With the NFL Draft and free agency having come and gone, we’ll break down all sorts of fantasy-relevant questions entering the 2018 season. Here we’ll look at how the Indianapolis Colts’ top wideout will fare if he doesn’t get back his starting quarterback.
Six catches for 95 yards on 12 targets. That was T.Y. Hilton’s stat line the last time Andrew Luck was throwing him the ball — 526 days ago at the time of this writing.
That was also the last known time that Luck threw a football.
Since then, Jacoby Brissett has been throwing passes to Hilton, and the results have been less than stellar: Hilton posted five-year lows in targets (109), receptions (57), yards (966), and touchdowns (four).
Based on the misinformation that came out of Indianapolis about the return of Luck in 2017, it’s impossible to say whether he will play football in 2018 — or ever again.
Can Hilton still be a fantasy value without Luck leading the offense?
It might not show up in his fantasy stats, but Hilton was dominant in 2017 — over his own offense, that is. Hilton turned his 109 targets in 966 yards. The next closest wide receiver was Donte Moncrief with 47 targets, and he’s no longer a Colt. Tight end Jack Doyle saw one less target than Hilton, but Doyle was unable to turn target volume into yardage like Hilton and ended up with just 690 yards. When the Cotls wanted to pick up chunks, they went to Hilton, who had a 38% market share of the team’s air yards compared to 16% for Doyle.
The Colts will also have to replace Moncrief’s targets, and Kamar Aiken leaves 44 behind as well. Save for signing former Lions tight end Eric Ebron, the Colts chose to do little this offseason to indicate that Hilton can’t handle more targets. They opted to be the second team to sign wide receiver Ryan Grant in free agency after he failed a physical with the Ravens, and they waited until the third day of the NFL Draft to add anyone else to their wide receiver room.
For better or worse, the Colts passing attack will run through Hilton in 2018, and betting on volume is a sound strategy for fantasy players.
Despite his volume, Hilton finished outside of the top 24 fantasy wide receivers for the first time since his rookie year. Losing Luck crushed Hilton’s fantasy production.
Get well soon Andrew… get well soon pic.twitter.com/KSQYamKiWD
— Kyle Dvorchak (@ffkylethekid) June 11, 2018
Hilton has also been inconsistent without Luck. Per our NFL Trends tool, Hilton saw a 13.4% drop-off in Consistency in 2017 compared to the previous three years, which was largely due to the shortcomings of Brissett.
If Luck is unable to play, Brissett will have to fill in again. In his 18-game career, Brissett has been a train wreck for fantasy purposes, posting just a 35.7% Consistency Rating and 14.37 fantasy points per game.
Brissett is inconsistent. His games are disappointing more often than not. He’s usually unusable in fantasy, and he negatively impacts the value of the entire Colts offense.
Brissett’s failures don’t necessarily tell the whole story. He was a third-stringer for the Patriots in 2016, being named to the 53-man roster only for games that took place while Tom Brady served a suspension. Then Brissett was traded to the Colts eight days before taking over for Scott Tolzien in the fourth quarter of Week 1. For reference, most players spend three or more months throughout the summer getting familiar with their teammates and the playbook, but Brissett, who plays the league’s most demanding position, was given a week.
Brissett will have going through a full offseason on his side in 2018. He’ll also have rookie lineman Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith protecting him. Nelson is a generational talent at guard who will improve the unit from day one, and Smith adds depth to a line that struggled with injuries in 2017.
Former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich will now be managing the offense, and he’s likely to implement a brand of offense heavy on run-pass-options. This is the same type of scheme that allowed Nick Foles to thrive and the Eagles offense to put up over 40 points in the Super Bowl, and it could very well utilize Brissett’s mobility more effectively.
A Rebound Is Likely
Brissett is set up to improve and Hilton will be the main beneficiary of any change. He’ll never replace Luck, but Brissett is going from a 2017 season where every factor was working against him to 2018 where he has a largely improved supporting cast.
Hilton will also see an enormous share of Colts passing attempts regardless of who’s throwing the football.
Luck returning would be nice, but it isn’t the only way for Hilton to regain his value as an elite fantasy receiver.
Pictured above: T.Y. Hilton
Photo credit: Thomas J. Russo – USA TODAY Sports