T.Y. Hilton Will Bounce Back With WR1 Numbers
T.Y. Hilton signed a 5-year, $65 million contract extension entering the 2015 season, but his fantasy owners suffered from a decline in his production. Hilton went from a top-10 fantasy receiver in 2014 (82-1345-7) to the #22 scoring wideout (69-1124-5) in PPR in 2015. His consistency after the Week 9 bye also made it hard to start Hilton week in and week out when it mattered most to his owners. Hilton limped to the finish line, with less than 70 yards in five of his last seven games, and failed to find the endzone in six of his last seven.
It led to a disappointing season for a player drafted near the 2nd-3rd round turn in 12-team leagues last season. However, there are reasons to expect Hilton to bounce back into the WR1 discussion in 2016.
Andrew Luck Was Injured
Take away any star wide receiver’s starting quarterback for nine games, and his production is likely to suffer. That was the case for Hilton.
Much like defenses started to not respect an aging Peyton Manning in Denver, the same developed with 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck under center for the Colts. Secondaries didn’t have to cover as deep, because the aging quarterback’s arm couldn’t hit Hilton for chunk plays as often as Luck’s arm could. The passing game turned more to short and intermediate timing routes. That led to a drop in targets for the Colts’ small-yet-speedy wideout.
The numbers with Luck also include a Monday Night Football game at Carolina played in an absolute monsoon, where it was extremely difficult to complete anything deep. A miserable 1-15-0 game followed for Hilton. Take out the extreme weather game and Hilton’s numbers with Luck jump to 16.8 FPPG, which would have put Hilton back in the top-10 among fantasy wide receivers in 2015.
The Colts also threw it 62% of the time last season (10th in the NFL), only a fraction of one percent less than they did in 2014, despite having two coordinators and five quarterbacks under center throughout the season. The Colts like to sling it, and there’s no reason to believe that mentality will change in 2016 if Luck is healthy all season, which only helps Hilton’s cause.
Hilton Was Playing Hurt At Times
Not only was Hilton’s quarterback hurt, so was he. Now, T.Y. didn’t miss a game in 2015, but make no mistake about it, he was not at full strength for part of the season. Hilton first injured his knee Week 1 against the Bills, with some insiders reporting he’d miss a couple games. Hilton didn’t miss any time, and played through the pain in Week 2 without practicing all week.
Hilton wound up on the injury report four more times in 2015, averaging 12.6 FP/G in the weeks he played through an injury, compared to 13.5 FP/G in the 10 weeks he was officially healthy.
During OTAs, Hilton also commented on his focus for 2016. “I’m more motivated, more hungry,” Hilton told reporters. Reports out of Indianapolis during offseason workouts named Hilton as the star of early practices, with head coach Chuck Pagano saying that’s “no embellishment.”
Hilton's 2016 Fantasy Outlook
Hilton’s ADP has fallen from a borderline 2nd round pick in 2015 to a mid-to-late 3rd round pick in 12-team leagues in early 2016 drafts. That’s not a big drop, possibly illustrating early drafters do not blame Hilton for his drop in production in 2015. However, there is opportunity for some value.
Hilton is currently the 17th wide receiver off the board in drafts, after names like Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Marshall, Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins, and Amari Cooper, all of which Hilton could outproduce in 2016 with a healthy Luck (as Hilton already did in 2014). It is worth noting that our rankings indicate Hilton's stock takes a bit of a hit in PPR leagues compared to standard. He is currently projected as a top-12 receiver in our standard rankings but drops to 18th among wideouts in PPR. Using scoring system specific rankings is always a must.
Will Hilton bounce back to be a WR1 again? Signs certainly point to it with a healthy Luck, which could allow owners to grab two top-12 wide receivers in rounds one and three if they opt to wait for a RB in round two of drafts.