We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2021 season. Click here to read the series of questions answered so far.
There wasn’t a ton of optimism in the fantasy community surrounding Stefon Diggs after the Vikings traded him to the Bills for first-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-round picks. It’s not that anyone doubted Diggs’ talent: 102-1021-9 and (even more impressive) 63-1130-6 receiving lines during the 2018-2019 seasons showed off his all-around ability inside of good-not-great Vikings offenses. The hesitation was more so due to concerns over 1) the lackluster recent history of fantasy WRs after being traded, and 2) whether or not Josh Allen could enable a true high-end fantasy WR1.
Fast forward 12 months and Diggs and Allen are both near consensus top-three fantasy options across the industry. The former is coming off league-high marks in receptions (127) as well as receiving yards (1,535); it’s hard to fathom what an improved version might look like if the extra year in the system pays dividends.
What follows is a breakdown on what made Diggs so dominant in 2020 and what we should expect from the Bills’ undisputed No. 1 pass-game option as a fantasy WR in 2021.
Death, taxes, Diggs catching at least six passes
The Bills’ stud receiver basically didn’t miss last season, catching at least six passes in an NFL record 18 total contests. Diggs’ “worst” game was a 4-49-1 performance on six targets, but considering Diggs beat Mr. Jalen Ramsey for a score during that Bills’ 35-32 victory, we’ll go ahead and give him a pass.
All in all, only Davante Adams (10), DeAndre Hopkins (8) and Tyreek Hill (7) spent more weeks than Diggs (6) as a top-12 PPR WR. He demonstrated a steady floor, functioning as a top-24 PPR WR in 11 of 16 games. WR1 or WR2 semantics aside: Diggs consistently went about terrorizing opposing defenses in style.
99 seconds of Stefon Diggs being extremely good at his job pic.twitter.com/HBI2aXnOXg
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) January 4, 2021
Allen deserves plenty of credit for his own improvement as a passer, but adding Diggs to the equation undoubtedly helped speed up the young QB’s progression. The duo was as formidable as any QB-WR tandem in the league — particularly on comeback and hitch routes. Overall, Diggs set league-high marks in receptions (52), yards (533) and yards per route run (4.59) on these two routes, regularly providing a safe and efficient avenue for his QB to go with the ball.
Based on 2020-21 production alone, it’s impossible to call Diggs anything other than a top-three wide receiver on planet Earth. Of course, part of what made fantasy’s reigning PPR WR3 so productive last season was his extraterrestrial volume.
Few players in the league are afforded this many targets
Last season featured 162 regular season and 32 postseason footballs thrown in Diggs’ direction. Nobody had more total targets than Diggs. Further helping matters was the reality that Allen’s No. 1 WR didn’t benefit from a few large outlier performances; Diggs joined Davante Admas, Keenan Allen, Diontae Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins and Travis Kelce as the only players in the league with double-digit targets in at least nine games.
Even switching from volume to specific team domination doesn’t remove Diggs from the top of any opportunity metric. Yes, Allen was one of just nine QBs with at least 600 dropbacks last season. Also yes, only Adams (34%) and Hopkins (30%) had a higher target share than Diggs (29%). We didn’t see quite as consistent of a downfield role for Diggs in Buffalo compared to his final season with the Vikings, although his 35% air yard market share was still tied for the 10th-highest mark among all WRs.
Look, 150 targets is a fairly arbitrary number, but it’s also a 16-game pace floor for what we’re expecting from Diggs moving forward as the continued target hog of this offense. Overall, 65 WRs have had at least 150 targets in a season since 2010 — their average finish has been as the PPR WR6. Fifty-nine of the 65 WRs (91%) finished as a top-12 PPR WR. Only 2012 Larry Fitzgerald and 2016 Hopkins and Allen Robinson failed to post top-24 production; good thing Diggs won’t be catching passes from John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley, Brian Hoyer, Brock Osweiler, Tom Savage or Blake Bortles.
Add it all together and …
You only need one hand to count fantasy WRs you should pick ahead of Diggs
The only meaningful change the Bills made to their offense during the offseason was swapping out John Brown for Emmanuel Sanders. It remains to be seen how snaps will be divided up between Sanders and Gabriel Davis on the outside; there’s a decent chance neither flirts with triple-digit opportunities considering Cole Beasley has seen 106 and 107 targets over the past two seasons. Obviously none of this will impact Diggs’ standing as the undisputed alpha in this passing attack.
The good news for everyone involved is that this is truly a fantasy-friendly offense for wide receivers. Allen ranked eighth in overall dropbacks last season and second with at least four WRs on the field. The reigning No. 2 scoring offense clearly is capable of enabling more than one high-end fantasy receiver; the only “issue” for the complementary options is just how dominant Diggs’ stranglehold happens to be on this overall target share. Expect Sanders and Davis to rotate, making Beasley the No. 2 target in fantasyland based on opportunity alone. The Bills’ stud slot WR is worthy of low-end WR3 consideration thanks to his advanced floor.
Diggs should safely continue to be drafted among fantasy’s top-five players at his position. At the moment, Diggs is my WR4 in fantasyland behind only Davante Adams, A.J. Brown and Tyreek Hill. These four WRs, along with DeAndre Hopkins, form my top “Huge target projections for Grade-A ballers” tier; I won’t argue with anyone who wants to shuffle around the order. Diggs won’t turn 28 until November — embrace everyone involved in this passing game in fantasy. It’s scary to think that the best might still be to come for this entire Bills offense.