It is in our nature as human beings to crown a winner and a loser in almost any competitive situation. We have certainly gotten in the habit of doing this when it pertains to trades between two NFL teams. More often than not, one side appears to get more out of the deal than the other. We have to pick a winner. It’s in our nature.
But once in a while, a trade can have two winners.
In mid-March, the Minnesota Vikings traded away their star wide receiver, Stefon Diggs, to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for the No. 22 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft (along with fourth-, fifth- and sixth-round selections). While there was certainly no doubt the Bills were benefiting from the acquisition of Diggs, many wondered if the Vikings would see a positive outcome.
The Vikings decided to use the No. 22 overall pick on LSU wide receiver, Justin Jefferson.
As it turns out, through nine weeks of action, the Vikings and Bills are both receiving exactly the kind of results they were hoping for when they agreed to the terms of the deal.
Diggs has helped turn Buffalo into a prolific passion attack. To wit:
- Diggs leads all NFL players in total yards (813), receptions (63) and targets (91)
- He ranks fifth in total yards/game (90.3)
- Diggs has already matched his reception total with the Vikings last season, when he appeared in 15 games
- He has become Josh Allen’s favorite target, well on his way to a 1,000-yard receiving season
- Diggs only needs 317 more yards (about 45 yards/game) to record a single-season career high
- Diggs gives the Bills a true No. 1 WR, and the attention he receives is allowing others to get open (namely Cole Beasley on underneath routes)
Adding an elite receiver like Diggs has helped develop young QB Josh Allen. Having a receiver that can make a play on any ball that is thrown in his vicinity instills confidence in a quarterback who has been known to turn the ball over (26 INTs since entering the league in 2018). Diggs has accounted for about 31% of Allen’s passing yards this season. An experienced player like Diggs was a perfect fit for a Buffalo team that is in position to take over the AFC East.
Looking at the other end of the deal, wide receiver Justin Jefferson is emerging as one of the most talented players to come out of this year’s draft:
- Jefferson leads all rookie receivers in receiving yards with 627
- Jefferson’s receiving totals are ahead of notable receivers like teammate Adam Thielen, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Evans
- Jefferson has been an exceptional deep ball threat — he is averaging 18.4 yards/reception, good for second in the league behind Nelson Agholor of Las Vegas
- Jefferson is tied for fourth in the league with 12 plays of 20-plus receiving yards
- Jefferson also finds himself in the top 15 in yards/game (78.4)
- Not only is Jefferson PFF’s highest-graded rookie wide receiver through nine weeks, but he ranks second among all NFL receivers with a grade of 90.2
- Jefferson has been dominating when faced with single coverage: PFF reports that he leads all rookie wide receivers with 366 yards in single coverage
To say the Vikings hit on Jefferson would be an understatement. He has excelled in more ways than anyone predicted this early on in his career. The Vikings have a lot to be excited about moving forward with Jefferson as their number one receiver.
Wide receiver is one of the harder positions to transition into when moving from college to the pros. Scheme, type of offensive system, the higher level of technique required, chemistry with the quarterback are among a multitude of factors contributing to the difficult transition that wide receivers face. With virtually no offseason to prepare and learn the offensive playbook, Jefferson has shown no lapse in what he is capable of. In fact, he has largely outperformed expectations.
Drafting wide receivers can often be hit or miss for NFL teams. The Vikings have found something extremely special in Jefferson.
Both the Vikings and Bills can be immensely optimistic with what they received on their end of the deal. It’s clear that both teams should be viewed as winners of this deal.