The Indianapolis Colts are a young team that is growing with each year. Led by quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts have been a team that has exceeded expectations. Luck definitely is one of the main reasons they have been so good so fast, but he is not the only reason. Another guy the team drafted that same season has had a great effect on that team. With their third round pick (92nd overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Colts wanted to give Luck a weapon that could help him achieve success. They saw a speedy guy from Florida International University with return skills that could potentially take the top off defenses. His name was TY Hilton. And the Colts saw enough out of him that they thought he could be special. Well, three years later, Hilton has been just that and more for the Colts. He has gotten better and better each season, topping off at 1,361 yards last season. The diminutive receiver has been dynamite for the Colts and this offseason, they rewarded him for his efforts. Recently Hilton signed a five-year deal extension worth $65 million ($39 million guaranteed). That deal ranks him fourth among wide receivers behind the deals for Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas. Hilton makes enough big plays to be considered for this huge pay raise, but he is definitely the guy that does not fit in this picture. All three other men in this scenario are number one receivers that have size and speed. Hilton, has only his speed working for him but not the size.
Hilton is as a very talented receiver. The amazing thing about him is that teams know he has speed and they continue to get beat by him down the field. But when teams cut down the field on him, what does he become? Checking out his games last season, there is a pattern that he formed when playing against top corners in the NFL. Hilton had a double-figure yards per catch average against everyone in the NFL last season except for three teams: the Patriots, the Titans and the Broncos. The Titans game at the end of the season can be excused because the Colts were already in the playoffs at that point and time and probably wanted to rest Hilton. But against the Patriots and the Broncos in the regular season, Hilton was non-existent. When facing top NFL cornerbacks Derrelle Revis (Patriots) and Aqib Talib (Broncos), Hilton was not as explosive. He totaled eight receptions for 65 yards and did not even touch the endzone. And to add to it these numbers, Hilton had only one catch for 36 yards in the AFC Championship game against those same Patriots. Not a great showing for a guy getting paid like a lead receiver against top competition. He has to win some of those battles against the top cornerbacks in the NFL and if he does not, then he is not a legit number one receiver.
Hilton is a productive receiver and makes things happen for the Colts, but he is not a guy that strikes fear in teams like Johnson, Bryant and Thomas can. He is a weapon that came in with Luck and that is a huge component as to why he is staying in Indianapolis. The Colts are getting ready to break the bank with an extension for Andrew Luck. He is one of the posterboys for the next wave of top quarterbacks in the NFL. Hilton has been one of his favorite targets, so it’s only right that Indianapolis signs him to stay around. But the fact remains that Hilton is a guy that will not draw double-coverage normally in a game. A headline receiver would draw that type of coverage. With Hilton’s new contract, he is taking advantage of a market that allowed him to get this type of guaranteed money. You cannot blame Hilton for taking the money at all. In a league where contracts are not guaranteed and careers can end abruptly, Hilton had to get what he could and he did. But if the Colts are thinking they are going to get a number one receiver out of Hilton, then they are sadly mistaken. He is a weapon on a good team, but he is not the lead receiver for a team that wants to win a championship. And as long as he is being billed as the number one guy, the Colts will not be winning a title.
For the Colts’ sake, they better have something else up their sleeves down the line. For one, they need a stronger defense. But for their offense, they need a lead receiver. Andre Johnson will be productive for the Colts, but he will not be the guy that he once was in Houston and he does not have a long shelf life at his age. And as far as the other receivers in Colts camp, there is not a proven one in the bunch. Hilton is their guy. For better or worse, Hilton is the man for the Colts at the receiver position. He is talented, but he is not the guy to lead their receiving corps unfortunately.