When Minnesota Vikings fifth-round draft choice Stefon Diggs was in high school, his current team drafted Percy Harvin in the first round and Diggs was an instant fan.
Diggs spent a lot of time studying Harvin’s game, and without any prompting about the similarities, Diggs said Harvin was the player he modeled his game after most. The comparisons, based on Diggs’ performance at rookie minicamp, are legitimate in at least one area. Both are blessed with incredible short-area quickness.
“I like Percy as a receiver. He’s probably one of the best receivers I ever seen on tape and watched play,” Diggs said after his first full day at Vikings rookie minicamp last weekend. “At the end of the day, I’m me. I love him as a receiver; I love a lot of guys as a receiver. They do a lot of great things, but just try to do what I can.”
While Harvin was a first-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2009, Diggs had wait much longer for his name to be called in the 2015 NFL Draft. He lasted until the fifth round in a deep receiver class. Some of his draft-weekend wait was likely due to the injuries he had in college, but that’s one of the things the Vikings aren’t hoping mimics Harvin’s pro career.
Last year at Maryland, Diggs suffered a lacerated kidney against Penn State and missed the next three games, but he made a concerted effort to return for Maryland’s bowl game against Stanford. In 2013, he fractured his right fibula against Wake Forest and missed the final five games of the season after undergoing surgery. In 2012, he missed the Clemson game with an ankle injury.
Without the injuries, Diggs likely would have gone much sooner in the draft, but he’s happy to get his opportunity in the NFL.
While Harvin appears to have better long speed than Diggs, the rookie receiver showed similar short-area quickness and the ability to separate from defenders. However, it wasn’t just the quickness of Harvin that prompted Diggs to study him.
“Not so much his quickness – of course he’s great inside and in space, but he’s a physical guy as well,” Diggs said. “People think because you’re a smaller receiver … (but) he’s a physical guy. He’ll try to run you over, so I admire that the most, his physicality and what he brings to the game.”
Analysts attributed some of Harvin’s injuries to his fearless style of play, but Harvin had a running back’s build. At 5-foot-11, Harvin is listed at 184 pounds, but it’s a thick, chiseled frame.
Diggs, meanwhile, checks in with the Vikings at 6 feet and 191 pounds with room to add muscle. He isn’t as thick as Harvin, but …
“Give it time,” he said with a laugh. “But I’m still working on being a technician, along with being physical. It’s all developing in the transition to the NFL, but I definitely bring a lot of that to the game as far as being physical.”
Coming out of Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) High School, Diggs was ranked the nation’s second-best wide receiver by Scout.com, played in the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, was MVP of the U.S. Army All-American Junior Combine in 2011, and was a first-team all-state selection as a junior and was runner-up for Gatorade Maryland Player of the Year after his junior season.
Like Harvin, he brings skills running the ball, as well as in the return game.
In three seasons with the Terrapins, Diggs had 150 catches for 2,227 yards and 14 touchdowns, 32 rushes for 187 yards, returned 57 kickoffs for 1,472 yards (a 28.8-yard average) and 23 punts for 220 yards (9.17-yard average).
He’s ready to do whatever it takes to earn playing time, no matter what phase of the game that might be at the outset.
“Just do what you’re told,” he said when asked what the message has been from receivers coach George Stewart, who also worked with Harvin. “You’re a young guy, so I’m just trying to earn my stripes right now and do what I can for the team. Do everything at a fast pace and don’t have half-butt anything. Just do as you’re told and do it at a high rate and study as much as you can.”
“There’s a lot of great receivers on this team. You’ve got Jarius Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Wallace. There’s some great guys I look forward to learning from. When I get my opportunity, I’ll take advantage.”