Maryland star wide receiver Stefon Diggs was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the fifth round.
The former blue-chip recruit from Good Counsel had been projected as high as the second round and as low as the fifth round by analysts. One NFL executive told The Baltimore Sun that his team assigned a solid third-round draft grade to Diggs.
"I feel like it's a great opportunity for me to play for the Vikings," Diggs said in a telephone interview. "I'm just happy they believed in me and had some faith in me and my abilities. I'm just want to get to work. I just want to contribute to my team and earn the trust and do everything they need from me."
The second-team All-Big Ten Conference selection ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds at the NFL scouting combine. Diggs' combine time was nearly as fast as New York Giants standout wide receiver Odell Beckham's 4.43 last year.
Diggs' ability to run after the catch, body control, knack for making contested catches and special-teams skills are among the most frequently cited pluses about him.
There were concerns expressed about Diggs' durability — he broke his leg and suffered a lacerated kidney during his final two college seasons — his size (6 feet, 195 pounds), which might be an issue against larger NFL defensive backs and if he'll become more of a student of the game.
"Diggs is definitely very much on our radar because of what he can do after the catch; that's what makes him special," an NFC personnel director told The Baltimore Sun before the draft. "We've got him on our draft board as a potential third-round draft pick. How high he goes will just depend on if there's a run on wide receivers in the first round. We've got seven wide receivers with first-round grades on our board.
"Diggs can get open and catches the ball very well. You just want to see him consistently produce and stay healthy, but I like him. He has a lot of confidence and you can see that he just has fun out there on the field, but is serious when he needs to be."
Diggs never played a full season in College Park, but finished with 150 career receptions for 2,227 yards and 14 touchdowns before declaring for the draft after his junior year.
Diggs led Maryland with 62 catches for 792 yards and five touchdowns last season despite suffering a lacerated kidney that sidelined him for two games before he returned for a bowl game against Stanford.
"You can see that Stefon is explosive and can get upfield in a hurry once he touches the football," said Oakland Raiders scout Raleigh McKenzie, a former NFL offensive lineman and the brother of Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie. "What I like about him is he loves to compete. You can see that the game is important to him and that he doesn't back down from a challenge. You've got to have a little swagger to play in the league, and he's got plenty of that."
Diggs visited the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers, met with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and worked out for the Ravens and Washington Redskins during their local prospect days, according to NFL sources.
As a freshman, Diggs had 1,896 all-purpose yards and finished second to Miami running back Duke Johnson for Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year. At Good Counsel, Diggs was the consensus top-ranked recruit in the state and the second-ranked wide receiver in the nation as he chose the Terps over Florida, USC and Auburn.
"Stefon Diggs is intelligent with the ball in his hands," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "I think he's probably going to go in the fourth or fifth round. Obviously, the key for him is finding him touches, whether it's in the return game or the passing game."
At his pro day, Diggs had a 35-inch vertical leap, a 4.11 in the short shuttle, an 11.46 60-yard shuttle and bench pressed 225 pounds 11 times. Although Diggs' workout metrics aren't regarded as freakish, his athleticism is considered well above average.
Diggs averaged 14.84 yards per catch in his college career and had two returns for touchdowns. Diggs typically lined up as a slot receiver, which is where most analysts predict he'll be used in the NFL.
"I'm a dominant competitor," Diggs said. "I can separate very well. I can do everything I need to do as a player. I'm not the fastest guy always, or the strongest guy, or the biggest guy, but I always get the job done. I'm a workaholic."