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Examining the trade between Buffalo and Minnesota for Stefon Diggs

2020 NFL free agency grades
Photo Credit: USA Today

This has been one of the craziest legal tampering and free agency periods we have seen in the NFL. Big-name players and receivers have been on the move. On Tuesday, the Minnesota Vikings agreed to send Stefon Diggs and a 2020 seventh-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for 2020 first-round, fifth-round, and sixth-round picks in addition to a fourth-round pick in 2021, according to Jay Glazer. The trade ends years of speculation as it was known the former Vikings wide receiver was not happy with his decreasing role in the offense that was feeding off of running back Dalvin Cook.

Could this be Buffalo’s year?

For the Bills, this instantly gives their offense and starting quarterback Josh Allen an extremely reliable weapon in the passing game. It would also seem likely that after sharing the spotlight with Vikings WR Adam Thielen, Diggs should come into Buffalo sitting atop the receiver depth chart. Buffalo’s leading receivers last season, John Brown and Cole Beasley, did okay last season, but the lack of height in the room affected the Bills passing game. While Diggs is just six feet tall, he will instantly be the tallest starting receiver as well.

According to Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric, Diggs earned an overall OSM score in 2019 of 33.85. He posted a higher production than Brown by three points and is less than a point under Beasley’s grade of 34.56. A season removed from his career in receptions with 102 in 2018, Diggs had 63 catches in 2019 and earned 109 more yards compared to the 2018 season. His yards per catch soared, going from a 10.0 YPC flat in 2018, to a 17.9 YPC in 2019.

Diggs has been a monster on the perimeter for some time, continually impressing with his speed, catch radius, and stellar route running, as shown below. Diggs’ ability to find yards after the catch and contact also makes him a viable weapon for any offense.

Buffalo’s general manager Brandon Beane has built the Bills into a team that can make the playoffs. With QB Tom Brady leaving the AFC East and Beane acquiring Diggs from Minnesota, this is Buffalo’s time to strike for the top of the division. While a first-round pick can be a lot to sacrifice for a player, the wide receiver position was an obvious need in the draft for the Bills. Buffalo, in theory, used their 22nd overall pick (plus the mid/late-round draft pick package) to draft Diggs.

Diggs had one of the lowest average cushions from defenders at 4.6 yards but was able to find an average 2.5 yards of separation at the point of completion or incompletion. He also averaged 5.1 yards after the catch per reception in 2019, just .1 yard less than Beasley (who has a lower average YAC above expectation) and 2 yards more than Brown according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats.

Related | 2020 NFL Draft: Will Minnesota find a replacement for Stefon Diggs?

Minnesota’s draft focus

Diggs being traded to Buffalo not only allows the Bills to fill one of their most pressing needs, but it also shifts their draft focus a bit. However, for Minnesota, the addition of the second first-round pick in 2020 will undoubtedly help the Vikings give their franchise the additions it needs to make a playoff push as well. At this point, 11 picks in the first round are owned by five teams: Minnesota (2), the Las Vegas Raiders (2), the San Fransico 49ers (2), the Jacksonville Jaguars (2), and the Miami Dolphins (3).

Minnesota already owned the 25th overall pick, which was behind the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints, who sat at 23rd and 24th, respectively. While losing Diggs created a need at wide receiver, receiving the 22nd overall pick from Buffalo is crucial to Minnesota’s plan. Both New Orleans and New England were expected to grab receivers somewhat early in the 2020 draft. Moving ahead of both teams allows the Vikings to pick from a bigger pool of this talented receiving group before the Saints or Patriots get a chance.

With so many trades that end up looking lopsided, this trade worked well for both teams. Buffalo filled there need while Minnesota was able to get great value from a relationship that was continuing to sour.

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