Despite the Price, Stefon Diggs Is the Best Fantasy Football Value Among Buffalo Bills Receivers
Pairing Diggs with John Brown as the two outside receivers along with Cole Beasley in the slot gives Buffalo a solid trio of weapons for Josh Allen to work with. For fantasy owners, however, the trade that sent Diggs from Minnesota to Buffalo leaves a giant question about which Bills outside receiver is the better pick in 2020 season-long fantasy football formats when you factor in cost -- which places Diggs 62nd overall and Brown 112th, per BestBall10's May ADP.
While both are coming off very similar seasons last year in terms of yards, Diggs looks like a better value than Brown, even at his more expensive price. Here's why.
The Josh Allen Effect
The good news for Diggs is that Allen's arm strength is a major boost to perhaps eclipsing the production Diggs had last year for the Vikings. Allen's average depth of target was nearly two yards further downfield than Kirk Cousins' was last year, giving Allen's receivers more chances to make explosive plays. Diggs still averaged 13.1 yards before the catch, which ranked fifth in the league, so it's not like he needed a huge boost. But while Cousins may not have been a perfect match for Diggs' talents, Allen could be better suited to help Diggs hit his ceiling.
One area Diggs will have to adjust is the timing of his routes given how defenses played Allen last year. Cousins spent the most time in the pocket in 2020 with an average of 2.7 seconds per pass attempt, according to Pro-Football-Reference. Meanwhile, Allen had just 2.3 seconds per attempt before either throwing the ball or having to escape pressure. More often than not, it was the latter option as Allen faced the sixth-most blitzes of any quarterback in 2019, but the second-year quarterback handled it well and was hurried just 45 times -- three fewer times than Cousins, who faced just 107 blitzes.
Diggs also leaves a quarterback in Cousins who was on target 79 percent of the time -- again, per Pro-Football-Reference -- and made bad throws just 15.5 percent of the time last year and joins Allen, who ranked 21st among quarterbacks at a 73.2 percent on-target rate and 28th with a 20.3 percent bad-throw percentage. Ideally, Diggs' presence and Allen's continued maturation will help alleviate those concerns, but it's something fantasy owners need to be wary about.
Diggs vs. Brown
The big advantage Brown has on Diggs this season is that he played last year in this offense and has built up chemistry with Allen. In most years, that wouldn't be a major factor, but the loss of offseason team activities and other social distancing guidelines have likely made it difficult for Allen to develop a rapport with his newest target.
Yet, Diggs is more explosive than Brown, and he was more efficient last season than his new teammate.
As a receiver, Diggs had roughly the same average cushion and amount of separation as Brown, per Next Gen Stats, but he averaged two more yards after the catch per reception than Brown (5.1 to 3.1). He also outperformed Brown in many areas and did so on 21 fewer targets, making him a more efficient option.
That is reflected in our Net Expected Points (NEP) metic, which you can read more about in our glossary. In Reception NEP per catch, Diggs recorded a 1.53 clip, compared to Brown's mark of 1.37. Diggs also edges Brown on a per-target basis, totaling 1.04 Reception NEP per target, to Brown's 0.85. Of course, those aren't perfect apples-to-apples comparisons because the two played in different offenses last year, but Diggs definitely had the advantage in terms of 2019 efficiency.
Diggs is also a versatile tool for Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who is known for being creative with his play-calling, including runs with his wideouts. The Bills ran running plays for Isaiah McKenzie eight times last season, and they were successful -- per NEP -- just five times, leaving McKenzie with a total of just 1.03 Rushing NEP. Diggs has experience running the rock and was successful on six of his seven runs for the Vikings last season, ended with 5.19 Rushing NEP. Daboll should use Diggs in the running game as often -- if not more -- than he used McKenzie last year, and extra touches is always a plus in fantasy.
Also, it's worth mentioning that even though Buffalo is a run-heavy team, finishing 2019 with a pass rate of just 54.7%, the seventh-lowest in the league, the Bills did air it out more often than Minnesota, who had the fourth-lowest pass rate (51.7%). And Diggs will now get to escape Adam Thielen, who accounted for 21% of the targets over the first eight weeks of 2019, according to AirYards.com, before getting hurt in Week 9. Thielen (25% target share) and Diggs (26%) split top dog duties in 2018, too.
Diggs is almost assuredly the better choice for fantasy owners over the long haul this season if for no other reason than the fact Buffalo will likely try its best to make the trade worthwhile by featuring him heavily in the offense.
Brown might be a better producer early in the year as Allen continues to build up chemistry with Diggs, but once the connection is made, Allen is the type of quarterback who can unlock Diggs' big-play upside.
Brown's days of leading the Bills in target share, which he did in 2019, are likely over, and while you have to pay a much steeper price for Diggs -- he's the WR25; Brown is the WR44, going by BestBall10's ADP -- he has a ceiling worth buying.