INDIANAPOLIS — Rick Spielman has heard the rumors and he’s ready to put them to bed.
The Vikings general manager spoke Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine and surprisingly didn’t get a question related to Stefon Diggs until right around the 10-minute mark. He gave it the full treatment, though, reviewing Diggs’ most recent contributions, his current contract status and even highlighting his off-field commitment.
The point of it all: to shut down the uncertainty surrounding his team’s talented but occasionally mercurial receiver.
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"Stefon last year had probably his most productive year, and he’s a young receiver we just extended," Spielman explained. "He’s not only a major part of our offense and a major part of our organization winning games, but he also does a lot of things for this organization off the field as well. There is no reason or the rumors or whatever you’re talking about to anticipate that Stefon Diggs is not going to be a Minnesota Viking.
"When you have some of the offensive talent that we have with him and Thielen together and with Rudy and Irv Smith and Dalvin Cook and Mattison, we have a pretty good support cast around our quarterback."
Spielman is correct: There’s no reason to break up the band when it just produced a certified gold album. But if discontent is brewing, he’d be best to continue playing it this way publicly while also smoothing out any issues internally.
Diggs’ frustrations first became public back in October, when the Vikings struggled out of the gate and Kirk Cousins had to admit publicly on his own weekly radio show that he needed to do a better job of getting his star teammates the ball. They eventually figured it out, riding their successes to a wild-card berth and an appearance in the NFC Divisional Round, where they were bounced by the 49ers.
Even in that stretch, Diggs was visibly upset on at least one high-profile occasion. The receiver was seldom used in the first half of Minnesota’s wild-card win over the New Orleans Saints and was demonstrative in his sideline displeasure. He caught just two passes (on three targets) for 19 yards in the win, and recorded two more receptions (on five targets) and a touchdown in the loss to San Francisco the following week.
Statistically, Diggs did in fact have his most productive season, breaking 1,100 receiving yards for the first time in his career to go along with six touchdowns. He did so on 39 less receptions, a big improvement in efficiency (17.9 yards per reception versus 10 in 2018) but also inevitably on less targets (94 as opposed to 149 in 2018).
Receivers want nothing more than to be thrown the football. Minnesota’s run-first offense found success, but in key moments Diggs will again want the ball, as he should. Perhaps his targets will exceed 100 — if Spielman proves to be correct and Diggs remains a Viking.
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