The scrappy, smaller receiver with a constant chip on his shoulder that worked his way to the top of the roster, Stefon Diggs is the football story that everyone loves and can find relatable. Now he is primed to breakout in 2017 as the number-one pass catcher in Minnesota.
“I’m trying to have a better year than last year, to continue my growth from last year to this year, trying to stay healthy to contribute to my better year and staying with my team,” said Diggs on this season’s expectations. “Trying to make [my teammates] better full-time, rather than missing time.”
During his college days in Maryland, Diggs was the all-purpose tool, putting up monster yards in receiving (844), punt return (221), kick return (713), rushing (114) and even through touchdown passes, finishing with eight on the year. Over the next two years, his stats in all categories dropped off significantly, and he was unable to build on his receiving stats, posting 587 and 792 over the next two seasons with only 8 touchdowns in two seasons. While the steep drop-off could be concerning, and it was for plenty of teams in the draft, two keys to remember is he was on a poor team and maintained a 15, 17 and 12 yards-per-reception averages. What always remained apparent, no matter what kind of season he was having, was Diggs’ competitive edge.
“We both don’t talk too much trash, but we both real competitive and hate to lose,” said Diggs on matching up against Xavier Rhodes, the Vikings’ top cornerback. “We both have honest wins and honest loses, so it’s a fight I like to look forward to.”
While Diggs’ dip on the stat sheet was less than pleasing, his versatility always makes him a talented piece to add to the roster. After being selected in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL draft, the Maryland product sat out the first three games of the season before getting his shot against Denver because of injuries to Charles Johnson and Jarius Wright. He had 87 yards and impressed against the stout Broncos secondary, which gave him a shot to continue proving himself on the field. After that, he cruised to 720 yards in 52 catches for the remainder of the season with four touchdowns, then came back as the primary threat in 2016, backing up the rookie season with 903 yards and three touchdowns on 84 catches. The Vikings now have him slated as the number-one wide receiver on the depth chart heading into 2017, with the Minnesota team putting their young duo of Adam Thielen and Diggs as the top-two wideouts.
“To me, I’ve got a long way to go but I’ve had continued progress since my first year and I plan on making it to the next step as far as doing a little bit more,” said Diggs on if this would be a breakout year. “It just takes commitment, dedication to what you do; you’ve got to love to study people, got to love to study guys.”
His first few seasons were not without problems, as he had a fresh quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater learning how to play quarterback in the NFL. After the injury to the star out of Louisville, the wide receivers had to get on the same page, as incoming quarterback Sam Bradford made the transition from Philadelphia.
“Just time… spending more time with him and learning more about him and how he likes to approach things before we kind of just got thrown in the fire, so this year we have time to work with [each other] to make things crispy,” said Diggs on the offseason of extra time.
Stefon also mentioned the communication with his quarterback is more clear heading into 2017.
Now the bulk of the load is on the young number 14’s shoulders, as he takes on the number-one receiver role and has had his quarterback for an entire offseason of work.