The Minnesota Vikings could have fared very badly once it became apparent that Stefon Diggs had to go. Instead, a trade with the Buffalo Bills allowed them to come away with Justin Jefferson, who might just be the top rookie in the league by the end of the year, and some extra draft picks, too.
The funny thing is that the Vikings aren’t clear winners in the trade. But neither team can complain about the results a quarter of the way through the season.
Stefon Diggs and Justin Jefferson have new homes
Stefon Diggs made 365 catches in five seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, scoring 30 touchdowns through the air and nine more on rushes. The Vikings rewarded him with a five-year, $72 million contract extension after the 2018 season.
Things went south somewhere in the 2019 season as the Vikings shifted to more of a ground attack. Targeted 149 times in the previous season, Diggs saw just 94 attempts come his way last fall. He made the most of them with 63 catches for 1,130 yards and six TDs, but Diggs wasn’t happy.
He stripped all of his photos in a Vikings uniform from Instagram in mid-February to express his frustration. A month later, he was gone. Minnesota traded Diggs and a seventh-round pick to the Buffalo Bills. They received Buffalo’s first-, fifth-, and sixth-round picks from the 2020 draft and a fourth-rounder next year. additionally they picked up salary-cap space through 2023.
The Vikings used the extra first-rounder to select LSU’s Justin Jefferson, one of the stars of an incredibly deep class of receivers coming out of college.
Justin Jefferson is picking up steam
Justin Jefferson announced his arrival in college football with 54 catches for 875 yards and six touchdowns as an LSU sophomore in 2018. He proceeded to follow that with one of the most monstrous seasons ever for a receiver on a national championship team. The 6-foot-1 junior caught 111 balls for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns.
With the Vikings holding the most draft picks in the NFL and now needing a deep threat to pair with Adam Thielen, they used the 22nd pick of the first round on Jefferson.
The early results for Jefferson were nothing special as he totaled five catches for 70 yards in the first two games. However, his breakout game came Sept. 27 when he made seven grabs for 175 yards and his first professional touchdown during the 31-30 loss to the Tennessee Titans. He followed in Week 4 with four catches for 103 yards as Minnesota defeated the Houston Texans, 31-23.
A quarter of the way into his rookie season, he has 16 catches for 348 yards, speeding his way into the conversation for the league’s top rookie.
Stefon Diggs gives Josh Allen the added target he needed
From 2012 to ’19, the Buffalo Bills had seven different leading receivers in eight years. Rather than an indication of depth at the position, it was a sign that they lacked a go-to guy. John Brown stepped into the role with 72 catches and six TDs last fall, but the team needed one more consistent threat for quarterback Josh Allen.
The Bills could have stayed put in the draft and taken one of the 35 receivers who were selected – including eight in the first 34 picks. But that could have required a learning curve at a time when Allen needed help now.
In essence, Stefon Diggs became their first-round pick. The rest of the trade with the Minnesota Vikings amounted to a net loss of two draft picks. However, the premium they paid has been worth it. Through four games, Diggs has 26 catches for 403 yards and two touchdowns while Allen puts up eye-popping numbers in a breakthrough season.
That puts Diggs on pace for career highs in receptions and yards, making the Bills the winners in the trade thus far by the slimmest of margins.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.