As I’ve said countless times, typically as a preface to my talking about sports betting, I’m not much of a gambler. You know that guy at Mystic Lake who doubles down on a 7 and 2 at the $5 limit blackjack tables? That’s me, or it was before I was shamed into solely playing video poker while my friends drop the type of money that would make me feel incredibly guilty (“That could’ve gone towards more Facebook boosts!”). That having been said, when I made my daily pre-radio appearance run to my neighborhood gas station for enough caffeine to kill an elephant with meth sores (that never forgets… To clean it’s kitchen for 12 hours straight before… Calf Protective Services show up, AGAN) I happened to glance at the $5 Minnesota Vikings scratch-off ticket and just so happened to actually have $5 cash on me for once.
The first number I scratched off happened to be the fourth of four, and it ended up being the number of former Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs.
— Vikings Territory (@vikingterritory) November 3, 2020
I posted the above Tweet as a light-hearted way to start my day and noticed that the first/sole comment was ‘Diggs was right’. That’s something I’ve heard a lot since the beginning of the 2020 season, one in which Diggs’ new team the Buffalo Bills started 4-0 with both Diggs and his new quarterback Josh Allen, setting the league aflame. Meanwhile, the Vikings looked awful in the first two weeks of the season, going 0-2 while having a time of possession ratio that up until that point was strictly theoretical.
That’s when the ‘Diggs was right’ movement began, and I covered that at the time.
That was after I wrote that Diggs was essentially everything that Randy Moss was, but worse:
Both of those articles (which aren’t the only Diggs related gripe pieces I’ve written lo these past couple of months) should give you a general idea as to how I feel about the Diggs situation. As it applies to this context, though, the idea of whether or not Diggs was “right” really depends on what you think he was right ABOUT.
Was he right about the team? Did he know that the team was going into a rebuild and that by forcing his way out he’d end up on a better team?
Or, was he right specifically about Kirk Cousins and the impact that his play would have both on his marketability as a nationally known household name? or in terms of his ability to play at a high enough level, continuously, to justify his $14.5 million-dollar-a-year deal when it comes time for an extension?
I’d argue that the former isn’t really why Diggs wanted out, as there was no guarantee that he’d end up on a better team than the Vikings. Sure, god awful teams don’t typically trade for a wide receiver (especially when it comes to the haul the Bills gave up for Diggs as a first-round-pick from a 4-12 team is worth a hell of a lot more than one from a 12-4 team), but the idea that Diggs would land somewhere that’d do better than the Vikings had with Diggs is questionable at best.
Then comes the point of the above article. That, whether or not he knew the team was going to be going into a rebuild, that doesn’t mean it was “right” to force your way out as this team invested in Diggs’ potential and NOT in his on the field production. Keep in mind that when they extended Diggs on a massive deal they had done so before Adam Thielen and also at a time BEFORE Diggs had eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in a season OR played an entire 16-game season.
The idea that, then, because he saw that the team was going to go into a rebuilding period, he somehow was “right” to force his way out of an organization that did everything right by him? Yeah, I’m sorry, that’ll never sit right with me.
That’s because I strongly believe that Diggs solely wanted to be THE guy, not 1B to Adam Thielen’s 1A. Despite the fact that Diggs eclipsed 1,000 yards TWICE in his career, both years that Kirk Cousins threw him the ball, and had over 100 grabs in 2018, there seems to be a strong correlation between the chemistry that Cousins and Thielen had at the beginning of 2018 and Diggs social media “Diggs-being-Diggs”-ery.
You see, Diggs was the hero in the 2017 playoffs. He WAS the Minneapolis Miracle. He was known far and wide by football and non-football fans alike. Then, 2018 starts and he’s being used as a DECOY to draw coverage down the field so Thielen could eat up yards underneath? That clearly didn’t sit well with Diggs even though that’s, you know, the definition of being a good teammate (see the above article comparing Diggs to Moss)?
People, this author included, widely mocked Diggs for landing in Buffalo this off-season as while the Bills certainly felt like a team on the upswing, he had Josh “You can make completions DOWN the field?” Allen throwing him the ball. Allen had struggled with his deep balls during his brief time in the league, and it was thought that Diggs was going to be the man for a team that couldn’t get him the ball and that he’d be in Buffalo for 18 months, tops.
That’s not really how things have panned out, though. The Bills have played half a season now, going 6-2. So I thought it’d be worthwhile to see how Diggs’ stats are projecting for 2020 to see if the move to Buffalo ended up giving Diggs what we all know he really wanted. That being the type of stats that Antonio Brown had in his prime.
How’s that working out thus far?
As of the writing of this article, Diggs has 54 catches on 79 targets (68%) for 695 yards (12.9 average) and three touchdowns. That means that if things hold up as is, Diggs will end up with 108 grabs for 1,390 yards and six touchdowns.
Now, I have to point out that Diggs is currently second in the NFL in receiving yards, and only 9 yards behind Houston Texa…. I mean Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (704 vs. 695). Side note, it’s sort of odd that the top two receivers in the league were both traded during the off-season from teams that have had borderline disastrous starts to their 2020 campaigns. One of those trades ended up working out for both teams, the other is the reason that Bill O’Brien is now the manager at the Subway near your house.
Let’s compare these numbers to what Diggs did during the Kirk Cousins era in Minnesota (ie what I’m dubbing the ‘Bitch and Moan’ era).
In 2019, Diggs had 63 grabs on 94 targets(67%) despite Adam Thielen being injured for most of the year) for 1,130 yards (17.9 average) and 6 touchdowns.
2018? 102 grabs on 149 targets (68%)for 1,021 yards (10.0 average) and 9 touchdowns.
Keep in mind that you can say a lot of things about Kirk Cousins, but he IS still the second-most accurate quarterback in NFL history (by nearly a full percentage point over the third QB, Chad Pennington) and that Diggs had his best yards-per-catch average in 2019 (17.9 vs. the 10.0 in 2018 and the 12.9 in Buffalo).
This isn’t Sam Bradford in 2016, even though the offensive line has been as atrocious during the Cousins era. You’ll recall that in 2016 the Vikings moved the chains essentially by throwing a ton of passes BEHIND the line of scrimmage (to compensate for the patch-work offensive line they had both before and after Jake Long went down with a career-ending Achilles injury). Cousins? He helped Diggs LEAD the NFL in catches of over 40 yards as well as land in the top-5 for yards per catch in the entire league.
Diggs also was second in the number of catches he had amongst that top 5, which is worth noting:
1. Mike Williams 49 catches
2. AJ Brown 57 catches
3. Mecole Hardman 30 catches
4. Kenny Golladay 65 catches
5. Stefon Diggs 63 catches
So, was Diggs right?
Again, I ask, about what?
That the Vikings were going to be rebuilding?
That he should thus abandon the team that invested in his potential and not his actual output?
Especially after that team invested LEAGUE CONTRACT CHANGING money to bring in some consistency at the quarterback position?
Did that investment help Diggs finally get over the 1,000 yard mark and thus become worth the first-round (and some change) pick that the Bills gave up for him?
Here’s the best and final question:
Are the Vikings better off without Diggs in every sense of the word?
Rookie phenom Justin Jefferson is actually on pace to not only best Diggs’ career stats in Minnesota?
Yeah, and he isn’t on social media after Googling “Antonio Brown Social Media Consultants”
So, I’d say that this trade ended up actually working out better for the Vikings than the Bills as the Vikings have a receiver who seems to have more potential than Diggs does without us having to worry about “Jefferson being Jefferson” down the road.
Sure, Diggs seems placated right now, but he’s shown that at the end of the day the only person that really matters to Diggs is Diggs, and while there’s an argument to be had in today’s NFL whether or not that’s “wrong” (considering how the NFL treats it’s players), but in the case of Minnesota, this organization has treated it’s players (outside of Brett Jones) very, very well and I’d argue that Diggs is one of the best examples of that.
1. They paid him elite receiver money despite his injury history and 900-yard peaks.
2. They put up with his selfish and distracting social media nonsense.
3. They didn’t even want to trade him but got an offer they couldn’t refuse while also realizing that this organization has shown that it’s EVERYTHING Diggs is not.
At the end of the day, even if Jefferson hadn’t panned out, this was the right move by the Vikings and that’s really the only question that I care about at this point. Yes, teams do move on from players like Packers fans move on from padded toilet seats, but as I’ve laid out in PAINFUL detail, Diggs had nothing to be upset about here.
Cousins gave Diggs back-to-back 1k seasons, with the second being better than the first.
The team paid him elite money.
The team made the playoffs multiple times with Diggs, and upset the Saints last year. In that game, while the Vikings were WINNING a game they ended up WINNING, Diggs did this:
So I think it’s time that a new narrative take over in the comments sections of every Diggs/Vikings/Bills related article from this point forward:
THE VIKINGS WERE RIGHT.
Rolls off the tongue!
In the six games without Thielen in 2019 (excluding his brief appearance during the Chiefs debacle), Diggs had 26 catches on 41 targets (63%), 428 yards and one touchdown. That’s a 14.4 yards per catch average, which was buoyed by a Broncos and Washington Football Team set of games with a 24.2 and 20.4 yards per grab average.
Outside of that?
Diggs had two games in the mid-teens (15.3 against Detroit and 16.3 against the Cowboys) and two games in the single digits (4.0 in Kansas City and 6.3 in Seattle).
Take that, Thielen?
So when the Vikings needed him most Diggs played worse, despite that time coming during Kirk Cousins’ Patrick Mahomes-ian streak from Week 5 on in 2019.
I know, I get murdered in the face region every time I bring up that OBJECTIVE STAT. So, before you crack your knuckles and a beer … here:
— Look at Cousins the last 4 games and how he’s come on
— Compare Cousins’ start to that of last year’s MVP Patrick Mahomes through 8 games. 🤷🏽♂️ pic.twitter.com/fukVUTipzc
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 25, 2019
Considering the above, I may have been wrong about Josh Allen’s 2020 thus far, but I have to believe that the combination of yes men and personality traits (/disorder(s)) that created Diggs (being Diggs) aren’t things that go away simply because … One lands in Buffalo.
Keep in mind that the Bills are 2-2 in their last four, like the Vikings. Except the Vikings almost beat the Seahawks (and yeah, got owned by the Falcons) while the Bills barely beat the 2-5 Patriots and JETS and got owned by the Chiefs and Titans.
Here’s Diggs’ stats in those games:
Stay tuned, is my point.
Oh, and… ahem… THE VIKINGS WERE RIGHT.