Is T.Y. Hilton Too Inconsistent to Be a Top Fantasy Football Receiver?

T.Y. Hilton is currently being drafted as a top-12 fantasy wide receiver. While capable of having WR1 weeks, is he worth the high price tag?

I promise this isn't some scorned article from a disdainful 2014 fantasy owner of T.Y. Hilton -- in fact I had zero shares of the Indianapolis Colts' dynamic playmaker last year.

But I cannot for the life of me get behind the notion that T.Y. Hilton will be a top-12 fantasy wide receiver for this upcoming 2015 season.

Hilton is blessed with having the good fortune of playing with one of the league's best up-and-coming quarterbacks, but does that alone warrant where Hilton is currently being drafted?

Currently being drafted as a top-12 wide receiver in PPR formats according to early ADP from and, the 5' 10" wide receiver is filling out the back end of the WR1 tier.

Entering the 2015 season, T.Y. Hilton faces several conundrums that could hold him back from replicating his 2014 fantasy finish. Hilton faces competition from a crowded offense suddenly overflowing with talented skill-players, possesses serious red zone concerns, and has weekly inconsistencies that should cause fantasy owners to re-evaluate where they have Hilton on their draft boards for 2015.

Target Distribution in a Crowded Offense

Earlier this month numberFire's Scott Barrett took a look at the potential target split for the 2015 Colts. He found some rather interesting statistics on the usage of wide receivers within the Colts offense, particularly among the distribution of targets among them.

Observing a decrease over the past three years in targets directed towards the wide receivers -- 72% in 2012, 61% in 2013, 57% in 2014 -- is this trend likely to continue entering 2015?

Watching an aging Reggie Wayne fade off into the sunset after seeing a whopping 31% of Luck's attempts (194 targets!) sent his way as the team's leading receiver in 2012, Hilton has since taken over that leading WR1 role acquiring 24% of Indy's targets in '13 and 19.8% in '14 in the process.

Let me repeat that. The leading WR1 for one of the top passing offenses in the league had only 19.8% of the team's targets.

28 different receivers had a higher percentage of their team's targets thrown their way than Hilton last year. The 10 receivers being drafted before Hilton had an average target market share of 25.6%. This target distribution among the Colts' plethora of weapons should cause fantasy owners to hesitate when they see Hilton's name at the top of their ADP queue.

While it is worth noting Hilton missed one game due to injury and played about half of the season finale, it's not like he's the only receiver who missed time. 10 of the 28 receivers that surpassed Hilton's target market share percentage missed at least one game, with five of those wide receivers missing more games than Hilton.

Sure, the Colts parted ways with Wayne and an ineffective Hakeem Nicks this offseason and their associated 186 targets, but they've added Andre Johnson, Duron Carter, and Vincent Brown -- and also drafted Phillip Dorsett in the first round -- to help alleviate any concerns for their star quarterback.

Indianapolis has also provided Luck with two receiving tight ends and several running backs capable of becoming outlet receivers. This mix of veterans and unproven youth, combined with Hilton and second-year receiver Donte Moncrief, should help keep Luck firing away as he tries to take Indy further in the playoffs.

Hilton is coming off the heels of a 131-target season -- tied for 15th-most in the league -- but is there reason to believe Hilton could do more with an uptick in balls thrown his way?

RecRec MS %Rec YardsRec Yards MS %Rec NEPTarTar MS %Target NEPCatch Rate

Looking back at Hilton's three-year career to date, he's increased his receiving yards, Reception Net Expected Points (NEP), Target NEP, and his catch rate -- something rather impressive considering his average depth of target of 14.5 yards.

Net Expected Points or NEP, is numberFire's signature metric that quantifies a player's production versus what is expected of them on a given play. You can learn more about NEP in our glossary.

A yardage hog in offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton's offense, Hilton has seen over 28% of the team's receiving yards since he claimed that top WR1 position. A high percentage of that comes from explosive plays -- plays that travel 40-plus yards. In fact, Hilton ranks tied for third since 2012 in these type of plays, trailing only DeSean Jackson and A.J. Green. Hilton has hauled in 17 of these explosive plays -- picking up nearly half of Andrew Luck's 35 completions (2nd most) for 40-plus yards as a quality deep target for the young gunslinger.

While fun to watch, the inconsistent manner in which these are thrown make for very volatile fantasy plays. Add in newcomer Phillip Dorsett -- who is built (and plays) very similarly to Hilton with his 5' 10", 185-pound frame -- and speculation starts to creep in as to how many of these explosive plays Dorsett will steal from the incumbent.

Dorsett can become a younger, faster version of what Hilton has provided the offense over the past few years. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, the Colts seemingly drafted Hilton's replacement to the surprise of many. Dorsett could be thought of as a cheaper alternative to re-signing Hilton as Indianapolis starts planning for how to afford the mega-contract that Andrew Luck will soon demand.

Given the additions to the offense and what T.Y. Hilton has shown as far as they style of his game to date, there's little reason to expect a larger target market share than what we've seen the past two years. Andre Johnson could very easily take over as the leading target receiver in 2015, but even with a modest bump in targets for Hilton, there's no reason to start rushing to draft him -- especially when we take a look at how he's performed in the red zone.

Red Zone Concerns

These aren't new concerns for Hilton and his ability to hit pay dirt. Since entering the league Hilton was never viewed as a "red zone threat", but when investing such a high draft pick in a wide receiver, surely you'd like to see some productivity crossing the goal line.

Hilton leaves much to be desired in that category as evidenced in his career to date when deep in enemy territory.

TouchdownsTD MS%Red Zone TargetsRZ Target MS %Red Zone TouchdownsRZ Touchdown MS %

For a guy who saw 131 total targets last year, seeing only 11 in the red zone had to be disappointing. Despite Luck throwing for 40 touchdowns last year, Hilton accounted for only 7 of them with a mere 2 coming from the red zone.

Dropping in both red zone target and red zone touchdown percentages, Hilton isn't a big X-factor when his team is looking to score. Missing out on the big fantasy points from touchdown plays really hamstrings Hilton's fantasy value.

Hilton has accrued 26 red zone targets over the past two years -- the same number of red zone looks Andre Johnson received last year alone. Johnson's a big 6' 3", 230-pound weapon that Luck will likely target heavily when push comes to shove and his team needs a score. While Johnson has never scored double-digit touchdowns in his 12-year career, he may see a renaissance in Indianapolis.

Rich Hribrar has been doing a fantastic team-by-team outlook for the 2015 season and when analyzing the Colts, he pointed out over the past three years that despite the Colts targeting their wide receivers on 53.9% of their red zone targets, the wideouts have only been able to come up with 17.6% of the team's red zone scores.

Indianapolis hopes to alleviate these concerns by adding the veteran Johnson to the wide receiver corps. Hilton will still see some red zone targets, but Andre Johnson could be in a for a career year seeing the lion's share of them.

The Colts also hope that the signing of Johnson can help bring some consistency to a plagued team with a dire need for it.

Inconsistency in Indy

Out of all the determining factors for why you should or should not take Hilton, his inconsistency from a week-to-week perspective is the biggest flaw to his game.

Bear with me with this table, but seeing it in this context helps illustrate my point best.

OpponentOpp. Adj. Def Passing NEPFantasy Points (PPR)WR Ranking
Week 1@DEN10th9.1WR52
Week 2vs PHI20th12.5WR26
Week 3@ JAX16th13.0WR34
Week 4vs TEN30t17.0WR17
Week 5vs BAL19th18.0WR14
Week 6@ HOU1st37.3WR1
Week 7vs CIN6th17.7WR15
Week 8@ PIT27th27.5WR8
Week 9@ NYG22nd16.1WR20
Week 10Bye------
Week 11vs NE4th5.4WR65
Week 12vs JAX16th23.7WR8
Week 13vs WAS32nd17.2WR20
Week 14@ CLE5th37.0WR3
Week 15vs HOU1st9.0WR46
Week 16@ DAL25thDNPDNP
Week 17@ TEN30th0.0WR112

Hilton had about as inconsistent of a year as they come.

It didn't matter if he was facing top passing defenses or not. It was hard to predict when Hilton would break out in any given week. In Week 6, Hilton put up 37.3 points against the Texans, but in their rematch he ended up accumulating just 9.0 points.

When facing bottom of the barrel defenses such as Tennessee and Washington, Hilton had only run-of-the-mill WR2 outings.

Whether gauging by pace of game play or pass defense ranking, it was a weekly circus act predicting if this was the game Hilton would go off.

19 different wide receivers had at least as many top-12 (WR1) weeks than T.Y.'s four appearances. Expecting a high return on Hilton from week to week is a foolish endeavor, as he easily has the highest variance among the top receivers being drafted this year.

Picking up one of the few stud running backs that are not in a committee would be a much more valuable use of your draft equity in the third round. For those really gung-ho about getting a piece of the Colts' offense, waiting another round and selecting Andre Johnson in the late fourth would be a better option.

Johnson should see a similar volume to Hilton but will be more of a possession type player with more high-percentage throws going in his direction. Topping that off with the potential for more touchdowns, Johnson is a much more safe, less volatile play than the explosive Hilton.

Hilton faces a much more crowded depth chart entering his fourth year, and with his inconsistent manner in which he plays and lack of red zone opportunities, there are much better plays when Hilton's name crawls up to the top of your queue.