We look at T.Y. Hilton's NFL odds to win the receiving yards title this season and we analyze the reasons why he can become the next Antonio Brown.
T.Y. Hilton's Possibility to Become the Next Antonio Brown
Heading into a contract year as the No. 1 receiver on what should be one of the most prolific passing offenses in the NFL, it jumped out at me that Hilton was not regarded as one of the five best bets to win the crown. At anywhere from +950 NFL odds at GTBets to +1600 at 5Dimes, I think Hilton is a good buy. Let's get into the factors that will make or break that statement.
1) Supposed Durability
The biggest knock against Hilton is that he's a small-statured guy who missed a game last year. Or, to put it more succinctly, he's not your father's definition of a No. 1 wideout. He's not a jump ball guy. He won't physically overwhelm defensive backs. He can get jammed.
These would be more legitimate critiques had Antonio Brown not just led the AFC in receiving yardage and receptions at 5-10, 180 pounds. The NFL has engineered clean releases for swift receivers. Hilton is a better deep-ball target than Brown. I don't know that they're as far apart as people think underneath. Hilton didn't miss any games in 2013. I think groupthink here may be overthinking things.
2) Supporting Cast
There are plenty of potential mouths to feed now in Indianapolis, as opposed to last season where Hilton was playing with nobody really worthy of being his No. 2. This season, free agent bust Hakeem Nicks has been discarded, there's belief that Donte Moncrief can be better in his second season, Future Hall of Famer Andre Johnson is in town, and first-round pick Phillip Dorsett is knocking on the door. Even the bottom of the depth chart, with CFL star Duron Carter, has a little bit of upside.
So it's easy to believe that they'd take some targets from Hilton, except that this is exactly what happened for Brown last season. Except that when rookie Martavis Bryant started getting playing time and the Pittsburgh Steelers offense really started chugging last season, Brown actually caught more balls in the second half of the season for almost an equivalent amount of yards.
This doesn't necessarily have to create a vacuum where the cast steals targets for Hilton. Maybe, instead, it creates better opportunities for Hilton to catch more balls.
3) Bad Defense
The Steelers offense helped stick to their prolific ways last season because they were a dreadful defensive team. Football Outsiders ranked them with the 30th defense in the NFL in 2014. The Colts were a little better, but still fairly pedestrian at 13th.
This is the hardest part of the calculus to nail. But there are reasons to believe the Indianapolis Colts could regress on defense in 2014. Star cornerback Vontae Davis has never had a season as good as the one he had in 2014. New edge rusher Trent Cole is still feisty, but no longer an ace pass rusher. The run defense can come and go depending on what week it is and whether Bill Belichick is on the other sideline.
If the Colts defense can regress to be as bad as the Steelers were last year, it could create the perfect scenario for Hilton to go off in the weekly shootouts. And though I'd say it's unlikely, it’s not completely farfetched.