It’s no secret that the Indianapolis Colts have one of the deepest receiving cores in the NFL.
Headlining that receiving core is wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, possibly the most talented of all skill positions on the Colts’ roster. Hilton, entering his third year partnered up with Andrew Luck, continuously gives defensive coordinators nightmares in the deep game with his love of making big plays.
Drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft, the Colts traded up to take Hilton in the hopes that he was a dynamic punt returner who would provide depth to an already stacked position with Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie and Donnie Avery firmly entrenched. The following season, Hilton would surpass Avery and an oft-injured Collie up to No.2 on the Colts’ depth chart.
He then followed an impressive rookie campaign with a breakout 82 reception, 1,083-yard season with five touchdowns in 2013. Continuously making strides toward becoming a more mature, well-rounded receiver, the sky is the limit for Hilton’s production in 2014. Despite the returns of Wayne and tight end Dwayne Allen along with the acquisition of Hakeem Nicks, Hilton will still get several looks in the upcoming season.
T.Y. Hilton will receive most of his looks out of the slot in the Colts’ offense. While he often plays the Wes-Welker-esque role of being passed the ball in open field and given room to run, Hilton excels most at the spectacular long down-field catches. T.Y. is easily the most talented player on the Colts’ roster at making plays in the open field. After an ACL tear sidelined Reggie Wayne for 10 games in 2013, Hilton excelled in his alternate role out wide in relief for Mr. Reliable, proving his usability all over the field for the Colts.
Posting a 40-yard dash time of 4.34s at the 2012 NFL combine displayed Hilton’s ability to be a speedster in addition to his quick cuts on short routes. Originally seen as only a high-quality punt returner by several media pre-draft scouts, Hilton silenced critics after showing an increased ability to run routes in an offense as complex as the Colts’. He was also supposed to be overshadowed by the talents around him, but emerged as a capable second fiddle to Reggie Wayne in year one before emerging as the top target in 2013.
If Hilton has a downside, it’s his height (5’9″) and lack of vertical jump ability. He will rarely win one-on-one battles with a defender in a jump ball situation. He rather relies on his speed to prevent one-on-one matchups by blowing past the defender. Because of his inability to make catches when covered, there are very specific areas of the field that Hilton is able to get open, most often just outside the hashes on the right side or on short routes.
Another possible problem with Hilton’s game is inconsistency. In 2013, while posting five +100-yard games, he also failed to pass 50 yards in nine contests with the Colts. In order to be considered a top-tier receiver, Hilton will have to work on his ability to stay competitive in every game instead of having on/off spurts. In addition to his yardage inconsistency, Hilton needs to find more consistency in the end zone as well. Despite grabbing five touchdowns in 2013, they all came in two games (two and three touchdowns against Seattle and Houston respectively). While Hilton’s play style doesn’t bode well with the red-zone system offense that Pep Hamilton runs (Hilton gets most of his TDs on long throws and easy slants), he still needs to show scoring ability in every game, not just occasionally throughout the season.
T.Y. Hilton enters the 2014 season as the Colts receiver with the highest upside. He is a young guy that has a lot of ability to improve upon his already impressive rapport with Andrew Luck. Hilton is now handed the enormous task of standing out among a group of pass-catchers that includes a three-time All-Pro Reggie Wayne, Super Bowl standout Hakeem Nicks, dominant tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener and new draftee Donte Moncrief.
A big task for the little guy who thrives on the enormous play.