March 16th, 2020 and April 23rd, 2020 will forever live in the heads of all Vikings fans. This is the day that changed the perspective and will of all Vikings fans. Heading into the offseason there were lots of questions about star wide receiver Stefon Diggs and his future with the franchise. However former head coach Mike Zimmer stated in a press conference that “There hasn’t been [issues], since that little deal early in the season, he’s been great. I don’t see it happening” (First reported by Matthew Collier, currently with Purple Insider but then with SKOR North). Former GM of the Vikings Rick Spileman stated “There is no reason to anticipate that Stefon Diggs is not a Minnesota Viking” via @TheNickShook on twitter. But in the coming months we all know what happened next. The VIkings did not want to trade Stefon but it ended up happening.
The Big Trade
Enter the Buffalo Bills. In exchange for Diggs, the Vikings received a first-round pick from the Bills, number 22, and rumors started to swirl about who they were gonna draft: Ceedee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Jalen Reagor, and Justin Jefferson were all real possibilities.
The 2020 NFL Draft
As the draft inched closer the census of the league was to compare the former Vikings star to new draft prospects. One thing would be for certain that the hole in the offense would be big to fill. To have a player just entering his prime as a top 10 wide receiver in the NFL is already a feat, but to trade him away and bank on getting close to a similar return seemed absurd. Yet the Vikings knew they had the formula for the job.
Pick 22 is an awkward position to be at. Its not high enough to act as trade bait but not far enough back to really be proud of the season before. Luckily the vikings had two picks. Main Target: wideout. One player who the Vikings wanted to still be hanging around at 22 that was Justin Jefferson out of LSU. Who played with Joe Burrow, the number 1 pick. One small problem the team drafting at 21 was Philadelphia and they needed a receiver as well.
Just about every single Vikings fan and coach sat anxiously at their TVs and desks awaiting the Eagles pick at 21, and with Jefferson still on the board everybody thought it was a done deal. Justin Jefferson was going to Philly to be an Eagle. Roger Godell walks to the stand and the name that comes out will haunt Eagles fans forever: Jalen Reagor. As we jump for jubilation at the sight of arguably one of the biggest mistakes in NFL history, and the coaches do the exact same thing. Later the video of the Vikings draft room went viral.
Post Draft Reactions
With concerns about Jefferson and his true ability this pick was far from surefire but the Vikings got their guy. Jefferson’s raw talent and star potential was undeniable but I don’t have to tell you that. These last two years speak for themselves. What some Vikings fans don’t understand, or just forget, is how unlikely it is for a team to trade away their star player and in less than a year time to get a player who is better than the last. It’s more than unlikely, it is practically an insane thought. According to Fantasy Pros in 2019, the last season of Diggs on the Vikings, his Value Over Replacement Player stat or (VORP) was 77 above 0 which was good for 13th in the league. In 2022, Jefferson’s 2nd year in the league, his VORP was 109 above 0 which was good for second in the league. To get a return like that only two years later is unheard of. To trade away a bonafide superstar and in a year’s time, hit the ground running is incredible.
Stefon Diggs will never be forgotten but Justin Jefferson has filled in a gap and expanded it greatly.