Buffalo Isn’t the Dream Landing Spot for Stefon Diggs, But At Least He’s Out of Minnesota
Image Credit: Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Stefon Diggs.

The Buffalo Bills have reportedly acquired Stefon Diggs for first, fourth, fifth, and sixth-round picks spread across the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Diggs now joins an ascending Bills offense, while escaping the Vikings throwback approach. Can he succeed with Josh Allen at the helm?

Of all current fantasy players, no one is associated with RotoViz quite like Stefon Diggs. A fantastic but unheralded prospect out of Maryland, Diggs immediately overcame his fifth-round draft slot and proved the comparisons to Antonio Brown were no fluke. Diggs was a top-15 WR in PPG from 2016 to 2018. Unfortunately, he missed six games in that span, absences that were spread out across the three seasons and subtly lowered his overall finish.

A Weirdly Successful Yet Undeniably Frustrating 2019

Diggs best season came in 2018 where he finished as the WR10. He was part of a select group with 100-plus receptions and found pay dirt nine times. Of his 149 targets, a whopping 74 came within five yards of the line of scrimmage. He turned those directly into PPR points with 60 receptions. While we often focus on the positives of deep targets in fantasy, it’s a nightmare when the offense makes you one dimensional. This most recent season, Diggs was targeted only 20 times in the short area, and his overall target share dropped from 26% to 22% despite the frequent absences of Adam Thielen.

The Silver Lining

In a Vikings offense that ranked 30th in passing expected points (paEP) and passing attempts, the deep connection with Kirk Cousins was firing on all cylinders. Diggs finished No. 8 in fantasy points over expectation (FPOE) in 2017. He rejoined the top-10 with a No. 4 overall finish in 2019. Those efficiency numbers came as the result of a flurry of successful bombs.

The NFL Stat Explorer provides an in-depth look at his route history, and the numbers match our recollection of the highlights. Diggs generated over 200 yards down the deep middle and bested that with more than 300 yards to the deep right.

Digging into the Weekly Explorer, we find that Diggs led the NFL in air yard share by a wide margin.

 
Player Tgt Yards YPR Tgt Shr AirYards Air Share
Stefon Diggs 93 1129 17.9 22% 1412 55%
Terry McLaurin 93 919 15.8 23% 1304 47%
Courtland Sutton 126 1112 15.4 26% 1407 43%
Michael Thomas 186 1725 11.6 33% 1489 41%
Odell Beckham Jr. 133 1035 14 26% 1678 40%
John Brown 115 1060 14.7 26% 1644 40%
Tyreek Hill 88 860 14.8 22% 1188 39%
Julio Jones 156 1394 14.1 26% 1908 38%
Allen Robinson 153 1147 11.7 27% 1658 38%
DeAndre Hopkins 150 1165 11.2 31% 1515 36%

Terry McLaurin and Courtland Sutton are two of the most coveted young WRs in the game. Michael Thomas just rewrote history, while Tyreek Hill is among the top dynasty trade targets. We also see the best WR of the last decade (Julio Jones) and the best of the last several seasons (DeAndre Hopkins).

McLaurin is the most obvious bargain in the early going, but Diggs could also be a tremendous value. That is, if he’s a good fit in Buffalo.

What Should We Expect With the Bills

The Bills didn’t give up a first-round pick with extra goodies for Diggs to be a role player. He’s going to be the focal point of the passing offense. It’s still a concern that his 2019 role was filled ably by John Brown, while his underneath targets from 2018 are currently vacuumed by Cole Beasley.

As you can see from the table above, Brown earned a larger overall role in his offense (26% target share) and turned that into 232 more air yards. There will be some definite overlap on the deep ball, making the Diggs acquisition a dagger for all those savvy Brown owners.

Cause for More Concern

Diggs owners were desperate for him to escape a low-volume passing offense and a pedestrian QB who seemed to sour on his star wideout. But is the Buffalo situation one of the few that might be even worse?

Allen outperformed expectation as a fantasy player to the tune of a 10.3% win rate in best ball, but his exploits again occurred in the running game. Jacoby Brissett is the only signal-caller to start 15 or more games and throw for fewer yards than Allen. Not surprisingly, the Colts are looking for a replacement.

Allen’s inability to complete passes also shows up in stark contrast with Cousin’s efficient season.

 
Player Yards Per Game Comp% Yd/Att Total Air/G Air Conv% Air Yards/Att
Josh Allen 193.1 59% 6.7 263.2 42% 9.1
Kirk Cousins 240.1 69% 8.1 225.5 53% 7.6

Allen pushed the ball down the field and averaged more air yards and more air yards per attempt, but he still got crushed in terms of actual yards and yards per attempt due to his woeful accuracy.

Fantasy Outlook

The Vikings believe they can run this same offense without Diggs, even though the outlook for Adam Thielen is darker than intuition might tell you. It still raises the floor for the veteran, while boosting the ceiling for a peripheral part like Irv Smith.

In Buffalo, a lot of question marks remain. Josh Allen will no longer have to rely so heavily on role players like Brown and Beasley, but he’ll need to take the next step for Diggs to reach his full potential as the heir to Antonio Brown. The history of established receivers changing teams offers a bleak reminder that the grass isn’t always greener.

Diggs has long been a controversial player in our dynasty rankings, with individual rankers listing him from WR11 to WR52. The lower rankings will have to be revised now that the 26-year-old is a clear No. 1. Sadly, the higher rankings may have to be altered as well. The dream of Diggs to a passing juggernaut with an established QB has finally died for good.

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