Since making his way from Detroit to Seattle in a midseason trade with the Lions two years ago, Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs has been one of the NFL's most impactful defensive backs. His 13 interceptions in that time ranks third amongst all safeties, accounting for the sixth-most expected points added on defensive turnovers (164.28) by any defensive back (i.e., cornerbacks and safeties). He's a play-maker, through and through. Sadly, while he's received some national recognition for his efforts, it's often paled in comparison to that of his contemporaries. The national eye has blinked far too many times, making Diggs the hidden gem of the "Emerald City."
Diggs' peers have thankfully not made the same mistake, honoring him with back-to-back Pro Bowl selections over the past two seasons and ranking him No. 77 on the NFL's Top 100 Players of 2021 list. The league-wide love and appreciation for the seventh-year safety was truly felt when he unfortunately went down with a gruesome leg injury this past Sunday, evoking emotional responses from the likes of Patriots safety—and Diggs' college teammate at Texas—Adrian Phillips and current defensive backfield mate D.J. Reed. Other notable NFL personalities, such as former Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, also took to social media to voice their support.
As far as the 2021 campaign goes, the time Diggs missed due to the injury, which came in the latter stages of Seattle's season finale win over Arizona, was whittled down to a little under 10 minutes. He won't be able to fulfill his Pro Bowl duties, but he essentially put forth a full body of work and, therefore, qualifies for All-Pro consideration from both the Associated Press and Pro Football Writers of America.
Now that the regular season is complete, both organizations are expected to announce their respective All-Pro teams shortly. Each team will include two first-team safeties and two second-team safeties, with plenty of intriguing options to choose from. Among the candidates are Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde of the Bills, Jayron Kearse and Damontae Kazee of the Cowboys, Kevin Byard of the Titans, Minkah Fitzpatrick of the Steelers, Marcus Williams of the Saints, Antoine Winfield Jr. of the Buccaneers, Justin Simmons of the Broncos, Budda Baker of the Cardinals and more.
Safe to say that competition is rather stiff for Diggs in the All-Pro voting race, and his odds of breaking through appear slim-to-none when gauging the temperature of the national perspective. Poyer, Hyde, Byard and Williams have been the most popular quartet widely selected by other outlets. That said, Diggs deserves a long look for what he was able to accomplish in 2021.
Playing the fourth-most snaps of all NFL safeties (1,167) this season, TruMedia and Pro Football Focus have Diggs ranked 16th in tackles (94, career-high), tied-first in interceptions (5, tying his career-high), tied-42nd in pass breakups (2), 14th in opponent passer rating (77.9), tied-39th in completion percentage (70 percent), 27th in yards allowed (251), 12th in defensive turnover EPA (47.77) and first in interception EPA (26.80) among his peers with comparable volume of snaps.
While his rankings are all over the place, particularly in categories that are more or less subjective based on the recording outlet, the one area he undeniably thrived in more than most was turning the ball over. As Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll preaches, it's all about the ball—and no safety better embodied that philosophy in 2021 than Diggs. More importantly, his five forced turnovers were truly impactful, whether they led to Seattle's offense putting points on the board or impeding an opponent's scoring threat deep in Diggs and company's territory.
Aside from the numbers, Diggs arguably took on a bigger load of responsibility than the majority of his fellow safeties. Early in the season, as the Seahawks turned over a significant portion of their cornerback room, the Angleton, Texas native often had to come down from center field to clean up for the trial and error happening in front of him. Then, when three-time All-Pro safety Jamal Adams suffered a season-ending labrum injury in Week 13, life got a lot more difficult for Diggs and the rest of Seattle's defense.
From that point forward, however, despite several COVID-related absences in the secondary, Diggs helped the Seahawks survive to the tune of a 3-2 finish on the year. It got ugly at times, but in the end, the team finished a workable 14th in points per drive (2.00) and ranked in the same spot in total defensive EPA (14.24) during that stretch. It also landed in a nine-way tie for 13th in the NFL in turnovers forced (5), with Diggs pocketing the last of his five interceptions in Week 15.
One could argue Diggs was Seattle's most valuable defender in 2021. Obviously, at face value, that doesn't carry much weight when considering the fact the Seahawks—statistically, at least—were generally unspectacular on the defensive end. But when factoring in the high level of talent present in the unit, from Adams to Reed, linebacker Bobby Wagner and others, it's certainly quite a feat.
Diggs' role, leadership, turnover efficiency, high intensity and more make him absolutely, unequivocally deserving of being mentioned in the same breath as the game's elite safeties—and that goes beyond what he did in 2021. Set to turn 29 later this month, he's been one of the most consistent performers currently roaming an NFL defensive backfield and continues to get better each time the calendar flips.
Thus, with unrestricted free agency coming up for him this March, he's earned the right to be paid as one of the league's best at his position. But before the Seahawks and the several other teams expected to come calling make their respective pitches to Diggs, his already impressive résumé merits a lengthening.