Fantasy Fallout: Bills Trade Stefon Diggs to Texans


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Fantasy Fallout: Bills Trade Stefon Diggs to Texans

In a shocking trade, the Buffalo Bills dealt Stefon Diggs to the Houston Texans just weeks after free agency. In exchange for Diggs, the Bills received a 2025 second-round pick, the 189th overall pick in the upcoming draft, and an additional 2025 fifth-rounder.

The Bills are forced to eat $31M in dead cap space next season due to Diggs’ extension in 2022, as OverTheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald notes. It’s the largest dead cap hit for a non-QB in NFL history.

After the second messy divorce in his career, the Texans are taking a risk on Diggs. Minnesota moved on from Diggs after he wasn’t content, and his departure from Buffalo strikes a similar tone. The Bills missed their championship window and moved on.

On the flip side, Houston benefits from Buffalo paying a large portion of Diggs’ salary this year, which is a big reason why the Texans made the move.

The Texans also restructured his contract, and Diggs is now eligible for free agency in 2025. Per Adam Schefter, the team wiped out the final three years on his 2022 extension.

Diggs is the cherry on top of the Texans spending spree after they signed defensive reinforcements EDGE Danielle Hunter, DL Denice Autry, and LB Azeez Al-Shaair in addition to trading for RB Joe Mixon.

The Texans are all-in on C.J. Stroud’s rookie deal, and he is clearly the biggest winner as a result of this trade.

Stefon Diggs' impact in Houston

Stroud’s rookie campaign was historically efficient, culminating in a home playoff win against the Browns — the franchise’s first postseason win since the 2019 season. His 4,108 yards and 8.2 yards per attempt are both third-best all-time figures among rookie quarterbacks, and his lowly 1% interception rate (5 INT on 499 attempts) is second-best.

For historical context, Stroud just edged out Andrew Luck for the 2nd-best figure by a rookie in yards per game with 273.9 (compared to 273.4 YPG for Luck). Justin Herbert’s 289.1 YPG as a rookie in 2020 remains the most all-time.

With a trio of Stefon Diggs, Nico Collins, and Tank Dell and a reliable zone-beater in Dalton Schultz underneath, Stroud is surrounded by a quartet of weapons that are very complimentary. In early Underdog best ball contests, Stroud is coming off the board in the mid-5th round at QB5 overall. I was already slightly ahead of the markets on Stroud in my rankings, but I openly question whether or not he has a massive fantasy ceiling because he isn’t mobile like the truly game-breaking fantasy QBs are. On that front, Diggs’ addition significantly raises Stroud’s already lofty high passing ceiling.

The much trickier part of the equation is how Collins, Diggs, and Dell all shake out for our game. Generally speaking, it’s pretty rare for a single team to have three fantasy-relevant receivers that all produce consistently.

Stroud elevated Collins to a WR6 finish (14.6 Half-PPR FPG) and, in 10 games, the rookie Dell was tied as WR9 with AJ Brown and Deebo Samuel with 14.2 FPG.

While he was clearly one of the best fantasy values last season, Collins didn’t really start producing like an upper-tier fantasy receiver until Dell broke his leg in Week 13.

In fact, the Collins/Dell duo produced very similar stats in their nine full games together last season:

In eight games without Dell (including the playoffs), Collins’ target share jumped from 20.5% to 24.1%, and he scored more FPG (13.9 to 15.5) as a result.

Now with Diggs in town, it throws a wrench in the Texans' projections. Dell is expected to make a full recovery and be back to 100% by training camp, and Collins is playing for a fat payday. Diggs will be 31 years old this season, and signs of decline are there.

To be fair, Diggs was on pace for another WR1 fantasy season until midway through 2023. From Weeks 1-9, Diggs led all wideouts in receptions (70) and was the WR4 by fantasy points per game (17.9 Half-PPR) — behind only Tyreek Hill, AJ Brown, and Justin Jefferson.

After the OC change from Ken Dorsey to Joe Brady, the targets started to dry up for Diggs. He and Josh Allen just missed on a few deep bombs that would have changed the narrative a bit, but the offense just dramatically changed.

In the Bills' first nine games of the season, Diggs was averaging 10.8 targets per game, but that dropped to just 8.0 T/G from Week 10 on into the playoffs. Diggs received double-digit targets in 7-of-9 games to begin the season, but only earned 10 or more looks in 2-of-10 contests to close the year.

As a result, his production cratered. From Weeks 10-17 of the fantasy season, Diggs fell from the WR4 in output (17.9 FPG) all the way down to WR58 (with 6.8 FPG). It’s worth noting that Diggs did run into a brutally tough schedule during this stretch, with matchups against the Jets, Chiefs, and Cowboys secondaries. In his one lone “easier” matchup vs. the Eagles, Diggs went for 6/74/1. Then, a pair of brutal drops against the Chiefs the following week was just a sign of more poor production to come. Diggs’ final postseason with the Bills ended with a whimper as he turned his 17 targets into just 10/73 receiving.

So, is he washed? I really don’t think so. A highly motivated Diggs in a contract year could lead to one more alpha WR1 fantasy season. In fact, Diggs was actually gaining more separation last season than he was in 2022. According to our Fantasy Points Data team, Diggs was charted as open or wide open on 45.9% of his targets in 2023. That is an improvement from 36.4% the year prior.

For comparison, Tank Dell was charted as open or wide open on 48% of his targets last season, and that was better than Nico Collins (40.4%). The league average for WRs with at least 250 routes was 41%.

I don’t know if Diggs will totally redeem himself in Houston, but his underlying numbers paint a rosier picture than the back half of last season would suggest. And we know for a fact that Stroud is a kingmaker.

Diggs’ efficiency really wasn’t as bad as you remember. He still averaged 1.96 yards per route run – the GOAT stat – across 19 games (including playoffs). This ranked 33rd-of-99 WRs with at least 250 routes. Impressive? No. Washed? Hardly.

In 2022, Diggs ranked 9th-of-98 WRs in YPRR (2.50) and was 22nd-best receiver the year prior (1.89 YPRR).

Collins and Diggs will likely float in the 20-23% target share range with Dell around 18-19%. This move is a death knell for Dalton Schultz, though. He averaged just 5.4 targets per game in 10 contests with Dell, which would have been “good enough” to rank 14th among tight ends last season. Schultz is by far the most likely player to feel the target squeeze here.

I can understand not wanting to put too much on a rookie’s plate too soon, but that logic should not have applied to CJ Stroud. He’s different. The Texans had a relatively low pass rate last season and they really need to ditch their early-down run game and simply throw more.

Houston ranked just 13th by pass rate over expectation (+2.1%) last year, which factors in things like the score in the game and down/distance. In fact, the Texans were just 22nd in passing (58.4%) when the game was within a score. We should see a big jump in the Texans' pass rate this coming season, and that just further bolsters the bull case for Stroud even at his elevated price in the 5th round of drafts.

Beyond 2024, things are wide open. Nico Collins is set for a big second contract, and Diggs is just a one-year rental for Houston in their Super Bowl window. The Texans front office ripping up the 2025-27 portion of Diggs' most recent extension further suggests that this is just a pact for this season, and it will eliminate any noise for the future. Diggs and the Texans can just focus on 2024. Interestingly, the Texans can’t earn a compensatory pick in next year’s draft as a result of voiding Diggs contract, per OTC’s Jason Fitzgerald. Houston really doesn’t want to be on the hook long-term here. If things go extremely well, Diggs could agree to another new deal with Houston, of course.

While this is certainly a ding to Dell’s stock now, I wouldn’t panic sell in dynasty leagues. The only major risk in his profile remains his size and durability.

I wrote way more about Joe Mixon’s addition to Houston back in March. He stands to benefit the most on scoring chances near the goal line attached to Stroud and these weapons.

Bills fantasy fallout

Just like how the Chiefs had to re-tool their roster by trading away Tyreek Hill, the Bills are rebuilding their team after Josh Allen’s $258M extension in 2021. Buffalo was tight on cap space heading into this season, and moving on from Diggs will at least lighten their load in the long run. GM Brandon Beane didn’t succumb to sunk cost fallacy and got meaningful draft capital in return for Diggs - even as he turns 31 years old this year.

Everyone under the sun knows that the Bills are going to draft a receiver or two in the upcoming draft. As of right now, Dalton Kincaid is set up to eat up targets while slot receivers Khalil Shakir and Curtis Samuel will push for 80-90 targets even when the Bills add a rookie wideout.

I maintain that Shakir is just good at the game, even though he’s clearly never going to be a premier target earner. In 10 career contests where he’s played at least 65% of the snaps, Shakir has turned his 48 targets into 40/629/4 receiving (10.7 Half-PPR FPG). In those 10 career starts, Shakir is averaging 2.25 yards per route run, and that would have ranked 20th-best among receivers last season.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Bills deploy Shakir and the new addition in Curtis Samuel. They both play the same exact role. Last year, Shakir lined up in the slot on 77% of his routes and Samuel was inside 69% of the time. Maybe the Bills want Shakir to move outside a bit more often?

Buffalo is set up to be far more run-heavy in 2024 than in any previous iteration of this Bills attack led by Allen. James Cook’s TD ceiling is capped because Allen remains the goal-line back, but he’s set for another strong workload in between the 20s.

After the OC change to Joe Brady, the Bills went from 5th in pass rate over expectation (+7.1%) in Weeks 1-10 to a lowly 25th (-1.8%) from Week 11 and into the playoffs. It was a dramatic shift. The Bills went from the fourth-most pass-heavy offense on first downs (58.2%) to the third-least pass-heavy team (38.8%) after the OC change.

Regardless, this move doesn’t affect my projection for Josh Allen. Why is that? Well, Allen has finished as the QB1 by fantasy points per game in four straight seasons, and that is largely due to his legs. If Allen regresses for fantasy football in 2024, it will be because his rushing TDs are bound to fall off after he scored a career-high 15 TDs on the ground last season. Diggs' loss looms large, but they can look to upgrade from Gabe Davis’ one dimensional play on the outside. This is a phenomenal year to need rookie help at receiver in this deep class.

Graham Barfield blends data and film together to create some of the most unique content in the fantasy football industry. Barfield is FantasyPoints’ Director of Analytics and formerly worked for the NFL Network, Fantasy Guru, and Rotoworld.