TY Hilton; the Indianapolis Colts underrated star?


After a standout performance against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Indianapolis Colts wideout TY Hilton sang his own praises.

"“Give superman his cape and let him work” said Hilton. The 6th year pro lit up Lucas Oil Stadium, and Cleveland’s secondary, as he exploded for 153 receiving yards."

His 61 yard touchdown reception was typical of the former FIU speedster. After catching the ball near the right sideline on the fifty, Hilton weaved his way past several Browns defenders with excellent footwork.

The three-time pro bowler then turned on the jets and left all chasers in his wake as he raced in for an eye catching score.

Scenes like this have been all too familiar for the Colts’ opponents in recent years. Their number one receiver has been consistently explosive and productive, even without Andrew Luck, and deserves more recognition than he gets in terms of the elite of the game at his position.

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Hilton certainly has the production to be considered a top ten receiver in the NFL, but is he an underrated player? Or do his numbers flatter him?

Big play ability

Hilton’s speed is his best asset. His blazing 4.3 forty time sets him apart from the majority of receivers, and defenders, in the league.

His threat as a deep option is one that few players offer in the league. This dynamic option adds huge value and diversity to the Colts offense.

It keeps cornerbacks honest and forces them to account for his lethal speed in coverage. This leads to many occurrences of Hilton being able to create separation on hook, dig and out routes.

On multiple occasions on Sunday, working out of the slot and out wide against Browns cornerback Jamar Taylor and rookie safety Jabrill Peppers, Hilton’s initial quickness forced separation early in his routes.

Multiple 20 plus yards gains on crossing routes and quick slants showed off his elite quickness and ability to get open. Additionally, once Hilton gains possession, his knack for gaining chunk yards after the catch is lethal to defenses.

The near 50 yard run after the catch he took for a touchdown on Sunday was a perfect example of this. Once he has space to run in the open field there are few that can live with his blistering speed.

Much like Tyreek Hill and Taylor Gabriel, he is able to use his fast feet to change direction rapidly and leave defenses reeling. Only Adam Thielen has more 20 plus yard catches in the NFL in 2017.

In 2016, Hilton led the league in receiving yards and 20 plus yard catches. This highlights his danger as a deep threat and his electric running ability in the open field. Significantly, since 2014 only Antonio Brown and Julio Jones have more plays of this nature than Hilton.

Team influence

It affords Andrew Luck the luxury of throwing deep whilst ensuring only his receiver can get the ball. It’s no coincidence that Luck, armed with a quality deep threat, led the league in passes over 20 and 40 yards in 2014 (the last season he started all 16 games). In 2012 he ranked second and in 2016 Luck ranked fourth in 20 plus yard throws.

These statistical highs align with Hilton’s consistent production. The 27-year-old has made three straight pro bowls and is one of the league’s most improved receivers in recent years.

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His route running and hands have drastically improved since his rookie season and his diverse skill set allows him to operate out of multiple positions. He is a matchup nightmare particularly when lining up in the slot.

Hilton’s attributes earn the respect and attention of defenses. Thus, his teammates often find themselves open or in single coverage and can take advantage of favourable matchups.

With teams often assigning their number one corner to track Hilton, weapons like Donte Moncrief are able to work on a lesser player and make big contributions in the passing game.

Both Moncrief and TE Jack Doyle have benefited from this in recent times.

The former FIU standout plays with a chip on his shoulder. He is a leader on and off the field. He doesn’t engage in any distracting antics like some of his peers and he is clearly a team man.

His comments before the Browns game showed how much he values winning above anything else.

"After a disheartening start to the year, the pro bowler assured Colts fans of the team’s desire to win saying: “Can’t go down 0-3. I don’t think we’ve been down 0-3 since I’ve been here. So, it can’t happen, it won’t happen”"

Despite compiling over 6000 yards in just over five seasons, and reaching three pro bowls, Hilton doesn’t feature in the elite discussions.

However, when you consider the numbers he puts up and the effect he has, both on his team and opponents, he is certainly a top ten receiver in the league.

His rather diminutive stature and previous issue with drops may have something to do with this. But, the Colts wideout has certainly been able to elevate himself beyond these limitations.

He goes about his business in an unassuming manner and is one of the most electric playmakers in the NFL. TY Hilton is wildly underrated and deserves more recognition for his unique skill set.