After losing Pro Bowler Byron Jones to Miami in free agency, it was well-known that the Dallas Cowboys needed cornerback help. Did they find an immediate starter in Alabama’s Trevon Diggs at No. 51 overall in this year’s draft? Here are Diggs’ odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year as well as the Cowboys’ over/under win total.
Diggs is the younger brother of Buffalo Bills wideout Stefon Diggs; he was traded by the Vikings this offseason. Trevon Diggs was an excellent receiver in high school in Maryland and as a true freshman at Alabama in 2016, he played safety, receiver and was a return specialist. He finished with five tackles and one forced fumble on defense, 11 receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown on offense and had 296 total return yards on special teams.
Apparently, Nick Saban liked Diggs on defense more as the following year Diggs shifted full time to defensive back while still returning kicks. He was a starter for the season opener against Florida State before being passed on the depth chart by Levi Wallace. Diggs returned 18 punts for 154 yards with a long of 21 while bringing back two kickoffs for 74 yards and added six tackles and three pass breakups on defense.
Diggs opened 2018 as a starting cornerback but suffered a foot injury vs. Arkansas that knocked him out the rest of the season. Diggs was tied for fourth in the SEC in passes defensed at seven before his injury. He broke up a team-high six passes while picking off his first career pass .and added 20 tackles and one forced fumble through his six starts.
Last year, it all came together for Diggs as a senior – although he sat out the Citrus Bowl vs. Michigan to prepare for the draft. Diggs was first-team All-SEC and third-team All-American. He tied for the team lead in pass breakups with eight and allowed a passer rating of just 44.5 when he was targeted, according to Pro Football Focus. Diggs totaled 37 tackles to go with three interceptions to tie for second on the team. Diggs had an 84-yard pick-six against Arkansas.
While he does not have the best raw speed, Diggs is a master in press technique and understanding how to keep plays in front of him. His 84.0 grade on press coverage snaps was the highest in the Class of 2020 among players with at least 100 such snaps. Though Diggs is not the best athlete, his technique and physicality are such that he rarely ends up getting burned down the field anyway. As a former receiver, Diggs has an instinctive feel for his opponent’s plans and uses his size and athleticism to disrupt the blueprint when possible.
Front offices will also favor his ability to return kicks and punts (9.2 yards per punt return in his collegiate career) at the next level. Diggs has been compared to Aqib Talib. The Cowboys grabbed him with the No. 46 overall pick.There will be snaps for the taking in the Cowboys’ Byron Jones-less secondary. Jones signed with Miami this offseason. With Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis entering the final year of their contracts, Diggs can help now and help for the future. Dallas has not had a cornerback have with more than three interceptions in a season since Terence Newman had four in 2011.
“I feel like that’s what I’m best at,” Diggs said of turnovers. “That’s something I try to work on in practice, catching the ball, getting interceptions, getting turnovers. That’s something that was valued a lot at Alabama, so for me that was important. Get my hands on the ball, always be around the ball. … I played wide receiver. I can attack the ball, go get the ball, so it’s like you got a receiver playing corner. I don’t want pass breakups. I want interceptions.”
The entire Dallas defense will look quite a bit different this year. Every coach except for defensive tackle coach Leon Lett is gone, and new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is bringing a multiple 4-3 defense that will feature a wide variance of disguised coverages.