5 Reasons to Draft T.Y. Hilton over Jordy Nelson

Aug 15, 2016
5 Reasons to Draft T.Y. Hilton over Jordy Nelson

It’s hard not to love a Green Bay receiver.

Aaron Rodgers remains one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Jordy Nelson has had a full year to recover from the torn ACL he suffered prior to last season. Fantasy owners have been licking their chops to get Nelson on their rosters.

But in the pursuit of Jordy, are owners overlooking some other quality receivers available that might represent more safety, more security, and perhaps even more upside and value?

I took a look at the ADP value of Nelson compared to some of the other receivers available this year, and tried to evaluate whether or not Jordy really does represent the best option for owners looking to capitalize on a lost season.

After analyzing all factors involved, I’ve come to the conclusion that Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton represents a better option for fantasy owners to go after, and I'll give you five reasons why.

1. Value

I obviously want value relative to ADP to be a strong factor in making my decision. 4for4 currently has Hilton ranked three spots above Nelson in PPR league formats, and four spots below Nelson in standard leagues. Either way, the rankings are close, and both players are considered top WR2 options in all formats, bordering on WR1 potential.

However, in 10-team leagues, Nelson’s ADP is in the second round, while Hilton has been going two rounds later in the early fourth! Both players have top quarterbacks, and both should be the WR1 on their respective teams. Our projected fantasy points have Nelson with only 11 points more than Hilton in standard leagues and two points less in PPR formats. I’d rather have the value of Hilton in the fourth round.

2. Age

Wide receivers typically start to fall off as they get into their 30s. They tend to hit their peaks around age 26. While Nelson is still in his early 30s – he turned 31 in May – he’s starting to get to an age where players lose their speed and explosiveness. Hilton meanwhile, won’t be 27 years old until November and should be entering his prime.

Both players have gotten steadily better throughout their careers. Hilton’s numbers dipped slightly last season due to poor quarterback play, but he still averaged 16.3 yards on 69 catches. Nelson has improved throughout his career as well, with high-level fantasy seasons in 2011, 2013, and 2014 before the injury last year. With the exception of 2012, when he missed four games, Nelson has seen steady improvement throughout his career.

However, prior to Nelson breaking out in 2011 (when he was 26 years old), he averaged only 33 catches, 423 yards, and two touchdowns per year over his first three seasons. Hilton, on the other hand, is entering his age-26 season averaging 71 catches, 1,103 yards, and six touchdowns per year over his first four seasons in the league. If Hilton is entering his prime, as Nelson did at this age, then he has a much more compelling resume at this stage in his career than Nelson did.

3. Durability

Nelson is coming off an ACL tear. While other players have come back strong from ACL tears in the past, you never know how a guy is going to react to such an injury, especially his first year back. Nelson is just now ready to return full-time and as recently as last week, he was experiencing a hiccup with his other knee, though he failed to divulge any details about it.

As mentioned before, Nelson also missed four games during the 2012 season with a hamstring injury. There were also three missed games in 2009 due to a knee issue. Hilton on the other hand, has missed only two games in his four-year career, and started all 16 games in 2015. While it’s too early to call Nelson an injury-prone player, a player coming off an ACL tear is always a risky option, and is enough of a factor to give me pause when considering him over players like Hilton, who has much less of a history with injuries.

4. Target Share

Both Hilton and Nelson get plenty of targets. Both receivers lead their respective teams over the past three years in targets per game (not counting 2015 for Nelson due to the ACL injury). Nelson even averaged 9.4 targets per game in 2014, ranking fourth in the NFL.

However, if you average out Nelson’s numbers in the games he’s started since 2013, you get a very solid 8.69 targets per game. Hilton? 8.59 targets per game in that same time span. So if you assume that Nelson will end up repeating his incredible numbers from 2014, then an extra target per game is compelling. However, if you consider 2014’s lofty numbers to be an outlier, or at least the high point of his career, then you can see there’s not a tremendous amount of difference in targets per game between these two guys, and definitely not two rounds worth of difference!

Additionally, it’s more likely that Nelson will get challenges from other players on the roster. Green Bay has another top receiver in Randall Cobb, added a good tight end in Jared Cook, and has other quality players on the outside. Hilton has Donte Moncrief vying for targets and tight end Dwayne Allen should get his looks, but arguably no one on the Colts roster is as talented as Cobb, making Hilton a safer bet to continue to lead his team in targets.

5. Andrew Luck

Both players have been productive throughout their careers and as I mentioned before, both have excellent quarterbacks. If you assume last season’s struggles in Indianapolis were due to Andrew Luck being banged up – which I do – then you can assume that the Colts will look more like their 2014 selves instead of 2015. In 2014, Andrew Luck threw the ball 616 times and tossed 40 touchdown passes. As productive as Aaron Rodgers has been throughout his career, he’s never thrown the ball more than the 572 times he threw it last season, and the Packers have said this offseason that they’d like to establish more of a running game. Even with Luck out for nine games last year, the Colts still finished the season with 619 pass attempts, 46 more than Green Bay with a healthy Rodgers.

Andrew Luck is supposedly healthy, and before getting hurt last year was on a career trajectory that would elevate him to elite quarterback status. He’ll turn only 27 years old during the season and should be entering the prime of his career. While Rodgers is still an elite quarterback, an argument can be made that Luck may not be far off, and with the high amount of passes he is likely to throw, his top receiver should be in for a huge year.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, Hilton and Nelson are both excellent players in great situations who should put up at least borderline WR1 numbers in all league formats. My argument is that the gap between these two fantasy studs is far smaller than pedigree and ADP would indicate.

Nelson is an established veteran who has been considered top fantasy material for years now.

Hilton on the other hand, has been a quietly steady option, even in an unsteady 2015 season, poised for a breakout year as he enters his prime.

I expect to see both players with borderline top-10 numbers this season, but with the combination of risk factors, the value in the draft, and the faith I have in the Colts offense and in Andrew Luck’s return, if picking between the two, I want T.Y. Hilton every time.

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