Stefon Diggs carved out a pretty productive college career despite a lacerated kidney last year, a fractured fibula in 2013 and an ankle injury in 2012.
Despite all of those setbacks, he still produced 2,227 yards receiving and 14 touchdown receptions, as well contributions in the return game and carrying the ball, during his three-year Maryland career.
Now, however, Diggs is taking on the next challenge – refining his game to succeed in the NFL.
“Just making all routes look the same and being physical at the top of all routes if guys like to get their hands on or guys don’t like getting hands on, it’s good to be physical to create space,” he said.
“I just know at the next level, guys are a lot bigger as well, so you’re dealing with a lot of bigger guys. They might not be able to grab and tug, but a forearm here or there might be different from a college grab. Just getting adjusted. It will take time, but I’m going to try and get better and do what I can for the team.”
If getting used to bigger cornerbacks is the challenge, Diggs can get acclimated in hurry during his early practices with the Minnesota Vikings.
At rookie minicamp, the matchup for the fifth-round receiver was often going against first-round cornerback Trae Waynes, who measured just 1/8-inch taller and nine pounds lighter than the 6-foot, 195-pound Diggs. Truth be told, Diggs might have won those matchups in the first practice that was open to the media and that reportedly continued into the weekend.
“He’s a great corner. I know he was a first-round pick, I know he’s a great talent, fast kid,” Diggs said. “I told him I look forward to getting a lot of good work in with him because I like going against the best competition and I like to compete each and every day. I’m going to continue to see him every chance I get because I know he’s a great corner.”
Those challenges will only increase as the offseason practices resume next week with the advent of this year’s organized team activities. His first camp was only against rookie and first-year players. When OTAs start, Diggs should have the opportunity to face the Vikings’ top cornerback, Xavier Rhodes.
They saw each other once when Diggs was at Maryland and Rhodes was still at Florida State, but they only went head-to-head for two plays, Diggs said.
“I only saw him twice because I played a lot of inside. When I saw him outside, he’s a bigger corner. You’ve got to be able to move and be physical on the outside,” Diggs said.
“That’s it. I watched him on tape a lot as well, so I know what I was getting myself into.”
Diggs still named Rhodes as one of the two best cornerbacks he faced in college, with Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner (now with the St. Louis Rams) being the other.
In order to take on the NFL’s bigger cornerbacks, Diggs knows that physicality will have to be part of his game, which is one of the reasons he enjoyed watching Percy Harvin when Diggs was in high school.
Speed is the main asset in Diggs’ game right now. Although he wasn’t among the top receivers at the NFL Scouting Combine, his ability to separate with short-area quickness was evident at the outset of rookie minicamp.
“It definitely helps a little bit being I am kind of fast, I guess, but knowing on the next level it got a lot faster as well,” he said. “It’s like an even keel. You’re coming to work every day and you’ve to continue to get better because speed with speed, you’ve got to go with technique, so I’m just trying to become a better technician with route-running.”
He will be learning from one of the best receivers coaches in the NFL in George Stewart, but Diggs already had good coaching at Maryland, where former NFL receiver Kennan McCardell taught him the nuances of sharp route-running.
“He ran great routes, had great hands,” Diggs said, “and his routes were really creating separation, having the ability to create separation in small spaces, so I’m really trying to get that all down.”
Diggs working on finer points
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