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Quandre Diggs still fueled by NFL draft snub

The former sixth-round draft pick has already outlasted many of the cornerbacks taken before him.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

For his entire life, Detroit Lions safety Quandre Diggs, the former Texas Longhorns standout, has proved his doubters wrong, in no small part because he’s used those slights, perceived or otherwise, to motivate himself.

So it’s not exactly surprising to hear that Diggs is still doing exactly that, with his fall in the 2015 NFL Draft still serving as a chip on his shoulder.

“Just like to remind people once or twice a year that I was pick 200, round six,” Diggs said last week. “Lotta DBs were taken before me. Lotta those DBs aren’t in the league any more, and I feel like I’m on a path to have a long career.”

Indeed, Diggs is now a full-time starter at safety after serving as a reserve cornerback for his first two-plus seasons. The 5’9, 200-pounder changed positions late in the 2017 season, impressing the Lions enough in his first five games there to earn a three-year deal last September that could pay Diggs as much as $20.4 million. Diggs responded with a career year that featured 78 tackles and three interceptions.

As for the cornerbacks drafted in front him, Diggs is correct that many of them are no longer in the NFL. Here’s the entire list:

  • No. 11 — Trae Waynes, Minnesota Vikings: A full-time starter over the last two seasons with six career interceptions, Waynes is still with the Vikings.
  • No. 16 — Kevin Johnson, Houston Texans: Johnson started only eight games for the Texans before the team released him in March after Johnson played in one game last season due to multiple concussions.
  • No. 18 — Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs: Peters emerged as one of the league’s top cornerbacks in Kansas City with 20 interceptions over three seasons before struggling last season with the Los Angeles Rams due to scheme fit issues.
  • No. 27 — Byron Jones, Dallas Cowboys: Jones has started every game in his career and typically puts up strong tackle numbers for the position, but only has two career interceptions. He’ll now have to battle back from hip surgery this spring.
  • No. 42 — Jalen Collins, Atlanta Falcons: Collins is probably lucky that he’s still in the league with the Indianapolis Colts after four suspensions for performance enhancing drugs and substance abuse.
  • No. 47 — Eric Rowe, Philadelphia Eagles: Traded once already, Rowe recently signed a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins after suffering groin injuries over multiple seasons.
  • No. 50 — Ronald Darby, Buffalo Bills: Two injuries slowed Darby down over the last two seasons, but he’s been good enough when healthy to earn an $8.5 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles this season.
  • No. 56 — Senquez Golson, Pittsburgh Steelers: Multiple injuries have derailed Golson’s career and he’s now a free agent who may be out of chances.
  • No. 62 — Quentin Rollins, Green Bay Packers: Currently a free agent, Rollins has suffered from injuries and an inability to convert to safety.
  • No. 65 — D’Joun Smith, Indianapolis Colts: Smith is out of the NFL after he was released in 2016 due to a lack of professionalism. He received two other opportunities after that, but has only appeared in one game since his rookie season.
  • No. 78 — PJ Williams, New Orleans Saints: Williams is a part-time starter and productive reserve for the Saints.
  • No. 80 — Alex Carter, Detroit Lions: Carter is a free agent who has only played in two games during his NFL career, with a failure to transition to safety ending his career in Detroit in 2017.
  • No. 83 — Craig Mager, San Diego Chargers: Multiple injuries helped derail his career and he’s now a free agent who only played in one game last season.
  • No. 98 — Steven Nelson, Kansas City Chiefs: Nelson had a career-high four interceptions with the Chiefs last season before signing a lucrative three-year contract with the Steelers.
  • No. 120 — Josh Shaw, Cincinnati Bengals: A starter during his second season, Shaw was waived by the Chiefs last season and is quickly becoming a fringe player.
  • No. 121 — Doran Grant, Pittsburgh Steelers: Grant played in the AAF during its brief existence after bouncing around from practice squad to practice squad for several years. He only played three games with the Steelers as a rookie.
  • No. 136 — Tray Walker, Baltimore Ravens: Walker played in eight games as a rookie before his tragic death in a dirt bike accident in 2016.
  • No. 145 — Bobby McCain, Miami Dolphins: After three years as a part-time starter and solid contributor, McCain emerged as a full-time starter last season for the Dolphins after signing a four-year contract extension.
  • No. 164 — Lorenzo Doss, Denver Broncos: Doss was late to a team meeting in 2017 and subsequently waived. He’s only appeared in 16 games over four seasons, but is still in the league with the Panthers.
  • No. 167 — Damian Swann, New Orleans Saints: Three concussions as a rookie essentially ended his NFL career in 2016.
  • No. 170 — Tye Smith, Seattle Seahawks: Smith has only appeared in 16 combined games in 2015 and 2017, but he’s still on the Titans roster.
  • No. 182 — Tevin Mitchell, Washington Redskins: After suffering a torn labrum as a rookie, Mitchel has spent time with three teams, but has never appeared in a game and is currently a free agent.
  • No. 189 — Charles Gaines, Cleveland Browns: Gaines only appeared in six games as a rookie and hasn’t seen the field since. He’s been out of the league since 2017.
  • No. 191 — JaCorey Shepherd, Philadelphia Eagles: Shepherd tore his ACL before his rookie season and bounced back to play 11 games with the 49ers in 2016, but he hasn’t appeared in a game since and has been out of the league for two years.
  • No. 196 — Randall Evans, Philadelphia Eagles: Evans appeared in one game as a rookie and has been out of the league for two years.

So, there were 25 cornerbacks drafted in front of Diggs and only 12 of them are currently under contract in the NFL. On the entire list, only four or five players at most are more productive than Diggs.

As expected, the players drafted in front of him faired the most poorly — past Darby in the second round, Nelson and McCain are the only players who project as full-time starters this season, and the six players drafted in front of Diggs are no longer in the league.

The Eagles in particular look like the big losers, as Philadelphia had two chances to pick Diggs before he came off the board and only got a single game out of those players combined.

Of course, Diggs has benefited from some injury luck, as many of the players who washed out in front of him did so largely because injuries derailed their careers, but it’s also clear that the former Texas standout takes care of himself physically and displays the professionalism necessary to succeed. Not to mention the toughness that has always defined his game.

So congratulations to one of the most hard-nosed players in recent Longhorns history, someone who clearly isn’t going to run out of motivation any time soon.