The Fantasy Football Impact of Stefon Diggs to the Houston Texans

Apr 03, 2024
The Fantasy Impact of Stefon Diggs to the Texans

On Wednesday, April 3, the Buffalo Bills agreed to trade Stefon Diggs to the Houston Texans for three draft picks in 2025, the highest being a second-rounder. This move gives the Texans arguably the best wide receiver trio in football while it leaves the Bills and Josh Allen wondering who their primary pass-catcher will be.

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Stefon Diggs’ Career

After establishing himself as arguably the best route-runner in football in his first five years in the league with the Vikings, Stefon Diggs was traded to the Bills before the 2020 season. In Buffalo, Diggs’ skillset put him among the best wide receivers in the game, for both real and fantasy football purposes.

Over the last four seasons, Diggs ranks second among wide receivers in targets (644), fourth in yards (5,372), and sixth in half-PPR points per game (14.9). However, in 2023, Diggs’ efficiency metrics fell off. He posted the second-lowest yards per target of his career (7.4) and his 2.1 yards per route run tied for 26th out of 95 among wide receivers with at least 40 targets.

The dropoff may not have been all Diggs—there’s evidence that the change to Joe Brady as the Bills’ offensive coordinator hurt Diggs. Before Brady was promoted to OC, Diggs was tied for 14th in yards per route run; he fell to 55th in that category with Brady.

Here's what Reception Perception's Matt Harmon had to say about those splits:

"From 2020 to 2021, Diggs averaged an 80.5% success rate vs. man coverage (including the all-time highest mark in RP history in 2020), 84.7% success rate vs. zone, and 83.6% success rate vs. press. Remarkably consistent and elite results; all were over the 90th percentile. As you can see, the 2023 success rates are down across the board. We aren’t talking about a craterous drop but it’s a decline. The man and press coverage success rates dipped from the 99th and 97th percentile down to south of the 77th.

On the surface, those are good, if not downright great, results for a typical receiver. Stefon Diggs is not a standard NFL receiver, and that’s what has me raising an eyebrow at the film.

And before you ask, no. It did not matter if I split the sample between the first half of the season or second half of the season games, contests with Ken Dorsey as the offensive coordinator vs. Joe Brady-coached games, or anything of the sort. No split perfectly aligned with the production. If you looked at the first half, the man coverage number was better, but the zone and press numbers were significantly worse than the second-half results. The individual route success rates mostly painted the same picture of the player between the first and second half of the season."

Whether Diggs is still elite is yet to be seen but what is known is that he will have as much competition for targets in Houston as he’s had in his career, albeit with a quarterback that may already be among the best in the league.

How Stefon Diggs Fits into the Texans’ Offense

C.J. Stroud’s rookie season was nothing short of spectacular. In an offense that ranked 17th in passing rate over expectation, Stroud led a unit that compiled the seventh-most passing yards per game with a top-three explosive pass rate. Stroud's success propelled breakout seasons from Nico Collins and Tank Dell, complementary receivers who produced at virtually the same level when both were active. Throw in Dalton Schultz’s 16% target share and Houston’s pass-catchers all carry wide ranges of outcomes with Diggs added to the mix.

The upside case for the Texans' pass-catchers is that Houston becomes one of the more pass-heavy teams. Last season, there were 557 targets available in Houston—if they crack the top 10 in passing rate over expectation, that number could balloon well over 600, even if they live in neutral or positive game scripts.

While Diggs’ target volume figures to fall in Houston, he’s going to a quarterback who doesn’t run nearly as much as Josh Allen—Allen ran 111 times last year compared to just 39 rushes for Stroud. Additionally, Diggs may have an elevated opportunity to establish himself early in the season as it’s unclear when Dell will be available after fracturing his fibula late in the 2023 season.

Stroud is the big winner. If Houston plays to its apparent strengths, they will allow Stroud to throw more than he did in his rookie season. Provided he can maintain the high level of efficiency he showed in 2023, Stroud should be among the best passing quarterbacks in 2024. That would offset fantasy concerns over his lack of rushing upside.

The Texans’ 2024 Fantasy Football Outlook

Fantasy drafters were buying the Stroud hype before the Diggs trade. Going into Wednesday, Stroud was being drafted as the sixth quarterback off the board in Underdog leagues, 61st overall. There’s a chance that he could leapfrog Anthony Richardson as the QB5 (58th overall), but drafters likely won’t target Stroud as aggressively as they are drafting the Lamar Jackson/Patrick Mahomes tier. In large-field best ball tournaments where upside is everything, this is a fair range for Stroud, assuming the price on all of his stacking partners will drop in the coming weeks.

Diggs’ presence in Houston will have an impact on ADP. As of this writing Underdog ADPs on Houston’s primary pass-catchers are:

Collins and Diggs will likely slip into the WR2 range while Dell figures to fall to the WR3 ranks. This is where their projections figure to settle as well. Schultz will have a tough time maintaining his 16% target share but the upside of this offense as a whole should keep Schultz in the high-end TE2 conversation, especially for those looking for a cheap stacking partner with Stroud.

Intuitively, Joe Mixon figures to thrive against light boxes as defenses do their best to scheme against this passing attack but it will be a tall task for Mixon to match the 64 targets he was given in Cincinnati last season. Mixon remains a low-end RB2 who might end up relying on touchdowns for his fantasy value.

All ancillary pieces in Houston are relegated to late-round dart throws who should mostly be drafted as stacking partners with Stroud.

How the Stefon Diggs Trade Impacts the Bills

With Diggs in Houston, Buffalo’s top wide receivers are currently Curtis Samuel and Khalil Shakir, neither of whom profile as players who are true number ones. As things stand, Dalton Kincaid is the favorite to be Allen’s primary target, but he is already being drafted as the TE6 in the sixth round. Early expectations are that Buffalo will target a wide receiver in the first round of a very talented draft class. If Buffalo moves up to draft one of the elite rookie wide receivers, that player may be the one to target on the Bills. Allen will maintain his status as one of the elite fantasy quarterbacks although his floor games could be lower than fantasy players have grown accustomed to.

The Bottom Line

  • The acquisition of Stefon Diggs immediately gives the Texans one of the best wide receiver units in the league after Nico Collins and Tank Dell broke out last season.
  • Diggs saw his numbers drop off in the back half of 2023 but some of that may be attributed to the promotion of Joe Brady as the offensive coordinator in Buffalo. If Houston limits Dell early in the season, Diggs will have the opportunity to establish himself alongside Collins as C.J. Stroud’s 1a/1b.
  • Stroud was already being drafted as the QB6 on Underdog—the Diggs trade only solidifies Stroud’s standing as a high-end QB1 and should alleviate some concerns over Stroud’s limited rushing upside.
  • All Houston pass-catchers will likely see a dip in ADP. Diggs and Collins are fair values in the WR2 range while Dell falls to WR3 consideration. Dalton Schultz is a formidable TE2 for best ball drafters who need a cheap stacking partner with Stroud.
  • Joe Mixon maintains his status as a low-end RB2 but his pass-catching role could take a hit which would make him a touchdown-dependent player—this is a huge red flag for dead-zone running backs.
  • The Bills now lack a true number-one pass-catcher. Dalton Kincaid is the early favorite to be the major beneficiary of the Diggs trade but he is already being drafted as a high-end TE1. Wait to see what Buffalo does in the Draft before taking big shots at Khalil Shakir or Curtis Samuel, especially if their ADPs rise in the coming weeks.
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