Ravens fans have every right to be angry about Stefon Diggs.
What fans also know: Diggs is both a Maryland native (Good Counsel) and University of Maryland alum, who, despite undeniable talent, inexplicably stayed on the board until the fifth round (146th pick) of the 2015 NFL Draft. During those first 145 picks, the Ravens selected wide receiver Breshad Perriman, tight end Maxx Williams, defensive lineman Carl Davis, pass rusher Za'Darius Smith, running back Buck Allen and cornerback Tray Walker.
Since arriving in Minnesota, Diggs has averaged more than 800 yards and five touchdowns per season. Since arriving in Baltimore, Perriman and Williams have combined for five touchdowns. Total.
Reactions to Diggs' massive touchdown grab were complicated among local fans. Many fans' overwhelming emotion was happiness for the former Terp. Maryland football fans haven't had much to enjoy … ever. Diggs provided rare delight. He was a rock star commitment for former Terps head coach Randy Edsall, choosing Maryland over Ohio State. He then proved to be well worth the hype, delivering on the field as both a receiver and return man.
In fact, he even managed to produce despite spending a good part of his freshman season with a linebacker (Shawn Petty) playing quarterback. Of course, even when the actual quarterbacks were playing they weren't any good. Yet Diggs was constantly making spectacular plays throughout his three-year career in College Park, Md. He's one of the easier players to root for in Maryland history.
But there was another reaction that speaks to far bigger Ravens-related issues. That reaction is anger. In the moment that Diggs beat the Saints, a number of Ravens fans were reminded that of all teams, the Ravens should have been best positioned to identify his talent. And those Ravens fans can't help but be angry that their team has continued to fail to develop a pass catcher of any value since the 2015 draft, while Diggs now has the Vikings on the cusp of a trip to the Super Bowl.
Typically, I'm the type to say, "Settle down here." When Ravens fans were re-visiting the team's unwillingness to trade a third-round pick (which they'd later use on defensive lineman Bronson Kaufusi) in order to move up in the 2016 draft and select Florida cornerback Jalen Ramsey (now with the Jacksonville Jaguars), I had no problem defending them. They decided to sit back and select tackle Ronnie Stanley instead, which has panned out just fine. It was an understandable decision.
But I can't justify how badly the Ravens whiffed when it comes to Diggs. I can't explain it. And I most certainly can't give them a pass for it. The anger is justified.
The Ravens' scouting department features six "area" scouts throughout the country and two additional "national" scouts. But the majority of their personnel department is, as you would imagine, based here in Baltimore. This includes general manager Ozzie Newsome, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta and director of college scouting Joe Hortiz. That group regularly attends games at Maryland throughout every season (in fairness, to scout Maryland opponents as much as they do Maryland players). That group has the best ability to get to know local college and high school coaches as well as to attend practices and develop relationships with players in the area.
If any team should have been able to figure out Diggs was worthy of one of the first 145 selections, the Ravens should have been that team.
As you'll remember, Diggs had some injury concerns coming out of college. He also had what some teams might have thought was an ego problem. According to a
recent SI story
, he said during every draft interview: "I'm the best receiver in this draft, just so you know." Maybe one of those things turned the Ravens off. Maybe they felt they no longer needed to address the pass-catching department after they took Perriman and Williams in the first two rounds.
But this isn't just the typical draft miss. Yes, every NFL team missed on Diggs at least four times. And heck, even Diggs' fellow Vikings receiver Adam Thielen was missed 254 times as he went unselected in the 2013 draft. But the Vikings were able to find Thielen as an undrafted free agent because he played at Minnesota State (which most of us didn't even know was a school), and the Vikings had scouted their home base better than anyone.
That didn't prove to be the case with Diggs. And instead, the Ravens missed on a player that was far too good from a school far too local at a position where their need was far too great. They deserve to be held accountable for this. Your anger is not misplaced.
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