Usually I try to cover at least two rookies and always include the biggest rookie performers from that particular week in the Rookie Report Card. This week though, there were very few big performances from rookies however, so I’ll be featuring just one in this edition. On top of reviewing my expectations for each player coming into the league and covering how he’s performed at the NFL level to this point, I’ll actually give him a grade in three categories. Those categories are performance to date, 2015 potential and long term upside.
The series continues with a look at Stefon Diggs.
Stefon Diggs, WR MIN
Week Six Stats: seven catches for 129 receiving yards on nine targets
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Those that read a lot of what I write probably remember that I’ve been a big fan of Diggs going back to early in the off-season. Nothing has changed.
A five-star recruit coming out of high school and considered by many to be one of the best prep wideouts in the country before arriving at Maryland, Diggs carried lofty expectations throughout his time in college. His upside was never quite realized on the stat sheet though, as he never caught more than 62 passes or had more than 848 receiving yards in a season with the Terrapins. Nonetheless, he showed his upside regularly while at Maryland.
I highlighted what I liked about Diggs in the Rookie Player Profile I wrote about him in May.
“Quick in and out of his breaks, Diggs runs solid routes and gains regular separation using head and shoulder fakes at the top of his routes in man coverage. Against a zone, he shows a knack for finding windows in the coverage and presents a good target for his quarterback.
Throughout his time at Maryland, Diggs demonstrated good ball skills. With excellent hands, he regularly catches the ball away from his body and showed the ability to make contested catches. He also displayed the ability to adjust to poor throws on a regular basis while in college and despite his lack of height, showed a willingness to catch the ball at a high point when necessary.
The most impressive part of Diggs’ game is what he’s able to do after the catch. Truly electrifying, he quickly transfers from receiver to runner once the ball gets in his hands. With exceptional change of direction skills and an incredible burst, he makes shaking defenders in the open field look effortless at times and is a threat to turn the simplest bubble screen or shallow crossing route into a big play.”
Although those three paragraphs may seem too good to be true about a fifth-round draft pick, I also pointed out in that article that Diggs’ slight stature (6’-0”, 195 pounds) would likely limit him to only slot duties in the NFL and that his lack of physicality at the line of scrimmage was easily his biggest weakness entering the league and could cause him trouble getting off press coverage against physical NFL defensive backs. His injury history while at Maryland was also a question mark for him coming out of college.
Diggs has done nothing but impress since he arrived in Minnesota. Among the league’s leaders in catches (15) and yards (174) during the pre-season, he made the team but didn’t see the field for the first three weeks of the regular season. That all changed a few weeks ago however.
With Charles Johnson struggling with a rib injury, Diggs got an opportunity to see the field as he filled in as the starter in week four against the Broncos, catching six balls for 87 yards. Then this week (after Minnesota’s bye), he once again filled in for the ailing Johnson, hauling in seven passes for 129 yards.
After watching each of Diggs’ catches and most of his routes this season, I must say I was wrong about him. He’s not only a slot receiver. He’s looked like a very natural outside threat as well.
Early in the game on Sunday, Diggs lined up wide right on third and four. He ran a 15-yard out route to the sideline where he got his defender to turn his hips before cutting on a dime and catching the ball on the sideline. He ran the same route in the second half against similar press coverage and once again got seperation but it didn’t show up in the stat sheet due to a poor throw.
Later in the game Diggs ran a simple drag and showed how dynamic he can be when he turned up field after making the grab and showed his skills after the catch by changing directions and making defenders miss on a 31-yard pick up.
Finally, on a critical third-and-15 late in the game with the Chiefs in a zone defense, Diggs looked equally as good against zone coverage. After being covered early in his route, he continued to work to find the hole in the middle of the field while Teddy Bridgewater bought time in the pocket. After settling in behind the linebackers and in front of the safeties, Bridgewater hit him in traffic for a 30-yard gain.
All things told, Diggs has looked like the Vikings’ best receiver over their last two games. Catching 13 passes for 218 yards over those two games, he’s led the team in receiving yards and been tied for the team lead in targets each week over that span. Perhaps most importantly to fantasy owners, he and Bridgewater look to have chemistry which is sure to grow as they play together more.
Although Johnson – who has struggled to get open so far this year – is expected back sooner rather than later, it’s going to be incredibly difficult for the Vikings’ coaching staff to keep Diggs off the field when that time comes. After all, Johnson caught just six passes for 46 yards despite leading Minnesota receivers in snaps up until he got hurt in week three. At this point, dynasty owners shouldn’t be surprised if Diggs takes over as the full time starter opposite Mike Wallace.
Because the Vikings’ passing game isn’t one that can be depended on as a regular source of fantasy points, Diggs’ short term upside is limited to being no more than a low-end WR3 even if he becomes a full-time player. Unlikely to get many scoring opportunities, he may not even be a regular WR3 in standard leagues.
As far as his long term upside goes, the sky seems to be the limit for Diggs. I wrote back in May that he has the potential to develop into a dangerous offensive weapon for the Vikings and he still absolutely carries that upside. I’ve been saying for months that he has the potential to become a WR2 and nobody should be surprised if that happens as soon as next year.
Although his price has gone up since he started making waves in training camp and particularly in the last few weeks, Diggs is still an excellent target for those looking for a young receiver to add to their dynasty roster.
Because I’ve been so high on him for so long, I have Diggs in most of my leagues. It’ll likely take quite a bit for me to let him go. But in case his owner in your league isn’t so bullish on his upside, it’s worth the shot to make an offer.
- Rookie Report Card: Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne - December 24, 2021
- Rookie Report Card: Rashod Bateman and Josh Palmer - December 16, 2021
- Rookie Report Card: Zach Wilson and D’Wayne Eskridge - December 9, 2021