Minnesota Vikings sophomore spotlight: WR Stefon Diggs

Stefon Diggs has the moves to become a starting receiver, and he was during the offseason, but consistency and competition will be his challenges in remaining there.

The Minnesota Vikings had 10 picks in the 2015 NFL draft. One year after their selection, it’s time to look back on their careers before joining the Vikings, their rookie seasons and a preview of what lies ahead of them during their sophomore seasons.

The Minnesota Vikings continued their slew of offensive draft picks with their second fifth-round selection of the 2015 draft when they selected Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Scouts knew what Diggs was able to bring to the table as an athlete on the field, but a string of injuries throughout his college career really hurt his draft stock.

Before the Vikings

Diggs was able to make an immediate impact in college, playing in 11 of Maryland’s 12 games as a true freshman – he missed one because of an ankle injury. He was named the ACC Rookie of the Week three times throughout the season and finished second in the ACC Rookie of the Year voting. His sophomore season was not as impressive, however, as he was only able to play in seven games before breaking his right fibula, which caused him to miss the remainder of the season. He played in 10 games his junior year, but missed the final three due to a suspension and a lacerated kidney. In total, Diggs recorded 150 receptions for 2,227 yards and 14 touchdowns.

What analysts said

“Doesn’t possess the strength or long speed to make a living as an outside receiver, but he can be an extremely effective weapon from the slot as a pro, turning short third-down throws into first downs. Diggs can make things happen when he has the ball in his hands and could become a consistent, productive weapon for the right offensive coordinator.” - NFL.com bottom line

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“He is thin-framed and lean-muscled, but moves well with strong strides and cuts to be dangerous in the open field and as a return man. Although a passionate competitor, Diggs relies on his natural gifts and doesn’t focus on the details or his technique - hasn’t yet shown that he knows what it means to be a professional. He has clear talent and ability, but lacks a clear-cut NFL role on offense and will have to make an impact on special teams to justify his roster spot, similar to Ted Ginn Jr.” - Dane Brugler, CBS Sports

“Stefon Diggs has not received much love in the draft community, but I have to trust my eyes on this one. He offers unique quickness and lateral agility to make him a threat in the open field with the ball in his hands and also in the slot. He is a great fit for anticipation thrower Teddy Bridgewater.” - Dan Schneider, Pro Football Focus

“Diggs looks absolutely electric in slants and crossing routes, evading defenders with ease as he changes direction on a dime. A hands-catcher, the kid has incredible body awareness and balance, always knowing where his feet are on the field. Diggs attacks the ball in the air but attacks it with soft hands – and he can make the most of broken plays with his shiftiness and sometimes frenetic vision. He tends to rely on his natural abilities too often, foregoing crisp routes and solid blocking. He’ll need to prove he can actually work hard at the next level, because what he does currently seems effortless.” - Dorian Colbert, RosterWatch

2015 season

No one really knew what to expect from Diggs heading into his rookie season. He was one of the top-rated players in the country coming out of high school, but had a lackluster college career. He still showed a lot of promise, though, as he proved to have good athleticism and hands while catching the ball.

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Early on it was clear that Diggs was going to be able to make an impact with the team in one way or another, the problem became finding a way to get him onto the field. He was the star of the Vikings roster in training camp and the preseason, both as a receiver and as a punt returner. He ended the preseason having recorded 15 receptions for 174 yards and a touchdown.

Despite having a great preseason, Diggs was inactive for the first three games of the regular season. It was not until the fourth game of the season, against the Denver Broncos, that the rookie receiver got to see the field, filling in for an injured Charles Johnson. He ended up recording six receptions for 87 yards, which in turn led to his first start during the team’s next game. He would then record back-to-back 100-yard games and cement himself as a starter for the remainder of the season.

Diggs finished his rookie season leading the team in targets (52) and receiving yards (720), while also adding four receiving touchdowns, which was second on the team.

2016 outlook

Diggs became one of Bridgewater’s favorite targets during the 2015 season and his success as a rookie has earned him an early starting role for his sophomore campaign. Through organized team activities and minicamp it has been Diggs and Johnson working as the starting receivers in the Vikings offense, but if he is not careful he could find himself sliding down the depth chart.

The Vikings drafted Mississippi wide receiver Laquon Treadwell in the first round of this year’s draft and former-first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson has had a strong start to the team’s offseason workouts. Both of these players have the opportunity to be a No. 1 receiving option, where Diggs is built more like a No. 2. If they both take off during the preseason and training camp, then Diggs could see his role diminish.

At this point in time, though, that does not appear to be the case as Diggs has appeared to pick up right where he left off. He is an explosive athlete that seemed to run clean, crisp routes, which in turn creates extra separation from his defender. There is still a long way to go until Week 1 of the regular season, but Diggs seems to be in a prime position to be a Day 1 starter.

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