After a disappointing 2019 season, highlighted by injuries and inconsistent team play around him, T.Y. Hilton should bounce back for fantasy football in 2020.
It’s not crazy to think Hilton could finish the season as a high-end WR2 this season with Philip Rivers at the helm. According to 4for4’s early data and information, the general consensus is that Hilton is being drafted as WR26 in PPR formats, with an ADP of 7.03 in 12-team leagues. This could change a lot come mid-August.
Let’s take a look at why Hilton should be treated as a high end fantasy WR2 in 12 team leagues.
Hilton Fantasy ADP Finishes
First, let’s take a look at Hilton’s finishes in PPR scoring formats with and without Luck the last six seasons.
He has played a majority of that time with Luck and his numbers were at an elite level. With Luck as his quarterback from 2014-18, Hilton was fantasy WR11, WR11 (through seven games), WR5 and WR14, respectively. His down years were with Matt Hasselbeck for the second half of 2015 and Jacoby Brissett in 2017 and 2019. When he has played with a talented quarterback, he has had elite fantasy seasons. It’s as simple as that. It does not matter if you like Rivers or not, his numbers make him a borderline Hall of Famer.
Hilton’s Average Depth of Target
Another stat worth looking at while comparing the quarterback play of Rivers and Luck is Average Depth of Target (ADOT). This looks at how far from the line of scrimmage the QB is targeting his receivers.
QB ADOT (in yards)
As you can see, Rivers and Luck have had very similar ADOT numbers over the last five years, with both averaging about nine yards downfield.
I like to look at this stat when talking about Hilton because he is a deep threat receiver. His ADOT for the last six years is impressive: 14.44, 13.3, 13.41, 13.71, 11.58 and 10.39. During the last three seasons, his numbers decreased because of Luck’s shoulder injury in 2018 and due to playing with Jacoby Brissett in 2017 and 2019. Hilton also only played in 10 games in 2019 due to a calf injury, which he was dealing with for most of the season. The data shows that when Hilton has played a full season with a QB that can get the ball downfield on a consistent basis, he has had top-15 finishes every year.
Rivers has been well known to get the ball downfield on a consistent basis, even more so than Luck. He has always had deep threat, number two receivers, like Malcolm Floyd, Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams all averaging an ADOT of 14 yards or more. He has never had a number one receiver like Hilton. His favorite target for the past six years has been Keenan Allen, who is more of a possession receiver. Rivers is a veteran QB who likes to get the ball to guys he trusts, and Hilton is going to be the most trustworthy receiver by far.
Strength of Schedule
It’s also nice that Hilton does not have a tremendously hard schedule this year. He has seven games against bottom-11 defenses and only three games against top-10 defenses. I do not like to read into the strength of schedule too much, but it is worth noting that he does have some great matchups.
Why the Public is Scared Hilton for Fantasy
I understand the fears of his calf injury last year and the inconsistency a deep threat receiver like Hilton has. However, Hilton has been a consistent player in the last six seasons. He has played at least 14 games in every season except for the last. Durability does not seem to be an issue for him, with last year’s injury-plagued season being an outlier and not a trend.
I am also not forgetting that Indianapolis spent a second-round pick this year on Michael Pittman Jr. or a second-round pick last year on Parris Campbell. These guys are both unproven and will need to gain the confidence of Rivers before he trusts them on a regular basis.
Also, Hilton never sees a big target share in the red zone so that caps his upside. However, getting a potential high end WR2 in the seventh round is tremendous value. This also allows you to prioritize other positions in the early rounds, which is going to be key this season, more so than most years, in my opinion.
Rivers Will Have Smooth Transition
Rivers is reunited with Frank Reich, his QB coach/OC of three years when he was with the Chargers. The offense Reich has established in Indianapolis is very similar to the one Rivers ran for many years in San Diego. This should make for a smooth transition for Rivers into the offense in Indianapolis.
I believe that T.Y. Hilton will have a similar fantasy season with Philip Rivers as he had with Andrew Luck. Rivers is coming into an offensive system he already knows and Hilton has been playing in for the last three seasons under Frank Reich. As mentioned earlier, Rivers loves to take shots downfield. It should be a smooth transition for both of these players and Hilton should return to high end WR2 form.