Should You Avoid T.Y. Hilton in Fantasy Football This Year?

T.Y. Hilton put up decent stats last year. Should we be wary of them at face value though?

T.Y. Hilton was one of the most coveted “sleepers” last year in most leagues. He was the next breakout candidate, the playmaker who was supposed to supplant Reggie Wayne as the top dog in Indianapolis. And while his final stat line of 82 receptions, 1,083 yards and 5 touchdowns seems adequate, the numbers, on occasion, do lie.

So is T.Y. Hilton someone to avoid this year in fantasy football? Let's take a look.

Hilton's 2013 Campaign

Let’s dig a little deeper into Mr. Hilton’s 2013 campaign. So you broke the 1,000 yard mark, congratulations. Five touchdowns. Not bad, but not really great, either. But wait, there’s more. T.Y. Hilton had about a quarter of his yardage production and 100 percent of his touchdown production in just two games last year. The first game was against the Seattle Seahawks, in which he had 5 receptions, 140 yards and 2 scores. The second of these mammoth outings came in the Colts’ first of two matchups against the Houston Texans. In this game, Hilton went for 7 receptions, 121 yards and 3 touchdowns, making a total of 12 receptions, 261 yards and 5 trips to the end zone between the two games.

Here at numberFire we like to utilize our advanced metric "NEP", or Net Expected Points. NEP allows us to see how a player added or subtracted to his team’s point expectancy over the course of a season based on how said player changes his teams expected point totals. Good plays will reflect positively, while bad plays will reflect negatively. You can read more about it in our glossary.

T.Y. Hilton finished 21st last year in Reception NEP, which for where he was drafted, is about right. Reception NEP measures the number of points added by a player on all receptions - it's a cumulative statistic. But again, we need to dig a little deeper to find the true value of Hilton’s 2013 year. Here are Hilton’s advanced statistics from his two years in the NFL. (ranked with minimum of 75 targets)

YearReception NEPTargetsReception NEP/ TargetReception Success Rate
201282.46 (29th)90 (57th)0.92 (4th)84.00% (54th)
201389.17 (21st)139 (16th)0.64 (45th)80.72% (66th)

As you can see, Hilton’s rookie year actually did warrant the hype. He finished fourth in Reception NEP per target thanks to his big-play ability, and was in the top 30 for Reception NEP as a rookie, which has only happened five times in the past five years. Fantasy Football managers everywhere had high hopes for the young wideout. What they got was a lot of inconsistent play that was only boosted by the absence of Reggie Wayne.

The Wayne Impact

As we all know, Reggie Wayne was having yet another revitalized year with second-year phenom, Andrew Luck, as his quarterback. This was still Wayne’s receiving unit, and he was still clearly the number one target in Indy. Unfortunately for Wayne and his owners, he went down with a torn ACL in the Colts’ seventh game of the year, racking up a total Reception NEP of 45.42 in those seven games. Wayne was on pace for a final total Reception NEP of 103.82, which would have put him 17th overall, four spots ahead of where T.Y. Hilton actually finished. That number would actually be higher, too, considering he didn't finish that seventh game. Had Wayne finished out the season, it’s safe to assume Hilton would have finished worse than 21st in Reception NEP, and I have the numbers to back this notion.

T.Y. Hilton Through Game #Receptions/GameYards/GameTD/Game
1-7 (Pre-Wayne injury)3.8550.29
8-16 (Post- Wayne injury)6850.33

It was clearly not until Wayne went down that Hilton began to be relevant. He was worth about an average of 6.75 fantasy points per game in standard leagues, and 10.75 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues when Wayne was still in the lineup. Those numbers ballooned to about an average of 10 points per game in standard leagues and 16 points per game in PPR leagues after Wayne was sidelined. All indications are that Wayne is good to go and will be 100% when preseason rolls around. I can only suspect this will have the same effect on Hilton’s numbers as it did last year. And not only that, but Hakeem Nicks is now in town, and tight end Dwayne Allen is healthy.

Hilton's Current Cost

Hilton currently has an average draft position (ADP) of WR24, at the back end of the fifth round in a 12-team league. He's being selected ahead of guys like Marques Colston, Terrance Williams and his own teammate, Reggie Wayne. All of which had more efficient seasons than Hilton last year.

PlayerReception NEP per TargetReception Success Rate
Marques Colston0.8294.67%
Terrance Williams0.7681.82%
Reggie Wayne0.7787.18%
T.Y. Hilton0.6480.72%

Each of those receivers proved to be more reliable last year when on the field. Add in the fact that Wayne and Colston are veterans who have proven their worth year in and year out, and Williams is slated to be the number two receiver in a Scott Linehan offense, and I really cannot justify taking T.Y. Hilton before these receivers.

If drafting weekly boom-or-bust players is your thing, then by all means go after Hilton. I mean, nobody said he didn’t have talent. And granted, his ADP isn't terrible, although it's more generous than our rankings have him.