Breakout Season Ahead for Stefon Diggs?
A quick glance at last year’s stat line shows that Stefon Diggs had a relatively successful 2016 season, hauling in 84 catches for 903 yards and 3 TDs on 112 targets. Factor in the staggering circumstances that the Minnesota Vikings offense faced and there is a strong reason to believe Diggs is headed for big things in 2017. Not only did the Vikings lose QB Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason to a devastating knee injury, but they also lost their franchise star Adrian Peterson to injury, and dealt with a change in offensive coordinators during the season.
Diggs was able to start strong despite the QB issues, going over 100 yards receiving in each of the first two games of the season while catching passes from noodle-armed Shaun Hill in Week 1 and a rushed-into-action Sam Bradford in Week 2. Diggs looked poised for a big year but then a groin injury in Week 4 admittedly limited his playmaking ability throughout the rest of the season. In the first four weeks, Diggs averaged a solid 14.88 yards per reception and was on pace for 100 catches and 1,488 yards. After missing Week 5 with the groin injury he averaged just 9.0 yards per reception for a total of 532 yards over the rest of the year while missing another two games due to injury.
Diggs, still just 23 years old entering his third season, has devoted himself to getting his body better prepared for the season-long grind in an effort to avoid the nagging injuries that have cost him six games over his first two seasons and limited his explosiveness in games he has suited up for while playing through. Entering this season, he remains the most dynamic talent in the Vikings WR corps. Another year of maturing and having a year to grow in the offense with Sam Bradford will only boost the chemistry between the two, and they have a chance to enter into a top tier of QB-WR combos this season.
The Vikings are no longer the run-first offense that existed in the Peterson era, as they opened up the passing game last season and could see even more of an emphasis on the aerial attack this year. While Bradford often played it safe and relied on short passes throughout the 2016 season, the additional time in the offense should present more opportunities for Diggs to show off his big-play ability on a more frequent basis, making it possible for an increase in TD totals compared to his first two seasons.
While his touchdown production has left much to be desired early in his career, there is reason for optimism as well. All three of his TDs came against NFC North opponents last season, and they are obviously on the schedule twice apiece again this year. Fortunately for Diggs and the Vikings, none of them appear to have made any significant improvements to their defensive backfields, which should allow Diggs to burn through them again this year. The remaining opponents on the schedule offer more opportunities for Diggs to succeed as well. In fact, the Vikings WR strength of schedule is ranked as the second easiest in the league, making a healthy Diggs primed for a huge season.
Diggs is fully capable of putting up season stats similar to the pace he was on through the first four games of last season. A year three breakout season consisting of 95 catches for 1,350 yards and 7 TDs wouldn’t be shocking. The biggest question mark will be his health, as his production hinges on utilizing his dynamic ability. A healthy Diggs for the Vikings this year will make for a healthy fantasy season for Diggs owners!