Out of Luck, but Not Out of Hope
On Saturday evening, April 24th at approximately 9:45 pm EST, Andrew Luck retired from the NFL. In his 6 years playing with the Indianapolis Colts, he went 11-5 in three straight seasons, made the AFC championship game, and played at a level that some believe warranted Hall of Fame consideration. He will be one of those players, like his fellow draft classmate Robert Griffin III, in which we will never see how truly great they could’ve been before injuries took their toll.
Thirty minutes after Luck’s retirement, I was on the clock for my fantasy draft and needed to quickly re-evaluate how I felt about the Colts with Jacoby Brissett at QB instead of Andrew Luck. My main concern involved a player I was very high on at his ADP in the Top of the 3rd round…. TY Hilton. Despite how you may feel, TY is a great value now, even after Luck’s retirement. Here’s why you should feel confident in TY Hilton.
Post-Luck’s retirement, TY Hilton’s ADP is currently the top of the 5th round in 12 team leagues. That moves him into a firm WR2 category. He is being drafted around guys like Calvin Ridley, Mike Williams, and DJ Moore. Many of you may think this is too high, but things are drastically different than they were the last time Hilton played without Luck.
In 2017, Luck missed the entire NFL season and Jacoby Brissett was forced to play 15 games, ultimately going 4-11. With Brissett at QB, Hilton caught 57 balls for 966 Yds and 4 TDs. He finished 18th in total receiving yards and 4th in yards per reception. He was also 25th in targets that year. While that isn’t the WR1 numbers to which we are all accustomed, it is better than average. Now, there is only positive reason to believe he can outperform his 2017 stats and finish as a solid WR2.
Brissett is in his 3rd year with the Colts, having played 15 games with them in 2017 and participating in two full training camps with the current regimen. He will feel more comfortable then he did when the last time he played, where he was thrusted into the lineup mere days after being traded and he probably didn’t even know which locker was his at that time. He’s built rapport with his teammates and has more experience under his belt than he did in what was essentially his rookie year.
Brissett is also now playing under Frank Reich’s offensive system, which was very favorable for former Eagles backup Nick Foles. When Foles was thrust into the lineup in 2017 after Carson Wentz went down with an ACL tear, he threw for 537 yards for 5 TDs and 2 INTs at a 56% completion percentage in about three and a half games. In the postseason, he threw for 961 yards for 6 TDs and 1 INT at a 73% completion percentage in three games.
After a short adjustment period, Foles became adept at running Reich’s system and succeeded. They utilized an RPO offense that gave Foles the time to throw and make accurate reads. Brissett isn’t Nick Foles, but he isn’t far off either. I can easily see a similar system being incorporated, which will allow TY to catch quick slants along with the occasional deep bomb. Brissett is already more accustomed to Reich’s system, which will ease the acclimation process.
A third, and probably the biggest difference between this year and two years ago, is the offensive line. When Brissett played in 2017, he was sacked 52 times in 15 games. Last year, Luck only got sacked 18 times in 16 games. The offensive line has been bolstered over the past two years, where Pro Football Focus considers it the 5th best in the league. Brissett will have time to throw, which bodes well for TY. Defenders will also stack the box against the run because they don’t respect Brissett, another advantage for TY.
I know Luck was one of the best young QBs in the league, and Brissett can’t live up to that. Though I do believe there is still hope for one fantasy relevant Colt. Marlon Mack will regress because of stacked boxes and a less potent offense overall, other Colt WRs don’t have the talent to withstand a less than premier QB, and Eric Ebron won’t catch 13 TDs this year.
Yet, TY Hilton remains a top tier WR going in the middle rounds of drafts. People who have already drafted are desperately trying to sell him at any price. His talent, pedigree, and the lack of go-to targets around him makes him a steal at his current ADP. Brissett’s familiarity with the offense, Reich’s offensive system, and the Colts tremendous O-line give Brissett and Hilton the chance to succeed. I’m still not touching any other Colts, but Hilton is a diamond in the rough. I can easily see Hilton ending the year with a stat line of 60+ catches for over 1,000 yards and 6 TDs. It won’t be a popular pick, but Hilton is solid enough to out-produce his current value. The Colts may be out of Luck, but they’re not without hope.