DeAndre Hopkins and Stefon Diggs Are Making Me Rethink the Value of Wide Receivers

For a number of years, my philosophy as a football fan has been that these megatron wide receivers are a little bit overrated. I didn't think that, for example, Terrell Owens or Randy Moss were detrimental to a team because of their attitude, but rather I believed that receivers get outsized credit relative to players like offensive linemen, pass rushers, and the secondary because they get the ball in their hands and accumulate fantasy stats.

This season, DeAndre Hopkins and Stefon Diggs are making me rethink that opinion. The impact they have had on their new teams and the dramatic regression of their old teams have made me realize the value of a game-changing receiver. If you look at all the division leaders in the NFL this season, they all have a strong receiving corps.

As I wrote yesterday in praise of Bills GM Brandon Beane for acquiring Diggs, from 2019 to 2020, Josh Allen went from averaging 6.7 yards per attempt and completing 58.8 percent of his passes to 7.7 and 68.7. In the corresponding period, Kyler Murray went from 6.9 yards per attempt and completing 64.4 percent of his passes to 7.3 and 67.6. Hopkins and Diggs are No. 1 and No. 2 in wide receiver yardage with 1,324 and 1,314 yards respectively (Travis Kelce, a tight end, is in the middle of them).

The Bills are 11-3 and have clinched the AFC East. The Cardinals were 5-10-1 last season. This year, they are 8-6 and according to the odds at FiveThirtyEight have a 69 percent chance of making the playoffs. Last season, Diggs' and Hopkins' former teams, the Vikings and Texans, made the playoffs. This year the Texans are 4-10. The Vikings are 6-8 and all but eliminated from playoff contention.

Of course there are other factors in the Bills and Cardinals -- and Josh Allen and Kyler Murray -- being better this season, and the Vikings and Texans being worse. However, I'd argue that the additions and subtractions of Diggs and Hopkins are the biggest variables in those equations.