Breakout of the Beast
At just 24 years old, and after capping off his third season in this league with a phenomenal playoff performance, Stefon Diggs is primed not only to break out but take over this season as a top-five receiver in the league.
The Maryland product drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 draft has quietly taken significant strides with each passing season. Strides that have been overlooked for a variety of reasons, but mainly because there are so many talented top-tier receivers in the league right now. With so many talented receivers in the league not having a legit starting quarterback to facilitate statistics is a huge hindrance. Diggs still managed to put up eight touchdowns last season, and nearly a thousand yards the season before that. Although he seems to remain just below everyone’s radar, he finally got himself noticed with his famous walk-off touchdown against the Saints during the Vikings 2017 playoff run.
After doing the impossible on the national stage, many are now aware of who Stefon Diggs is, what they don’t know is how good he is.
Still Not Sold
The average fantasy gamer has likely pulled up his box scores and seen the statistical WR2 that he appears to be on paper, and closed their laptops and went about their day. As anyone willing to read about football during the summer understands, this is a complex sport in which statistics and box scores don’t reflect everything happening on the field. For Diggs, his lack of a quarterback is the only thing holding him back. Each season Diggs returns more polished and seemingly more athletic than the season previous, yet having noodle-armed quarterbacks and Trevor Siemen’s replacement throwing the ball has limited Diggs’ potential – until now.
Primed for Success
Signing Kirk Cousins took the cap off of Diggs’ ceiling as he now has a capable quarterback throwing him the ball. The Vikings offense as a whole looks a lot scarier heading into next season, but perhaps the least anticipated aspect is how good Stefon Diggs is going to be. For Cousins, who has never had a true number one wide receiver, Diggs comes as a welcome target. Diggs’ already elevates the play of those around him – as boasted by Case Keenum’s 115.00 QB rating when targeting Diggs. If Diggs can make Keenum look good, it is impossible to put a cap on just how far he and Cousins can go. Diggs can do it all: stretch the field, run precise routes, and tightrope walk side-lines, this swiss army knife of a receiver takes so much pride in his craft he considers it an art.
I love running routes. It’s like painting pictures.
— DIGGS (@stefondiggs) May 16, 2018
Facts and Stats
For as much as people like to count stats, they often leave out the ones that count the most – such as air-yards. Air-yards is generally the best predictor for wide receiver success as it accounts for the yards that matter – how many yards is the ball traveling in the air before getting to the wide receiver. Air-yards are more valuable than regular receiving yards because they show efficiency – a wide receiver catching screen passes at the line of scrimmage is generally less productive than the wide-out catching balls beyond 10 yards. Diggs managed to finish 25th in air-yards last season, making him one of the more reliable receivers to target as a quarterback and fantasy GM.
Another stat worth bringing up is contested catches, a stat tracked and defined by next-gen stats as a reception with less than a yard of separation. Diggs finished first in the league amongst receivers in this category with a contested catch rate of 61.9% and 139.7 passer rating when targeted in contested situations. Making contested catches in the NFL is part of a receiver’s job, and nobody does that job better than Stefon Diggs.
Take it to the Bank
While there are no set markers for what predicts a breakout we have enough evidence supporting an ascending player on the cusp of his prime that it seems reasonable to predict Stefon Diggs to finish the season as a top-five wide receiver.
With Diggs primed to break out, I’ll be investing in him in every fantasy football format as well as with some sportsbooks. If you see the same potential in Diggs, why not consider taking 40-1 odds that he finishes the year with the most receiving yards in the NFL. Diggs will have 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career in the same season that he leads the league in receiving – the 2018 season. With everything set up perfectly, nothing stands in the way of Diggs claiming the receiving title for the 2018 NFL season.