Similarly to Deandre Hopkins, wide receiver Stefon Diggs’ trade to the Buffalo Bills was born out of his frustration with the Minnesota Vikings, for whom he played since his entry into the league in 2014. However, the difference in Diggs’ case is that he had made his displacement with the organization public through a series of tweets, that began amid the 2019 season when he was still on the Vikings roster and playing for the team.
Trade rumors had circulated up until the October trade deadline, however, Minnesota continually insisted he was not for sale. His impact on the locker-room morale likely played a key role in the Viking’s decision to ship him out. He was oftentimes visibly upset during games, most particularly during their playoff matchup against the New Orleans Saints, where he threw a tantrum for not getting any targets even though the Vikings were winning at the time.
Though the move was a long time coming, it does not detract from the significance of the move, for both the Vikings and the Bills.
Beginning with the latter of the two, Diggs’ addition to the Bills revitalizes a pretty average receiving core, playing for good, not great offense. In the 2019 season, the Bills scored less than 20 points per game, and had around 330 yards of offense per game, on average. This placed 10th, and ninth in the league, respectively.
The team, however, still managed to finish 10-6 and clinched an AFC wildcard position. As can likely be seen from the discrepancy, The Bills’ success in 2019 was largely driven by their strength on defense, allowing the second least number of points of any NFL team: just 16 points per game. This is coupled with allowing under 300 yards a game, which places third of any team in 2019.
Diggs’ addition should prove to close the gap in talent between their offense and defense. Though his overall 2019 yardage is minimal compared to other receivers of his caliber, resulting from the Viking’s preference towards the ground rather than the air, his average reception moved the ball nearly 18 yards, which is greater than that of wide receiver Michael Thomas, who was the offensive player of the year. He has also proven extremely clutch in the playoffs, catching the pass that took the Vikings to the NFC championship in the 2017 season, now dubbed the “Minneapolis Miracle.”
The Vikings, though losing an extremely talented player, should not lick their wounds for too long. They received a first-round pick, along with a fifth, seventh in this year’s draft, as well as a fourth-rounder in 2021. This will give them quite a bit of flexibility when the draft rolls around in April to trade up or down in the draft depending on the players they want to get. Obviously, a wide receiver will be top of mind given Diggs’ departure, and this draft has no shortage of options in that position. Justin Jefferson or Henry Ruggs could be realistic options if they chose to trade up. They also still hold a later first-rounder, which will likely be used in the acquisition of a pass rusher, given the recent departure of Everson Griffin.
Nonetheless, the Vikings still look to be formidable going into 2020, as the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears haven’t gotten much better this offseason, while the Green Bay Packers, though still the best team in the NFC North, don’t look any better than they did in 2019. This means that Vikings are still the second-best team in the division, which, at least last year, was good enough to get them a wildcard spot, which drove them into the divisional round of the playoffs.
However, the greater effects of this trade may be felt in Buffalo, as it makes them the favorite’s in our opinion to win the AFC East, which would be for the first division championship in 25 years.