Depth Charts be Damned: T.Y. Hilton is the Colts’ #2 Target

Twitter is like the mecca of overreaction. Once NFL cuts are made, that means it’s time for the first release of the regular season depth charts. I have to tell you some people take them so damn seriously. It is kind of amazing to me.

Somehow we’ve learned to write off “coach speak” during press conferences. We’ve also realized that the injury report early in the week is a whole bunch of misleading gossip. For some reason, the general public has had a hard time taking the next step in disregarding the dreaded depth chart. Recently, the Jets announced Bilal Powell is the “starter” at running back. I received a bunch of questions on twitter this week asking if they should drop Chris Ivory. Drop Chris Ivory? You mean the best running back on the Jets team and the one that will eventually be the lead back? The one who will still get more carries week 1 but just won’t happen to be the one touching the ball first? No, please don’t drop him.

The same applies to the Indianapolis Colts’ receiver situation. Just because they bring in some guy off the street (Darrius Heyward-Bey) and anoint him the starter doesn’t mean that he’s the #2 option in the passing game. Okay, Heyward-Bey did register nearly 1000 yards two years ago with a respectable 8.5 YPT (yards per target). However, his skill set is pretty ordinary. Coming out of college he was generally accepted as a pure speed receiver type talent (Draft Profile). I know he’s been with the Raiders but overall his pro career has been rather ordinary so far. Despite having Carson Palmer at the helm last year, he only registered 606 receiving yards and 5 TD. Now he walks into a better situation but there’s a problem for DHB: T.Y. Hilton too is a speedy receiver and he plays the role better. Hilton’s big play ability last season was nothing short of spectacular. As they say, the proof is the pudding. In this case, the pudding is Hilton’s rookie season statistics:

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-Of all qualified wide receivers, Hilton finished fifth in the NFL at 17.2 YDS/REC

-Despite playing limited snaps as sort of a gimmick receiver, Hilton finished tied for 24th in the NFL with 13 receptions of 20+ yards. For context, Hilton caught 50 passes in order to do so, Welker caught 118 to put up the same number

-Of all qualified wide receivers, Hilton finished ninth in the NFL at 9.6 YPT

What does this tell you? To me it says you should start Hilton with confidence, especially in week 1. All it takes is one reception for a productive fantasy day. Think about that: his average reception length is nearly 20 yards, and that was as a rookie! Any catch can be a long reception taken to the house. With a better understanding of how the game works, Hilton’s game should only get better. Besides that, he gets another year to build on the chemistry he already shared with Andrew Luck. This, obviously, is a luxury DHB does not possess.

Chuck Pagano told the Indianapolis Star, “You’re never going to just zero in and say, ‘This guy’s going to play outside. This guy’s going to play in the slot.’ I think we can move people around. We also have tight ends that we can move outside. That works to our advantage. When we execute, things can work out.”

Basically, it sounds like the roles aren’t actually defined. Therefore, the term starter means literally nothing. They will move players in and out depending on the formation. Remember when Austin Collie was the best receiver (for a stretch) in the Colts’ offense despite playing in the slot? I’m not saying Hilton will outproduce Reggie Wayne, but he definitely will be next in line. He just possesses too much explosion for the coach to ignore. If you have the chance to score literally any time you target him, why wouldn’t you take advantage?

The answer is you would and the Colts are going to. Don’t be fooled by the depth chart. Draft the player with the best skills and roll with him. The Colts face the awful Raiders defense in week 1, so if you own Hilton, now is the time to start him. Like I told one of my twitter followers, “If you drafted him and don’t use him against the Raiders, then why do you even own him at all?”

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