Stefon Diggs is everything the Minnesota Vikings had hoped Cordarrelle Patterson would become, and that’s through just two NFL starts for the rookie wide receiver. The film doesn’t lie, and neither do Diggs’s teammates, who’ve been singing his praises since he joined the team as a fifth-round selection in this year’s NFL Draft:
“He’s one of the [most] polished receivers I ever seen come, you know, as a rookie,” Captain Munnerlyn said. “He runs great routes, great route runner. Some guys it takes time to learn how to run route in the NFL. He already got that. He’s a great receiver, he’s got great speed, great hands, and he goes [to] get the ball.”
“When you look at a guy, you can tell from day one who can play football. I always felt like he could,” Mike Wallace said. “Just the skill set, the way he runs his routes, the energy that he has. It reminds me of him [Antonio Brown].”
High praise for a player with just 13 catches to his name, but praise that’s more than deserved for the electric receiver out of Maryland. As Zach Kruse wrote at Bleacher Report, Diggs’s “deep speed—when combined with his ability to maintain speed in and out of breaks—has made him a difficult cover,” which was apparent in the Vikings’s most recent win. Against the Chiefs on Sunday, Diggs turned cornerbacks around, created separation with precise route running, and was often wide open at the catch point.
How dominant has Diggs been in place of the injured Charles Johnson? Six of his 13 receptions gained at least 20 yards, ten of the 13 created first downs, and six of those came on third down. He’s the explosive receiver the Vikings have been sorely missing, both in the screen game and down the field. According to Pro Football Focus, Teddy Bridgewater is 5-of-5 for 101 yards when targeting Diggs on passes thrown more than 20 yards in the air, which makes you wonder — has Diggs earned a starting spot moving forward?
If you’re a fan of stats, Diggs is your guy. Heck, if you’re a fan of game film, Diggs is your guy. Charles Johnson, for all of his preseason hype, hardly produced in three starts this season. The team’s split receiver caught just six balls on eight targets, finishing the stretch with just 46 yards before injuring his ribs. He’s missed the past two games, but head coach Mike Zimmer wouldn’t tip his hat as to who will start this week against the Lions.
“You don’t lose your starting job because of injury, but you lose your starting job because of performance. But no, I have not decided that yet.”
Zimmer may not have made his decision public, but if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Diggs lining up opposite Mike Wallace when the Vikings take the field in Detroit. After watching Diggs play at such a high level the past two weeks, it’s hard to believe he had been inactive for the first three games of the season. To keep him off the field would be a mistake, and a mistake the Vikings can’t afford to make. The passing game is struggling, and Diggs is the spark the team needs to get things moving through the air.
The only question remains; who does Diggs replace? Do you move him inside and keep Jarius Wright on the bench? Do you deactivate Cordarrelle Patterson and let Diggs return kickoffs? Do you replace Charles Johnson with Diggs, who has thrived in the starting role?
I’m with Teddy Bridgewater — I’m happy Diggs is contributing for the Vikings, and I hope it continues the rest of the way in 2015.
“We know that this league waits for no one, with all the young guys stepping up making big plays in this league, I’m happy to see Stefon contribute for the Vikings,”