Back in March, the Buffalo Bills sent a first-, fifth- and sixth-round draft pick in the 2020 NFL Draft along with a 2021 fourth-rounder to the Minnesota Vikings. In return they receiver wide receiver Stefon Diggs and a 2020 seventh-round pick. At that time, there were many around the league who felt the Bills got fleeced in the Diggs trade.
After all, there were rumors that Diggs was a polarizing presence—a malcontent who had publicly called out his quarterback and the Vikings’ passing offense during a 2019 season where he had a career-low 94 targets (though he did finish with 1,130 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 63 receptions). The thought was the addition of Diggs could threaten the great chemistry and culture that general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott cultivated in the locker room.
Beane knew that quarterback Josh Allen was entering the crucial third year as Buffalo’s quarterback. He knew the team was expected to contend for a playoff berth and challenge the New England Patriots’ supremacy in the AFC East. He knew Diggs’s specialties—beating cornerbacks 1 vs. 1 off of the line of scrimmage and serving as a big-play threat—was something the Buffalo receiving corps sorely lacked.
So Beane executed the deal for Diggs, giving the Bills their first game-changing wideout since the talented but oft-injured Sammy Watkins was selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 Draft.
Safe to say, after the first 13 games of his Bills career, it’s hard to argue that Beane overpaid to acquire Diggs, who at age 27 is enjoying the best season of his career.
Diggs, who has never made the Pro Bowl in his five years in the league, appears to be a cinch to earn Buffalo’s first Pro Bowl nod at wide receiver since Eric Moulds in 2002. He’s well on his way to becoming the first All-Pro receiver in franchise history, something that eluded Hall of Fame wide receivers Andre Reed, James Lofton, and Terrell Owens during their tenures in Western New York.
Diggs is on his way to compiling the finest season a wide receiver has ever had in a Bills’ jersey. In Week 13 he torched the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense for ten receptions, 130 yards and a touchdown during a 26-15 win on Sunday Night Football—including hauling in six grabs for 83 yards during two pivotal third-quarter touchdown drives that put the Bills (10-3) in control of the game for good.
Diggs has 100 catches on the year, tying Moulds’s team record, set during the 2002 season when Drew Bledsoe was Buffalo’s quarterback. (Of course, it’s only been 13 games.) He leads the league in receptions, is third in receiving yards (already a career-best 1,167 yards), fourth in yards per game (89.8), and seventh in first downs (53).
Among Bills wide receivers, Diggs is ninth in terms of receiving yards in a season, and he is within range of Moulds’s franchise record of 1,368, set during the 1998 season.
Diggs has recorded at least four catches in every game, has six grabs in 12 of Buffalo’s 13 games, and has four games with ten catches to go with his five 100-yard outings. And he’s doing it while primarily facing the opposition’s No. 1 cornerback.
With his explosiveness and detailed route-running abilities, Diggs has proven to be the game-changing, hard-to-contain wideout Beane and McDermott envisioned when they made that deal with the Vikings, and his arrival has fueled a breakout season from Allen.
Allen has taken a quantum leap forward from Year 2 to Year 3, completing 323 of 471 passes (68.6 percent) for 3,641 yards with 28 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 103.3 quarterback rating. With three games remaining, Allen has already thrown for the fifth-most passing yards in a season in franchise history, and he should coast past Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly for second place (3,844 in 1991) if he can pass for 204 yards Saturday vs. the Denver Broncos. Bledsoe holds the all-time mark with his 4,359-yard output in 2002.
Thanks in large part to Diggs’s emergence, Allen and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll have orchestrated a passing attack that ranks third in the NFL in yards per game (272.8) and fourth in touchdowns (30).
And those talks of his being a malcontent? Everyone in the Bills organization seems to rave about Diggs’s work ethic, attitude, and commitment to both the team and to Allen’s development.
The best part of Diggs’s breakout season? He still has three more years remaining on his team-friendly contract—years that are coinciding with the prime of his career.
While there shouldn’t have been a debate over the price tag to acquire Diggs in the offseason, Diggs has silenced all doubters with his performance in leading the Bills to the cusp of the franchise’s first AFC East divisional title since 1995.