Quandre Diggs has stepped into a leadership role with the Lions. Here I how that role could land him a spot as a top 10 fantasy safety.
Quandre Diggs will be a top 10 safety in 2019. I said it. Diggs went into the 2015 NFL Draft combine as somebody who needed to test well to even be drafted. He tested well enough for the Lions to select him in the 6th round as a flyer with potential upside. He was too short to play the outside and too slow to play the slot. Playing at Texas and being a starter for 80% of his games left him battle-tested against some of the better college receivers. Diggs faced the likes of Tyler Lockett, Kevin White, Corey Coleman, Sterling Shepard, and Josh Doctson. All of those players were high draft picks and most are still relevant or have had NFL success.
The Lions made a great decision moving Diggs to a position where he can utilize his strengths. Those strengths are heavy hitting tackling combined with good ball skills. In 2017 the Lions moved Diggs to strong safety for the last five games of the season. During those five games he finished with 22 total tackles, one tackle for a loss, five passes defended, three interceptions and a forced fumble. This was just a sign of things to come.
2018 was the first full season that Quandre Diggs spent playing strong safety full-time. He was able to pick up right where he left off the 2017 season. On the first play of the first game of 2018, Diggs picked off Sam Darnold and returned it for a touchdown.
The worst possible start anyone can imagine for a QB minus an injury.
Sam Darnold just pulled it off. Congrats #Jets
Lions Safety Quandre Diggs with the pick-sixpic.twitter.com/JyNoXLd5ww
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 10, 2018
Diggs played with a chip on his shoulder all season making multiple big hits. Watch here as he upends Antonio Brown trying to make a move on him:
He routinely made big hits all season. Watch here as he gives Tarik Cohen something to remember him by:
Quandre Diggs 👀 pic.twitter.com/tzzElDlCyB
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) November 11, 2018
You just cannot get enough of how this guy hits. It is amazing to me that he has this launch and tackle strength having been drafted as a cornerback. I think the switch to safety was inevitable for Diggs. Here is, I promise, the final clip I will show you of him showing his affinity for heavy hitting:
Quandre Diggs is a wrecking ball! (Sound up) pic.twitter.com/BeGEAR8FhC
— Lions Insider (@Lions_Insider) December 9, 2018
Diggs finished his full season of safety very strong. He posted totals of 78 tackles (64 solo), three tackles for a loss, eight passes defended, three interceptions and a touchdown. A Pro Bowl invite was sent Diggs’ way after that level of play.
What Are His Strengths
Diggs was used in run defense a bit last year as he diagnoses plays very well. Diagnosing a play pre-snap is something he does really well and as a result, often ends in making a play. Watch here as Diggs quickly reads run and breaks off coverage to make the run stop off the edge:
Typical Quandre Diggs play pic.twitter.com/rC8CJ10Vyz
— (BRON4MVP) #8#24 (@thatboycoke) November 24, 2016
Diggs is also a fantastic tackler as we mentioned plenty above. Looking at his career stats as a safety he has 100 career total tackles with 73 of those being solo. 73% of his tackles never need help to finish. Look at his beautiful tackling technique here as he brings down the running back:
Quandre Diggs was said to be too slow in man coverage to be a corner. Moving to safety allowed him to use the cover skills he did have as a corner to make him a better safety. Diggs has excellent timing and reads routes well. Because of these traits, he times hits very well to force incompletions. Watch here as he times his hit perfect after the catch to force the fumble:
beautiful forced fumble by Quandre Diggs pic.twitter.com/cKqCniJ76i
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) December 10, 2017
Then you see here him lined up in man coverage in the slot and able to make a play on the ball:
Quandre Diggs is finally healthy and I'm really excited to see what he can do this year. He had a great game, including 2 PDs in 1st half pic.twitter.com/34AvvjK100
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) September 12, 2017
There was one major departure in the Lions secondary. Glover Quin had been with the Lions since the 2013 season. Leading up to this season Quin had been the leading and mentor for the entire Lions defense. Quin took Diggs under his wing the past few seasons teaching him the ins and outs of being a safety in the league. Tracy Walker started stealing snaps from Quin at the end of 2018 and yet he still did what he could to mentor Walker.
What does Quin’s departure mean for Quandre Diggs? Quin had solid production over his stay with Detroit with averages of 70.36 tackles, 3 interceptions and 6 passes defended per season. Sure some of the youngsters will soak up some of this production but I see Diggs being the main beneficiary.
State of the Defense
The Lions were one of the worst tackling teams in the NFL in 2018. Their 124 missed tackles ranked them at eighth most in the league. The state of the team’s linebacker corps is less than inspiring. Jarrad Davis, though productive, consistently missed tackles at the second level. Davis is more of just a downhill run defender and does not offer much in passing downs. Christian Jones is more of the same. Jahlani Tavai is an inspiring rookie but still needs to be acclimated to the defense.
With the Lions’ base defense looking to be a base 3-4 this season they should switch to nickel packages during passing downs. This means that Diggs should get more opportunities in the box during passing downs. Diggs is most likely the teams best tackle finisher and Patricia may be more inclined to play more nickel much like the days in New England. This, in turn, should lead to more tackles for Diggs.
The best tackler on this defense is Quandre Diggs, which is surprising considering he was naturally a cornerback. A leadership role is something that he will be embracing now with the departure of Glover Quin. He should be able to show the younger players on the team how to play hard every snap and work hard to master your trade.
With the state that this defense is in when it comes to its linebackers, Diggs could see a lot of work as a box safety and cover running backs out of the backfield. A season that consists of 90-100 tackles, three interceptions, and seven passes defended is well within reach for Diggs. That production right there would land Diggs in the Jordan Poyer range, just outside the top five safeties. As I said, Quandre Diggs will be a top 10 safety in 2019.