3rd Quarter: T.Y. Hilton April 1, 2013  |  John Kerwin

The Indianapolis Colts were a fantasy wasteland in 2011, and the departure of Peyton Manning heading into the 2012 season left many questioning the organization’s ability to stay competitive during a rebuilding process. The fallout didn’t last long though, because the impact and capabilities of a rookie class may have never been exemplified greater than what the Colts were able to accomplish last year.

The centerpiece acquisition of Andrew Luck was an obvious starting point, but the additions of Vick BallardDwayne AllenCoby Fleener, and T.Y. Hilton paid dividends beyond belief. A 2-14 record improving to 11-5 the following season is too drastic to be considered Luck-y. There were plenty of factors that influenced this turnaround, but let’s flash the spotlight on one of those individuals in particular.

I welcome you to the third installment of my “4 Quarters” series, and I present the next of my sophomore wide receivers in the 3rd quarter: T.Y. Hilton.

(Check out the first two quarters on  Justin Blackmon and Kendall Wright)

As the 92nd Overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Hilton was known as a big play, undersized wide receiver that was expected to see some work in the slot. Little did anyone realize the type of role that Hilton would carry by the end of his rookie tenure.

Coming out of Florida International standing 5’10 and weighing in at 183 lbs; the entire NFL knew the key measurable that Hilton was bringing to the table was his 4.3 speed. With Reggie Wayne being the obvious receiver workhorse on the team there was not a clear-cut WR2 between Donnie AveryLaVon Brazill, and T.Y. Hilton. This was evident as Luck force fed Wayne an astonishing 18 targets during the opening week of the year. The abundance of targets heading Wayne’s direction didn’t diminish greatly throughout the season, but one of those three youngsters took leaps and strides evaporating any doubt surrounding the Colts WR2 uncertainty by seasons end.

This began to come to fruition in Week 3 when we were all introduced to T.Y. Hilton. In only his second game played, Hilton was able to accumulate his first 100-yard game of his career, and showed us all a glimpse of his big play ability and things to come with a 40 yard touchdown reception. Blowing the top off of defenses is Hilton’s trademark, and with a quarterback like Luck tossing him the pigskin this became a vital component within the Colts offense. Aside from stretching the field, Hilton was able to compile 50 receptions and 861 receiving yards during his rookie tenure. Solid statistics for a guy who was primarily tagged as a part-time slot receiver when initially drafted.

Unfortunately it was not all smooth sailing for Hilton during his rookie campaign. Even though he racked up five 100-yard games during the season they were very sporadic and sprinkled in between 22, 31, 35, 37, 0, 33, and 34-yard receiving games. Although he did have a 75-yard punt return touchdown and an 8-yard receiving touchdown in the 3rd quarter of that 33-yard game. Also, in his defense he only started one game the entire year, does not merit the physical stature to be a possession receiver, and only saw double-digit targets twice during the regular season. Aside from my excuses we still need to see more consistency from the burner. It’s hard to trust a fantasy receiver who is very capable of disappearing from the stat sheet every other week.

The inconsistency can be attributed to many deciding factors surrounding the entire team, but dropped passes are inexcusable. The entire trio of Wayne, Avery, and Hilton each finished with 10 or more drops. Some may argue Hilton’s 10 drops weren’t excessive figuring Wayne had 10 as well, but when you compare Hilton’s 88 targets to Wayne’s 179, that 16.67 drop rate per PFF – which was 3rd worst in the league – turns bold and loathsome in a heartbeat. I’m going to steal an excerpt from the NBA lingo textbook and define those as ‘tear drops’: Andrew Luck had to be on the verge of crying attempting to ponder what was the worst drop rate by any team’s receiving corps in the NFL. All of those drops led to a sub-par 57.4 catch percentage. This is an obvious area that needs immediate improvement if Hilton plans on developing into a reliable starting option for the Colts organization and your fantasy lineup.

I know this is starting to gather the sense of a T.Y. Hilton bash article, but if he was the perfectly molded receiver who had made zero mistakes last season then this piece would’ve been rendered useless. To be honest I believe Hilton mightily exceeded expectations during his rookie year, and the departure of Donnie Avery only opens the door even wider for the ever so fleet-footed Hilton.

Chuck Pagano even recently stated at an NFL owners meeting that he expects Hilton to play a larger role in 2013.

“He has the ability, as we saw last year, to make huge plays. Whether you throw him a deep ball down the seam in the slot, or you hit him on a short pass across the middle or a screen, he has the ability to take it the distance.” said Pagano.

The opportunity is going to arise, and the big play ability is already there. Hilton bolstered an impressive 115.83 WR Rating on passes of 20+ yards. On passes he was targeted at 20 yards or less, an abysmal 69.06 rating. It is easy to identify Hilton’s comfort zone is with the deep ball, but defenses are going to rotate and acclimate to his strengths, and if he plans on being a well-rounded receiver he has to improve on the shorter consistency. His route running still needs some noticeable work, and the thin frame doesn’t bode well when crossing the middle of an NFL field, but Hilton showed courage and strength on a few big collisions last season. He looks so accustomed to catching the ball somewhat in stride on long balls that he tends to take his eyes off the ball on routes he must turn up field on. These are simple aspects of the game that I assume he will be working on during the offseason as the Colts will rely on him in various ways he isn’t used to being utilized within.

Hilton’s deep threat capability really boosted his value with the 7 touchdowns he was able to accumulate. On 91 less targets Hilton was able to catch 2 more touchdowns than his veteran peer Reggie Wayne. He caught 2 more touchdowns than the inhuman Megatron himself. Yes, Calvin Johnson was inferior to T.Y. Hilton in the touchdown category. No, Hilton’s name may never end up being spoken in the same sentence with Mega ever again, as long as he lives. If that type of production stays true just imagine the type of damage he could do with a full workload of targets. This kid can pin 6 points on the board in the blink of an eye, and that is a very valuable asset in the world of fantasy football.

Let it be known Hilton enjoys long strides across the field, one on one time, and excessive touchdown celebration that culminates with YAC all over the field. Excuse that brief interruption for a quick rookie bio, but Hilton’s 386 YAC were more than Brandon MarshallVictor CruzVincent Jackson, and many other notable names. This was the most YAC on less than 100 targets by any receiver not named Percy Harvin – and most of you know how I feel about Harvin – and shows how dangerous and explosive Hilton can be once he has the ball in his hands. He was also 4th in the league with 7.7 YAC/reception behind only Danario AlexanderCecil ShortsJoe Morgan – on only 10 receptions – and of course Percy Harvin. This is a statistic that will be imperative with a broadened workload. If this playmaking ability in the open field can remain consistent with a rise in targets, that would make for quite the ceiling for Hilton.

At this point, the estimations of Hilton’s floor and ceiling are fairly recognizable heading into the 2013 season. The question that remains is where he should be drafted with such a fluctuation of expectations. Digging around through the wonderful subscribed applications at Rotoviz unearthed and shed light upon the value of Hilton and his current ADP. Hilton is carrying an ADP per Rotoviz of the 41st receiver off the board, which ballparks him around the 9th-10th round. From personal experience I’d say as early as the 7th round from the mocks I’ve completed. This sounds like excellent value to obtain him just from those statistics, but when you scroll down to the two comparables the light bulb goes on. I’ll let your eyes gaze upon the comparable 2012 seasons before I get into depth and elaborate.

You can stop rubbing your eyes, that isn’t an illusion. The most comparable season’s – stat wise – last year were posted by Randall Cobb and Pierre Garcon. The same Cobb that is being taken on an average of the 12th receiver off the board, and building a hype train that is crossing the tracks of the 4th round, and gaining momentum with Greg Jennings‘ official departure. I’m aware Garcon had his injury woes last season, but was still very efficient when in the lineup. Garcon is being drafted on average as the 14th receiver off the board, and I know a few reputable writers that are already boasting about big things to come from him this upcoming year.

I’m not trying to sit here and convince you that Hilton needs to be a 4th-5th round pick, and I surely will not suggest that you draft Hilton over either of these two, but it does need to be known that his value is much greater than a 10th round flier. A championship team is not built around selecting players at their approximately valued ADP, but finding a few guys whose value has the upside of exceeding their ADP.

The depth at wide receiver definitely plays a role as to why some players are falling to bench filler positions, but I believe Hilton will be a solid WR3 with upside depending on his exact usage. We are all well aware of Luck’s fondness of the deep ball, and Hilton is going to be his primary threat. If Hilton develops into the role the Colts are intending for him, and still continues to establish his big play capabilities, then his receptions, yards, and touchdowns are going to make owners profoundly elated. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if by seasons end the abbreviated T.Y. in his name has taken on a whole new meaning, Thank You Hilton.


One Response

  1. Marc says:

    Good stuff, I like the “Thank You Hilton”.

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