Stefon Diggs is the second-best pass-catcher in the National Football League, according to the league’s analytical arm, Next Gen Stats. While that’s worth celebrating, the lone player ranked ahead of him is a head-scratching choice, considering he only started eight games last season.
Per the number-crunchers, Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan is the best passing target in the NFL.
Let’s start with Diggs, whose place towards the top of the list isn’t surprising. The All-Pro led the league with 127 receptions and 1,535 yards, emerging as, maybe, the best at his position. He was Josh Allen’s favorite target, and the focal point of the Buffalo Bills offense, as Next Gen Stats spells out:
“Diggs led the league in receiving yards (1,535) partially because no one saw a greater volume of targets in the NFL than him. Diggs’ 166 targets produced a league-best 127 receptions,” the story reads. “He did so by catching passes at a rate that was 11.7% higher than expectation, per Next Gen Stats. Diggs was the only qualifying receiver to break 11%.”
In addition, Diggs recorded the most receiving yards on play-action targets, and clearly played an outsized role in Allen’s ascension. Quarterbacks have a 97.3 rating when targeting Diggs in tight windows since 2016. He is the ultimate safety blanket, as well as downfield threat.
So why is Tonyan, who’s not even the No. 1 target on his own team (that would be Davante Adams), ahead of Diggs? His small sample size.
“Tonyan barely made the qualifications used for this exercise, finishing with 52 catches on 59 targets,” the story says. “That also meant his efficiency was incredible last season, posting the highest catch-rate difference among all pass catchers by a wide margin.”
Later in the story, the authors mention Tonyan’s “lower totals undoubtedly contribute” to his catch-rate difference. Diggs was targeted three times more often, for example.
Playing with Aaron Rodgers undoubtedly helps as well.
While Tonyan may be on the verge of a breakout, he’s obviously not the best pass-catcher in the NFL. The choice is Diggs. Next Gen Stats may be getting a little too cute for its own analytical good.