or is somehow an entire grade or two lower than Harvin because of his age, the numbers don’t support you at all. Anquan Boldin started all 15 games he played in last season. He had 65 receptions, 921 yards (14.2 average) and 4 touchdowns. That includes a Super Bowl performance with 6 receptions, 104 yards, and 1 touchdown. Percy Harvin played in nine games and started eight of them. He had 62 receptions, 677 yards (10.9 avg) and just 3 receiving touchdowns.

What stands out about those numbers and some other stats?

  • Boldin, even at 32, can stay healthy throughout the season. While Harvin claims to be 100% healthy this off-season, he was hurt a few times in 2012 and played in only 9 of 17 football games.
  • Boldin’s per catch average is significantly higher than Harvin’s. With only three more receptions, Boldin has nearly 250 more receiving yards, dispelling the myth that Boldin isn’t a down-field receiving threat. Screw the 40 time! Boldin can get down the field and use his size in extraordinary fashion to fend off defenders. He also has tremendous hands as he hasn’t fumbled once in the past two seasons. Harvin has fumbled four times.
  • Percy Harvin’s best season was two seasons ago when he totaled 87 catches for 967 yards and 6 touchdowns. However, his yards per reception were still relatively low for a player of his caliber (11.1). In fact Percy Harvin’s per catch average has gone down in each of his four NFL seasons. Conversely, Boldin is about to start his 11th season and two of his three best per catch averages have been obtained over the past two seasons. Harvin hasn’t beat either of those numbers, ever.
  • The longest touchdowns in 2011 and 2012 for Boldin were 56 and 43 yards. Harvin sits at 52 and 45, respectively.
  • In 2011, with 30 less catches, Boldin ended the season only 80 yards behind Harvin (967 to 887).

Feb 3, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin (81) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers (22) in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Granted, in the open field there are few better than Harvin. Boldin can’t touch the breakaway speed that Harvin possesses. Obviously the two don’t compare athletically at this point and I think that Harvin is perhaps the only player in the NFL who provides an A+ grade to the Seahawks’ offensive roster. I’ve watched both play many, many times over the past two seasons and folks, Anquan is every bit the receiver Percy is. For San Francisco and Colin Kaepernick, it’s also worth noting that Boldin gives them the only type of receiver that typically gives Seattle problems, big and physical at 6’1″, 220 pounds. Just look at Julio Jones’, Roddy White’s, and Tony Gonzales’ performances against Seattle.

To take it one step further, in 2012 the threat of Boldin and Ray Rice made teammate Torrey Smith virtually unstoppable down-field. Smith reeled in 49 catches for 855 yards (17.4 avg) and 8 touchdowns. If you think Crabtree and Davis were dangerous down the field with Frank Gore at running back, look out, because Boldin just bumped their value up as well.

Quite frankly, to say that Boldin (and you can also include Marlon Moore as a bonus depth pick-up) is anything less than an A+ addition to the 49ers’ receiving corps tells me that you haven’t watched him play, haven’t seen the numbers or perhaps you’re just unreasonably biased.

Oh, did I mention Anquan Boldin has two Super Bowl rings?

Go Hawks!