Harvin isn't playing fantasy football for the Vikings. His quickness and production are a reality, and he's producing as a rookie.
"Once I got the concept of the plays, it's pretty much football. When you know the terms of football and you know some of the concepts, it's just putting all the concepts together," Harvin said. "Not learning just the plays but the learning concepts. (Coaches) can switch the concepts on two different plays and put them together. Just learning the concepts was the biggest thing for me, and once I learned that he can pretty much throw anything at me and I can do it."
Harvin was used as a running back and slot receiver at the University of Florida. Since joining the Vikings, he has been asked to play different receiver positions and return kickoffs. He also practiced running the Wildcat during the offseason and returning punts.
"I've got to learn maybe three or four (wide receiver) positions," Harvin said of his use with the Vikings. "Of course, the NFL playbook is more in-depth. But I'd say it all ties into the concepts. Once you're able to learn the concepts, it kind of didn't matter. Any of us can play any of our positions."
Harvin has proved to be a quick study. The last Vikings receiver to be drafted in the first round was Troy Williamson. He had 24 catches for 372 yards in his rookie year of 2005, peaked at 37 catches for 455 yards in 2006, and then petered out with only 18 catches in 2007 before being traded to Jackson in 2008 for a sixth-round pick that the Vikings used on WR Jaymar Johnson.
Through only 10 games, Harvin already has 31 receptions for 422 yards and three touchdowns. He is second to Sidney Rice in catches and yards, and tied for second in touchdowns, behind tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who has six.
So why the earlier success for Harvin instead of the supposed three-year progression many wide receivers need in the NFL?
"He's talented," said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. "Obviously, I think everybody can see it. He's very talented. He's a physical guy. He's got all the physical traits that you could put on him. And to go along with that … he's a smart kid. He's a smart player. Now, he hasn't had all the reps in his background of just being a wide receiver as another guy may have had coming out of college. But he's a fast learner. He picks things up and he understands football. He understands the game. I think with his ability, and then his understanding of the game, I think it's lending itself to him having some early success."
Harvin's 31 receptions lead all NFL rookies, and his 15 catches on third down also leads all rookies and is ninth overall in the NFL.
The more the Vikings saw from Harvin in the offseason, the more convinced they became that he could handle being the starting slot receiver. They had enough confidence in their convictions in that regard that they felt comfortable enough to simply release veteran Bobby Wade, their leading receiver from the past two seasons.
Harvin was immediately plugged in as the starting slot receiver, but he said the few months he spent with Wade in the offseason helped.
"Bobby, he helped me out a lot while he was here. Him being here for the time he was and the time I was here was huge to help me," Harvin said. "You can be sitting and everybody can always tell you what to run, but actually getting out there and messing up a few times, you get a feel for yourself. Once I was able to get out there and mess up a few times and get it right a few times, it all started clicking for me."
Head coach Brad Childress said Harvin's toughness has helped him progress as well. He battled an obviously painful shoulder injury earlier this year and fought through a couple bouts of migraine headaches without missing a game. That has helped him continue to learn the system and what is expected of him.
"He's got ‘A' football IQ. It's not just lines on paper," Childress said. "He has a good feel for it and he has a good guy (Brett Favre) throwing to him."
During the offseason, the Vikings said they were piling plenty of information on Harvin. Part of that is a necessity to keep the installation of the offense going with the more experienced players. Part of it was to see how much Harvin could handle.
During training camp, that means about 10 days of "installing a game plan," according to Childress.
"By the time you get to the end of 10 days, it's every goal line, short yardage, third downs, backed-up, red zone (plays). So it's voluminous and it seems like probably gibberish," Childress said. "You are trying to teach plays, but then concepts. … He's been a quick study and he's a guy that doesn't want to be wrong. He gets his nose in his playbook and realizes where we are going to displace throughout a game-plan week. He has done pretty well with that stuff."
Harvin said at the end of organized team activities in June that he "had a pretty good feeling" but realized that not all of the playbook was installed. He caught up to everything about halfway through training camp.
"It's second nature to me now," he said.