When the Buffalo Bills tried to trade for Antonio Brown in the spring of 2019, the message was clear: The team wanted to give soon-to-be second-year quarterback Josh Allen a bona fide number-one receiver to help elevate his game and the offense overall. When that trade fell through, it ended up being one of the luckiest moments in franchise history, as Brown went on to do all the things that he did in other uniforms.
The Bills pivoted, signing John Brown and Cole Beasley to give Allen a solid receiving corps, but they were still missing that “guy.” An Alpha. The player who is open even when he’s covered. That’s the player Buffalo acquired via trade in the spring of 2020. Like Brown, people said he was a diva. Unlike Brown, he wasn’t one.
In today’s installment of our “90 players in 90 days” segment, we discuss Buffalo’s top wideout—a player who’s quickly rocketing up the team’s leaderboard as one of the top players in franchise history.
Name: Stefon Diggs
Height/Weight: 6’ 191 lbs
Age: 28 (29 on 11/29/2022)
Experience/Draft: 8; selected in the fifth round (No. 146 overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings
Acquired: Trade with Minnesota on 3/20/2020
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Diggs signed a massive contract extension in April, a four-year deal worth a total of $96 million. That deal adds on to his previous contract, so he’s signed through his age-34 season. For the 2022 season, he carries a cap hit of $11,736,111. His dead-cap number is $56,697,222, so he’s not going anywhere.
2021 Recap: Diggs’s year looked unimpressive when compared to the year prior, but it was still one of the best seasons in franchise history. He was targeted 164 times, catching 103 passes for 1,225 yards and ten touchdowns. He’s now the first player in franchise history to catch 100 passes in consecutive seasons, and in fact, he’s the only player in franchise history to have two 100-catch seasons period. He joined Stevie Johnson, Eric Moulds, Andre Reed, Elbert Dubenion, and Bob Chandler as the group tied for second in receiving touchdowns in a single season in franchise history, trailing leader Bill Brooks by one single score. He made his second consecutive Pro Bowl. If there’s one knock on the season Diggs had, it could be that he wasn’t nearly as dominant in the 2021 playoffs as he was in the 2020 playoffs. In two postseason games last year, he had just six catches for 67 yards on ten targets. The Kansas City Chiefs, in particular, shut him down—as he caught just three balls for seven yards in the team’s 42-36 loss. Of course, Gabe Davis had 201 receiving yards and four touchdowns in that game, so it’s not as if focusing on stopping Diggs was a perfect plan. Diggs was exactly as advertised last year: He was the guy that other teams had to game plan around, and he made huge plays for the team all year long when called upon to do so.
Positional outlook: Diggs tops the receiver depth chart again, and Davis returns ready to step into the No. 2 role. Isaiah McKenzie, Jamison Crowder, and Khalil Shakir are battling it out to be the top option in the slot. Jake Kumerow, Isaiah Hodgins, and Tavon Austin have flashed at camp, as well. Tanner Gentry and Neil Pau’u are fighting for time, while Marquez Stevenson is dealing with an injury.
2022 Offseason: Diggs is healthy and he has participated in all team activities to date.
2022 Season outlook: Much is made of Diggs elevating Allen’s game upon his arrival in Orchard Park, but rarely do we hear how much Allen has elevated Diggs, as well. It’s true that adding Diggs to Brown and Beasley put Allen over the top in 2020, but it’s also true that the best years of Stefon Diggs’s NFL career have come with Josh Allen at quarterback. His per-17 game averages in Minnesota, though, excellent, were nowhere near what they are in Buffalo. With the Vikings, Diggs averaged 89/1,123/7. In Buffalo, it’s 118/1,422/9. Fortunately, we don’t need to worry about whether Diggs wants credit for Allen’s rise to prominence or if Allen wants all the credit for Diggs and his success, since neither player is even close to a diva. That description was thrown around about Diggs more often than not upon his arrival, and all he’s done throughout his tenure with Buffalo is prove that to be completely incorrect.
After two years, Diggs is 15th in franchise history in receptions, 14th in receiving yards, and 15th in touchdowns. If he hits the averages noted above, he’ll be fifth in receptions, eighth in receiving yards, and eighth in receiving touchdowns. We’re talking about an all-time great acquisition in franchise history (in a trade, that, to be fair, has worked well for both sides—Justin Jefferson has established himself as a stud in Minnesota). Diggs and Allen go together perfectly, and their chemistry will serve them well this year and beyond.