Who to Draft Series Part 2: Stefon Diggs v. Amari Cooper
Author: Jair Oglivie
YouTube: Fantasy Football Advice
Whew, sorry for the delay with this part 2, life has been crazy. I'm excited for this one though, let's go.
This is the second of a three-part “Who to Draft” series. Miss part 1? Here ya go: Kamara v Barkley. Each article will compare a pair of players who are currently being drafted at about the same ADP. Simply, I will break down each player, their history, and their respective situations in the attempt to give you a better idea of who you would be more comfortable drafting in your own league when the time comes. This article is about middle round targets and will be followed by a piece on the later rounds. We're looking at two very young, explosive receivers who have the potential to have stellar seasons capable of winning you your leagues. Let's dive in.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Current ADP: 3.10
They called it the Minneapolis Miracle. Stefon Diggs' miracle, game-winning, touchdown catch-and-run to eliminate New Orleans in the final seconds of the 2017-2018 NFC Divisional Playoff Game will be long remembered to Vikings fans for the emotion and hope it brought to SKOL nation. Even before this catch however, Stefon Diggs should have been a household name amongst NFL fans. He certainly is known by the fantasy community. Last offseason, it was preached on our YouTube channel that Diggs should be a targeted for a breakout season. He averaged out as the 19th best wide receiver last season even while missing two games with a groin injury. Diggs posted 14.1 fantasy PPG (PPR) with 64 receptions and 8 touchdowns. Pretty respectable numbers but there's reason to believe that he can push those even further in 2018.
Enter: Kirk Cousins.
Don't get me wrong, Case Keenum was unbelievable for Minnesota last season, proving many doubters wrong. There's a reason however, that they opted to sign Cousins and allow Keenum to walk in FA and eventually sign in Denver. As a Cowboys fan, I've watched over the last few seasons as Cousins' former team, the Redskins, struggled with injuries, underachievement, and dysfunction. However, it has always been my belief that Cousins was the main component to keeping them relevant, but just shy of true contention. Now, Cousins joins an already loaded Vikings squad and provides some stability to the most important position on the field. In my mind, this only spells good things for Diggs.
To support my claims that Diggs has good things coming for fantasy owners, let's jump into some advanced stats. Other than a 76th percentile 40 yard dash score(4.46), and a 60th percentile speed score, Diggs' SPARQX numbers aren't going to wow you. Those aren't the things to be looking at for Diggs though, it's opportunity. We always say, there can't be success without opportunity. Stefon Diggs, without a doubt, has the opportunity in this Minnesota offense. According to Player Profiler, Diggs' was targeted 95 times last season with a 20.9% target share. How about in the redzone, since touchdowns make us our money in fantasy? He had a 24.6% red zone target share and 12 red zone receptions (8 scores) last season, ranking 5th in the NFL. What does this mean? Minnesota is feeding him the ball, especially in the red zone. On an offense that was already great last season, and expected to be even better, even more dynamic in 2018, we can only expect these numbers to increase. It is not out of the question to see a WR1 season from a player currently being drafted as a WR2. ESPN Fantasy is projecting a 1000 yard season with 6 touchdowns for Diggs, but don't be shocked if/when he crosses into double digits in the TD column. In fact, I'd bet on it.
According to Player Profiler, Diggs is Antonio Brown's most comparable player. Both did not test well athletically, but are elite technicians of the game. In Matt Harmon's Reception Perception, Diggs' 78.7% success rate vs. man coverage lead all WRs in 2017. Funny enough, Brown is second with 78.5%. His most impressive stat is that he lead the league in contested catch situations (completing 64% according to PFF).
There is a stat that is concerning for Diggs, as well as Cooper, but let me not get ahead of myself. That stat is Air Yards. Many of you may not be familiar with Air Yards, as I wasn't prior to this offseason. In short, air yards are a measure of yards that would've been gained if a receiver caught a pass and was immediately brought down. In my belief it is a very pure stat that shows route running ability and the quality of an offense. Yards after the catch are often the product of circumstance and aren't always completely telling of a player's ability. For more in depth about air yards, there is an excellent article on Rotoworld on Air Yards that is definitely worth a look. Diggs' air yards for 2017 averaged at 6.2 per target ranking #25 in football. Maybe its just me, but I would expect a player of Diggs' caliber to rank a little higher there.
Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
Current ADP: 4.02
How much of a disappointment was Amari Cooper for fantasy owners last season? The young receiver played in 14 games and excluding one monster game against Kansas City in week 7, Cooper averaged 8.8 fantasy points per game and failed to break 50 catches or 700 yards for the first time in his three year career. People are down on him for this, and rightly so, but there's some value here. His first two years as a pro he recorded 70+ catches and 1,000 yards receiving each, so don't think the potential is gone. The exit of Michael Crabtree leaves a lot of targets to be scooped up.
Wait, Jair, what about the additions of Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant?
Valid question but you'll have to color me skeptical on Nelson and Bryant taking away targets from Cooper. First of all, we've seen Nelson play without Aaron Rodgers before, and it's not pretty. After Rodgers was lost for most of the season during week 6 last season, Nelson just looked lost. From week 7 on, Nelson averaged a stellar 3 catches per game and did not find the endzone even once. I think it's fair to question if Nelson's past success can be at least partially explained by playing with arguably the best quarterback of his generation.
As for Martavis, he never seemed to figure it out, even with a tremendous quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger. Two receivers that seem to play underneath their potential heading to a new team with, objectively, a quarterback less talented than their previous ones? I'll pass.
Also, Jon Gruden is BACK, man. Oakland brought back the polarizing head coach from his gig calling Monday Night Football on ESPN in the form of a mind boggling 10 year, $100 million deal. Anyone who has listened to any of those past Monday Night games, knows that Gruden calls it like he sees it. Well, it seems that Gruden sees Cooper being the "headliner" and "focal point" of the raiders offense in 2018. I like the sound of that. Now that Oakland has brought in Nelson and Bryant, I'd expect Cooper to get at least some work out of the slot given his speed and versatility. Opponents' #1 corners won't follow him there and I'd expect him to feast from that role. Why do I think he'd excel there? Simply because Cooper is an athletic freak. His SPARQX scores in the 40 yard dash, speed, and agility are nuts rating at 89th, 92nd, and 97th percentiles respectively. He also boasts a nice Catch Radius score at the 74th percentile. Even if he does most of his work on the outside, the presence of Nelson and Bryant will prevent Cooper from being double teamed and take advantage of 1on1s.
I mentioned earlier that I was concerned about Cooper's air yards stat. In his first down season, Cooper averaged only 3.9 air yards per target ranking a lowly 92nd in the league. This does concern, but I don't believe its enough to not take a shot on him as your WR2 in the late third or early fourth round.
Being completely honest, I'd be thrilled to walk out of my draft with either of these guys. Since I have to choose however, I'd take Diggs with the narrowest of margins. Yes, Cooper beats Diggs in every physical category. The reason I'd take Diggs though is because of the offense he is in. One of my first thoughts when considering a player vs another is their situation. Minnesota without a doubt has a better offense than Oakland, and a better quarterback. because of this, Diggs will have many more opportunities to rack up those tasty receptions and touchdowns. Maybe Cooper will make up for that with some garbage time stat padding in losses (cough, Devante Parker, cough), but my position still holds. Both of these guys have the potential for top 5 fantasy seasons, who you prefer is up to you.
Until next time, happy drafting!
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*All statistics taken from Pro Football Reference, Player Profiler, and ESPN Fantasy
**ADPs taken from fantasyfootballcalculator.com
***Thumbnail from Sporting News