Fantasy Football: What to Expect From T.Y. Hilton This Season

Is Hilton primed for a big year with a healthy Andrew Luck back in the fold?

The Indianapolis Colts have been largely defined by their starting quarterback over the past two decades. Without Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck, the rest of the Colts roster seems to plummet to irrelevance.

Last year was another example of that as the Colts finished the season 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

But it wasn't all because of Luck's absence. Indy's franchise signal caller only played seven games last season, and the Colts posted a 2-5 record in those contests.

What Luck's absence definitely did was drag down the fantasy value of all the Colts' weapons, particularly their pass catchers.

Bad Luck in Indy

One of the players who was able to keep his play at a relatively high level was T.Y. Hilton, who finished as WR22 last year in both standard and points per reception (PPR) leagues. It wasn't up to par with his WR12 finish from 2014, but he was still a very useful fantasy asset.

Using the rotoViz game splits app, take a look at Hilton's career production with and without Luck under center.

Last season was the first time since Luck and Hilton were drafted in 2012 that Luck missed a game with injury, so we can look at those splits from just 2015.

The most staggering thing about the splits is the scoring production. It's not all that surprising, either. With Luck under center, the Colts move the ball better, therefore giving all of their players -- including Hilton -- more chances to score touchdowns.

Even though Hilton isn't built like a prototypical red zone weapon, he's been a solid touchdown scorer with Luck in the lineup. He averaged 6.33 touchdowns per year from 2012 through 2015, and he even found paydirt 5 times in 2015, with 3 of those scores coming from Luck.

A lot of Hilton's metrics were still good last year -- even with Luck missing time and not playing all that well when he was on the field.

Check out his Reception Net Expected Points (NEP) scores in his career.

For those of you new to new to numberfire, Net Expected Points, or NEP, is our in-house metric that helps us see past the box-score muck and figure out what's really going on. You can read more about it in our glossary. Target NEP removes any expected points lost on incompletions and interceptions.

Season Receptions Yards Per Reception Reception NEP Touchdowns Targets Target NEP Catch Rate
2012 50 17.2 82.46 7 90 44.49 55.56%
2013 83 13.2 89.17 5 139 45.80 59.71%
2014 82 16.4 108.36 7 131 61.06 62.60%
2015 69 16.3 100.58 5 134 29.38 51.49%

With the exception of his career-low numbers in Target NEP and catch rate, which suggest weaker quarterback play than he's used to, Hilton's performance in 2015 isn't all that different from what he did in 2014.

Among 54 receivers with at least 75 targets, Hilton's Reception NEP per catch of 1.46 ranked eighth-highest and was noticeably higher than his teammates' 1.26. Per-target, though, Hilton struggled a bit, ranking 19th in the group but still posted an above league-average rate with a Reception NEP per target of 0.75.

That should dispel any notion that Hilton is somehow a creation of Luck, and he wouldn't be a good football player without him. The little dude can ball.

Targets For Days

It's worth noting that Indy's offense vacated 161 combined targets with departures of Coby Fleener and Andre Johnson.

That pie could actually be even bigger, though, as the Colts only attempted 619 passes last year after throwing the ball 661 times in 2014.

While Dwayne Allen, Phillip Dorsett, and Donte Moncrief are each probably going to see a boost in volume, they are unlikely to soak up all 161 of those targets. Hilton has averaged a touch more than 134 targets per year over the past three seasons.

At a minimum, it's hard to see how he's not in line for similarly heavy volume again, possibly even more with all the targets up for grabs.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Using average draft position (ADP) data from Fantasy Football Calculator, Hilton is being taken as the 15th wide receiver off the board at pick 3.06 in standard formats.

Our projections here at numberFire have Hilton as the 13th-ranked receiver in standard formats, making him a slight value. But more than anything, Hilton is a very insulated, safe pick.

He's a good receiver in a pass-happy offense who has proven he can produce without top-notch quarterback play. The floor is very high, and as we saw with his WR12 finish in 2014, the ceiling is pretty good, too.