Stefon Diggs Fantasy Impact
Stefon Diggs, the former standout wide receiver from the University of Maryland, was traded from Minnesota to Buffalo in the midst of a wild NFL free agency period. Diggs has played all five of his NFL seasons for the Vikings, who drafted him in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. In return for Diggs, the Vikings received the Bills 2020 first-round pick (22nd overall), and three day three picks including their fourth-round pick in 2021.
Stefon Diggs had expressed a desire to move on from Minnesota, where he recently signed a five-year extension, after battling with run-first focused play-caller Mike Zimmer. The Buffalo Bills are eager to surround young franchise quarterback Josh Allen with weapons that will help him succeed.
Bills Fantasy Impact
Over the past few seasons, the Buffalo Bills have transformed from an offense to avoid in fantasy football to one with big potential. Diggs will now become the top weapon for Josh Allen, but the move may help the quarterback’s fantasy football value significantly more than Diggs’.
Stefon Diggs: Slight Stock Down
Despite throwing the ball 3.8 fewer times per game than Buffalo last year, the Vikings were a much more efficient offense. Minnesota averaged 215 passing yards per game last season, which although unimpressive is still better than Buffalo who averaged 205 passing yards per game. The Vikings were also 15th in the NFL in passing touchdowns per game, with 1.5. Buffalo averaged 1.3 passing touchdowns per game, 24th in the NFL. According to Football Outsiders, the Vikings were the 10th most efficient passing offense in 2019, the Bills were 19th. Diggs, then, will need volume to overcome inefficiency. His best season came in 2018 when he caught 102 of 150 targets for 1,021 yards and 9 touchdowns; he finished as PPR WR10 that season. Two receivers saw more than 100 targets from Josh Allen last season: John Brown (115) and Cole Beasley (104). The rest of the wideouts saw a combined 83 targets. Barring a significant increase in Allen’s efficiency, Diggs will be looking at a number of targets similar to the 95 he saw in 2017 or the 94 he saw in 2019. In those seasons Diggs finished as WR19 (2017) and WR24 (2019).
Josh Allen: Slight Stock Up
Josh Allen progressed from 2018 to 2019, in part due to an increase in weapons that fit his throwing style. Diggs is sure to add to his arsenal and help him increase his passing efficiency, especially his 55.8% career completion percentage. Allen, though, finished as QB6 in fantasy football in 2019 primarily because of his ability to score on the ground. Allen ran for 510 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2019. The addition to Diggs, aside from potential keeping the offense on the field more, doesn’t help Allen run the ball.
John Brown and Cole Beasley: Stock Down
John Brown and Cole Beasley are both relative losers in this deal. Both players relied on receptions for fantasy football relevance last season; both caught more than 62% of their targets but hauled in only six touchdowns apiece. Diggs, who has averaged eight touchdowns per season since 2017, will likely cut into both of their touchdown totals. I mentioned earlier that he is also likely to cut into their targets. This move makes Beasley essentially irrelevant and drops Brown down to an afterthought when considering potential WR3s or later than could have fantasy football relevance in 2020.
Vikings Fantasy Impact
This move leaves a big gap in the Vikings passing game. This suggests two things to me: that the Vikings will prioritize receiver early in the 2020 NFL Draft and/or that they have doubled down on their desire to be a run-first team.
Adam Thielen: Stock Neutral
It’s difficult to project how Thielen will produce without Diggs since he hasn’t played meaningful game time without Diggs playing opposite of him. When healthy, though, Thielen has consistently been fed targets from Kirk Cousins. Thielen finished as PPR WR7 in 2018 when he saw 155 targets from Cousins; that was the fifth-highest of any receiver in the league. Before sustaining an injury in 2019, Thielen was on pace for 101 targets, which would’ve been 29th highest in 2019. My anticipation is that Thielen will land somewhere in between in 2020, assuming the Vikings spend significant draft capital to bring in a wide receiver that can draw coverage as a rookie. If he finds himself somewhere in-between those numbers in 2020, he should bounce back from a tough 2019 campaign.
Kirk Cousins: Stock Down
Cousins finished as QB12 in 2018 when he threw the ball 606 times 150 (24.7%) of which were to Diggs. In 2019, when he finished QB15, he threw the ball 444 times, 94 (21.2%) of which were to Diggs. Trading an experienced veteran for a rookie, as I anticipate, is never an even swap. The Vikings will likely either drop his passing attempts even more or ask him to give at least 20% of his targets to an unproven weapon. Neither one of those options is beneficial to his already capped fantasy football ceiling.
Dalvin Cook/Alexander Mattison: Stock Up
Although not surprising, the Vikings’ choice to part ways with Diggs is a nod of confidence for their running game. It speaks volumes (literally) about their belief not only in Dalvin Cook’s performance but also in his ability to hand a large workload. Cook totaled just 258 touches in his first two seasons; primarily due to injuries and concerns about durability. In 2019, Cook touched the ball 303 times while finishing as RB6 overall. 2019 third-round NFL Draft pick Alexander Mattison was productive with his 100 touches in 2019; averaging 4.6 yards per carry and finding the endzone once. He also caught ten of his twelve targets. This move, especially if they fail to draft a receiver that can make an immediate impact, likely means more work for both of these backs. Don’t be surprised to see the duo total over 450 touches in 2020.