Now that the NFL Draft is a wrap, I need something to do to consume some of my free time. I decided to write about a few of my favorite NFL wide outs and today, I start with Stefon Diggs. Diggs is a 6’0 191 lbs 23-year-old who has shown glimpses of absolute brilliance on the football field. The former five-star recruit had an up and down career at the University of Maryland before being drafted in the fifth round to the Minnesota Vikings. Diggs outdid any expectations he had his rookie year by posting a 52-720-4 receiving line but it was his sophomore season that Diggs really took the next step. Injuries and a bad offense are the only thing keeping Diggs from being the NFL’s next breakout star.
Stefon Diggs best game of the 2016-17 season came in week two against the Green Bay Packers lining up against poor Damarious Randall. This play below is a simple ten-yard hitch route but Diggs does more during this play than most WRs in the league do. The first thing you are taught when running a hitch is sell the vertical route, that will ultimately get you the separation you need. Randall starts backpedaling quicker around six to eight yards into the route. At the top of the route, Diggs uses the “dead leg” technique that gets Randall tied up for just a split second which is all you need as a WR. Diggs being the athlete that he is makes something out of nothing and turns this simple hitch route into a much bigger gain.
Diggs is lineup at the top of the formation and releases into the inside of Randall. Diggs releases inside and tries to sell the fade route. Once he sees Randall make that awkward coverage step to cover his fade, Diggs breaks into the deep post route. He is superb route runner due to his quickness, speed, and change of direction during the route. Diggs posted a 9-182-1 receiving line this game on Sunday Night Football and officially put the league on notice.
Here is the broadcast angle of this beautiful grab Diggs made during this game that resulted in a huge gain.
The All-22 version of this shows just how fast Diggs is throughout his route. Randall is giving him the outside and just does not want get beat inside. Diggs was able to outrun Randall effortlessly to make the impressive grab.
Enough from this Packers game, let’s take a look at some of the other things Diggs does well. He is versatile and can lineup at multiple spots on the field. Diggs lines up as the 2 WR in the the trips formation. Pressing Diggs is not the ideal move but he can beat you in so many ways that their is really no right way to cover him. Diggs hits this Redskins DB with the “rocker step” which gets the DB thinking an inside route and once the DB turns his shoulders to the inside Diggs cuts and turns upfield. He is a nightmare cover in space.
Here is another play where Diggs is lined up by himself with a deep route. Diggs sets up this DB with a change of speed release. He gets the DB to relax for one second then just flat out runs by him and makes the grab. The DB is defending the inside route and is giving Diggs a free release to the outside. He is still able to run right by him to make the catch.
Minnesota needs to do a better job getting Diggs the ball down the field because he does a phenomenal job tracking the ball in the air. The Vikings use Diggs a lot to beat zone coverage with five-to-seven yard beaters. Maybe you can blame it on Bradford’s lack of downfield confidence but this team needs to get Diggs the ball downfield.
Here is another play that shows off Diggs ability to track the ball downfield.
I do not even know what to call this route, most likely a deep curl route but he does something at the top of his route I do not think I can recall ever seeing. Diggs is being watched by two Tennessee Titan defensive backs and was still able to make the play. He explodes off the line and at the top of the route gives a deep post step to get the DB to think he’s attacking the middle of the field. That step gets the first DB to make the wrong step, then Diggs runs at the second DB to get him to backpedal, “beats the drum” at the top of the route, comes back to the ball and makes the play. Got all that? It is truly a unique way to get open at the top of the route but it was successful. Diggs then shows off his impressive YAC skills.
Minnesota missed Diggs multiple times during the course of the season and here are a few example. On this play, Diggs flat out runs by the CB who is expecting safety help and is left wide open down the field. Bradford puts a little too much mustard on it and leaves it just a little long for Diggs. Utilizing Diggs on deep routes is something this team must focus on doing next season.
Diggs is lined up in the slot on this play and gives the CB a quick six inch step off the line to get the inside release. He runs his corner route, has the DB clearly beaten and is wide open down field. Instead, Bradford makes a bad decision to throw it to a covered Thielen with the safety coming.
Stefon Diggs is a WR who is on the cusp of a breakout and if he can stay healthy this may be the year for that to happen. He’s been hindered with injuries a few times over his two year career. The Minnesota Vikings have someone special in Stefon Diggs, if they can start utilizing him in more effective ways he can breakout at any moment. In 2017, Diggs was targeted 112 times, I would love to see him around the 140 mark with the likes of Jarvis Landry, Emmanuel Sanders and Golden Tate. 2017 may be the year for Diggs so keep an eye out as this young star could blossom in front of our eyes.