When the Minnesota Vikings selected Stefon Diggs in the 5th round of the 2015 draft, they knew they found a potentially explosive player with the football in his hands and the ability to produce on special teams. Mark Schofield looks at the ability to change direction that could make Stefon Diggs fantasy impact increase going forward.
The ability to quickly change direction is an essential trait for a wide receiver. When an offensive player can alter his course quickly, he can gain separation on a defensive back and create a big throwing window for his quarterback. Stefon Diggs changes course while running as quickly as any player on film in the NFL this season.
On this play from his first NFL start, Diggs is lined up wide right. The Vikings have QB Teddy Bridgewater in the shotgun with 11 offensive personnel on the field. Minnesota has a stack slot to the left with WR Cordarrelle Patterson and tight end Kyle Rudolph, and slot formation to the right with receiver Adam Thielen (#19) inside of Diggs. The Broncos have their 4-2-5 defense in the game with all six front players on the line of scrimmage, showing Cover 1 in the secondary. Diggs runs a deep out route on the right toward the sideline, and is able to get huge separation from veteran cornerback Aqib Talib (#21):
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The replay angle illustrates how Diggs gained such a big cushion at his cut. As the WR reaches the top of his vertical stem, Talib is in good position to take away the out route, with outside leverage on Diggs’ right shoulder. But as the rookie receiver makes his cut, he sets it up with a hard plant to the inside with his left leg, to fake a route inside:
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After sticking his left foot into the turf, Diggs then executes a sharp cut to the right sideline. Talib starts to cut inside, thinking he can jump on a route toward the middle of the field, but after the CB takes two hard steps inside, he’s forced to use a baseball turn to try and catch up with the WR breaking away from him. He cannot recover, and the Vikings have a big completion.
On this play against Kansas City, Diggs is again split to the right as the Vikings use 11 offensive personnel. Minnesota has Bridgewater in the shotgun with trips formation to the left and the rookie WR alone on the right. The defense uses 4-2-5 personnel on this play, showing Cover 2 in the secondary before rolling this to Cover 1 at the snap. On the trips side of the field, the two outside receivers run routes breaking inside while Rudolph cuts to the flat. Weakside, Diggs runs a deep out route against cornerback Marcus Peters (#22):
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The CB is in press alignment before the play, but bails right at the snap. Diggs uses a stutter-step release at the line of scrimmage, before cutting to the inside on a vertical stem. Peters trails him with outside leverage, but then the WR puts on the brakes and cuts toward the sideline. Once more we see a CB forced into a baseball turn, trying to maintain his relationship with a WR. But Peters, like Talib before him, cannot recover in time to prevent the completion. Once more, the replay angle shows us the break:
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Diggs is able to obtain an inside release at the start of the play, and then makes an extremely sharp cut on his break, forcing Peters into the baseball turn while gaining separation. Bridgewater hits him with the pass and the Vikings have a fresh set of downs.
Finally, Diggs is also able to change directions with a single step when carrying the football. On this play against Kansas City, he is split to the left and gets the ball on a tunnel screen. As he accelerates into the secondary, watch the move he puts on safety Eric Berry (#29):
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The safety is in perfect tackling position, but Diggs sticks his left foot in the turf and cuts back to the inside, leaving Berry grasping at air.
Increased playing time for Diggs might provide the Vikings offense with a nice boost going forward, if these past two games are any indication. For fantasy owners looking to provide their teams a little boost, the rookie WR with the ability to change direction on a dime might be a player worth picking up if you can.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.