Welcome to the Big Show: Stefon Diggs

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Yesterday, Carl introduced you to Tyrus Thompson, one of 10 players the Minnesota Vikings selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. We’ll break down every player over the next few days, from first round draft pick Trae Waynes to 7th round project Edmond Robinson.

This morning, I’ll take a look at wide receiver Stefon Diggs, a “swiss army knife” who spent three seasons at Maryland, where he found success as a pass catcher and kick returner for the Terrapins.

Attributes

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 195 pounds

Arm Length: 31¼”

Hand Size: 10″

Combine Results

Full 2015 NFL Scouting Combine results will be posted as soon as possible. Watch Stefon Diggs’s full workout here.

Pro Day Results

Diggs stood on most of his numbers from the NFL Scouting Combine, but did run both the short shuttle and 60-yard shuttle. He improved his short shuttle time from 4.32 seconds to 4.11 seconds, matching the mark set by Miami speedster Phillip Dorsett. In a test of upper body strength — the 225-pound bench press — Diggs completed 11 repetitions, which ranks near the bottom of all wide receivers tested at the Combine.

However, the most important part of a Pro Day happens away from a weight room or a track; it takes place on the football field. Diggs participated in positional drills, and according to the scouts at Walter Football, “ran scissor-sharp routes and caught the ball very well” in front of representatives from 30 teams. He snatched every ball thrown his way (minus one overthrown football) and ran crisp routes at every level, finishing each play with a sprint.

Personal History

Diggs grew up in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where he attended Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. There, he ran track and played football, starring as both a receiver and a cornerback. He finished his senior year with 36 catches for 808 yards and eight touchdowns, 15 rushes for 229 yards and three touchdowns, 31.5 tackles (5.5 for a loss), four interceptions, three forced fumbles, and ten passes defended.

Those statistics made him a five-star recruit, the eighth-best player in the country, and the nation’s second-best wide receiver behind only Dorial Green-Beckham (a 2015 second-round pick to the Tennessee Titans). Upon graduation, Diggs had offers from Ohio State, Florida, Auburn, Florida State, USC, and Maryland.

On signing day in 2012, Diggs officially committed to Maryland, where he burst onto the scene as a freshman recruit. In 11 games, he caught 54 balls for 848 yards and six touchdowns. It was in that season that Maryland fans learned of Diggs’ special ability with the ball in his hands. Against West Virgina, for example, Diggs only touched the ball three times, but turned two of those opportunities into touchdowns. After the game, quarterback Perry Hills marveled at the freshman’s performance.

““Diggs is an amazing player,” he said. “I’m very privileged to have him on my team. Just makes big plays every time he touches the ball. It’s a great opportunity to play with him.”

Early in the year, Maryland head coach Randy Edsall commented on Diggs as a player, and more importantly, as a team leader:

[quote_box_center]“You see the confidence he has. But what’s more impressive is his demeanor on the sideline, how much enthusiasm and leadership he shows as a freshman. To watch him make those plays he made today, to leap into the end zone for the touchdown on the first one, I mean that kid is not a freshman. That kid plays well beyond his years. I’m just glad he’s on our team.”[/quote_box_center]

After a wildly successful freshman campaign, things took a turn for the worse in Diggs’s second year with Maryland. In the seventh game of the season, a matchup with Wake Forest, Diggs fractured his fibula and missed the remainder of the season. Though his sophomore year was cut short, Diggs finished the year with 34 receptions for 587 yards and three touchdowns.

Following the broken leg and subsequent rehab, Diggs vowed to come back a better player. In an interview with the Washington Post, he reflected on his injury and the determination to move past his previous setbacks:

[quote_center]“I’m just happy to have my legs back, because at one point I wasn’t even walking. I think about it every day. It’s my motivation. The return, ready to get back. For God to give me my legs back, this is my second chance.”[/quote_center]

He took full advantage of his opportunity, hauling in 46 catches for 601 yards and 5 touchdowns through the first eight games of his junior season. But, Diggs became the center of a major controversy before the start of Maryland’s game against Penn State. As a team captain, Diggs made his way to midfield for the customary coin flip and handshake, but refused to shake the opponents’ hands.

His actions led to a scuffle, and Diggs made contact with a Big Ten official in the ensuing chaos. As punishment, the Big Ten suspended Diggs for the Terrapins’ next game against Michigan State and hit Maryland with a $10,000 fine. To make matters worse, Diggs suffered a lacerated kidney during the game, playing through the game before missing the final three games of the season.

In his final collegiate appearance, Diggs caught 10 passes for 138 yards against Stanford, reasserting himself as a playmaker on a national stage — the Foster Farms Bowl. Following the game, Diggs declared for the 2015 NFL Draft, foregoing his senior season for a chance to play in the NFL. The move, however, was met with criticism, most notably from scouts at the East-West Shrine Game:

[quote_center]”Most grade Diggs as a last day pick and feel another season on the college field would’ve potentially pushed him into the draft’s initial 75 selections.”[/quote_center]

Leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, Diggs had much to prove. He blew up as a freshman, but struggled with consistency and productivity in his final two years at Maryland. Scouts and analysts spent months breaking down his film, and many projected Diggs as a mid-round pick.

College Production

Receiving & Rushing
Year School Conf Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
2012 Maryland ACC JR WR 11 54 848 15.7 6 20 114 5.7 0 74 962 13.0 6
2013 Maryland ACC JR WR 7 34 587 17.3 3 7 45 6.4 0 41 632 15.4 3
*2014 Maryland Big Ten JR WR 10 62 792 12.8 5 5 28 5.6 0 67 820 12.2 5
Career Maryland 150 2227 14.8 14 32 187 5.8 0 182 2414 13.3 14
Kick & Punt Returns
Year School Conf Class Pos G Ret Yds Avg TD Ret Yds Avg TD
2012 Maryland ACC JR WR 11 25 713 28.5 2 22 221 10.0 0
2013 Maryland ACC JR WR 7 12 281 23.4 0 2 -1 -0.5 0
*2014 Maryland Big Ten JR WR 10 20 478 23.9 0 1 15 15.0 0
Career Maryland 57 1472 25.8 2 25 235 9.4 0

Scouting Reports

Pros

Diggs is a fluid, flexible athlete with excellent body control and the ability to run almost any route. At 6’0″, Diggs has an extremely low center of gravity, making it easy for him to sink his hips and explode out of breaks. With his fast-twitch muscles and reflexes, Diggs is most dangerous underneath, where he shows the natural ability to pluck balls out of the air and make defenders miss in open space. That elusiveness and quick acceleration are evident on crossing routes and slants, where Diggs can plant his foot in the ground and transition from a stride to sprint in an instant. Because of his experience in the backfield, Diggs is a decisive ballcarrier with the creativity to find creases in the defense and the knack for falling forward on first contact. His 4.46 40-yard dash speed is most effective from the slot, where he’s often described as a “sudden” athlete — a player with instant acceleration. Can contribute immedetialy on special teams.

Cons

Diggs is haunted by injuries; first the broken leg his sophomore year, and then the lacerated kidney in 2014. These issues stem from his slight frame, which limits him to a role as a slot receiver or return man in the NFL. Even then, Diggs will need to improve his route running at the next level if he wants to succeed as a slot receiver. He tends to run upright, which causes him to round off routes and lose separation with less athletic cornerbacks. Most of his stems started inside in college (crossers, slants, etc.), creating natural separation. Against bigger, more physical corners, he tends to lose at the line of scrimmage; Diggs will need to improve his outside release and add weight if he wants to survive against premier competition. An explosive runner, but tries to do too much at times, leading to negative plays or missed opportunities with the football. A lazy, passive blocker.

Other Scouting Reports:

Walter Football

NFL Draft Geek

Bleacher Report

NFL Mocks

SB Nation

Highlights

The Selection

According to the Vikings’ official website, Stefon Diggs was expected to be off the board by the third or fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Sitting with two picks in the fifth round, general manager Rick Spielman targeted two pass catchers — Southern Illinois tight end MyCole Pruitt and Diggs. The Vikings selected Pruitt with their first pick in the fifth round, then took Diggs just three picks later.

At such a late point in the draft, Spielman felt selecting Diggs was a tremendous value. Below, his statement on the decision:

[quote_box_center]”Our second fifth round choice was Stefon Diggs from Maryland. He’s another extremely talented athlete. I know I was at a game his freshman year when they played Virginia. I saw him as a kick-off returner and he has done some punt returns in the past. He’s a very gifted athlete with the ball in his hands. He was a guy, that when we got there at that point, he can do so many things – he’s played outside, he’s played in the slot, he’s done some return stuff, probably had a little bit of a year that was down for him and his standards. The multiple things that he can do, and again, any time we see an athlete and ability to develop these guys, and we felt that he’d fit right in that mold.”[/quote_box_center]

Many felt the Vikings would target a wide receiver earlier in the draft, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner must be content with his current crop of pass catchers. Charles Johnson and Mike Wallace will start 2015 as the primary weapons on the outside, and Jarius Wright will operate from the slot. Still, analysts and draft experts expected Spielman to pull the trigger on a red zone threat like DeVante Parker or Jaelen Strong in the first or second round.

Instead, Spielman resisted, adding to Mike Zimmer’s talented young defense early in the draft and stealing T.J. Clemmings in the fourth round. When the opportunity presented itself, Spielman added Diggs, who has all the skills to contribute on special teams or challenge Wright for the slot position.

“Teddy is a great quarterback with a great young team and I look forward to being a part of that team and growing in this whole process,” Diggs said. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity to be coached by some great coaches and playing with some great guys.”

Grade

After some deliberation, the team at Vikings Territory awarded the Diggs selection a grade of 2.8, which translates to a solid B. Given his injury history and limited scheme fit, I understand the average score. However, I gave Diggs a slightly higher grade (3.0), as I see him as an immediate contributor in the return game and a potential contributor on Norv Turner’s offense.

Diggs averaged more than 25 yards per kick return and almost 10 yards per punt return at Maryland, and I can see him lining up next to Cordarrelle Patterson at the start of the 2015 season. If he flashes enough ability in training camp, Diggs may even challenge Jarius Wright in the slot. I understand that Norv Turner loves Jarius Wright, but Diggs is just as (if not more) capable of turning screen passes and short routes into big gains. I’ll be playing close attention to Diggs’s development early in training camp.

He’ll face an uphill battle behind Johnson, Wallace, Patterson, Wright, and Thielen, but Diggs’s skill set is too enticing to ignore. As I mentioned earlier, Diggs is a raw route runner, but can help the Vikings immediately as a punt returner or kick returner. If he develops under Norv Turner, Diggs can exceed expectations and thrive working out of the slot while catching passes from Teddy Bridgewater.

Austin: 3.0 (B)

Welcome to the big show, Stefon Diggs.