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Buy Low: T.Y. Hilton

Today’s buy low advertisement is brought to us courtesy of our old (30.5) friend T.Y. Hilton. Somewhat of a surprise, Hilton is flying under the radar in both dynasty and redraft formats as we enter the 2020 season. In fact, I can’t recall anyone even so much as mentioning him over the past few months. Which by the way, is always a key ingredient in setting up a good buy low opportunity. Such a large part of successfully buying low revolves around perception. Recent production, highlight reel plays, big money contracts and hype get all the attention. Instinctively, this makes a lot of sense, but rationally, I would argue it reduces the clarity with which we evaluate assets. Of course, this line of thinking transcends more than fantasy football or even sports in general, however our ability to block out the noise usually enables us to make better decisions, but i digress. Let’s go back to Hilton. 

As I begin to reminisce on the not so distant glory days of T.Y. Hilton, fleeting images of 150 yard games and 1000+ receiving yard seasons cross my mind. We must ask, what happened? The answer is actually quite simple, not much. Hilton is only one year removed from a season in which he posted 1270 receiving yards in a mere 14 games. That finish was good for the overall WR13 spot or WR10 if adjusted on a per game basis. Following the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck, Hilton owners were promptly bent over as he entered the 2020 season with Jacoby Brisset as his quarterback. Making matters worse, Hilton was forced to deal with a nagging calf injury (and briefly a quad) for much of last year causing him to miss 6 games and play at less than 100%. Don’t forget, the Colts also went from attempting the 4th most pass plays in 2018, to the 26th most in 2019. To summarize, the largest reasons for Hilton’s decline last season were: very bad QB play, health and opportunity.

Looking ahead to 2020

Hilton enters the 2020 season with a plethora of tailwinds at his back, let’s examine some of the major ones. 

Improved QB Play

To start, let’s take a look at his incoming QB Phil “The Thrill” Rivers. Understanding that there is a strong positive correlation between WR’s (Especially WR 1’s) and their QB, this is of paramount importance. Being blunt, there were numerous occasions last season where Rivers looked absolutely washed. At times, his decision making was borderline vomit inducing. Will his play improve with a shift to Indianapolis? I’m inclined to think so and will elaborate on why. First, I am of the (strong) opinion that Frank Reich is a much better play caller than Whisenhunt/Steichen. Any athlete being put in a better position to succeed should benefit from it. Second, the Colts have an insurmountably better offensive line than the Chargers. More time in the pocket should help Rivers improve his efficiency next year. As far as offensive weapons go, I’m inclined to say it’s a lateral move in that department at this point. Regardless, this is going to be a major upgrade from Brisset. So, what can Hilton owners expect from Rivers relative to last year? More volume, more air yards, more depth per target and more scoring opportunities. I like the sound of that.

Top Receiver

Another tailwind Hilton has at his back in 2020 will be entering the season as the undisputed top receiver on the Colts. It’s a near certainty that Hilton will be the beneficiary of some mean reversion across several key categories this fall. Repeat after me, increased volumes equates to increased production. How the Colts’ other receivers will fare in 2020 is a bit of a mystery to me at this stage. Will Campbell step up? What about Pittman? Right now, Campbell projects to handle the majority of slot duties and Pittman should man the outside. From a talent perspective, they’re both intriguing. For Hilton’s sake, it would be great to see them both emerge as legitimate options and divert some defensive attention away. That being said, it isn’t essential to his success on the field. If we take a look at Rivers’ WR 1’s throughout his career, he has done an outstanding job of featuring them. For example, Keenan Allen received the 11th most targets per game in 2018 and the 5th most in 2019. If Hilton can receive anywhere close to that range, buyers should be quite pleased. Furthermore, the Colts running game is going to be very solid in 2020. Thus, defenses will be forced to stay honest, and Hilton should be able to parlay that into more success. I’ll even throw in the fact that the Colts (and Hilton) benefit from a soft schedule that features plenty of beatable secondaries.

Health

Now comes the biggest cause for skepticism, health. We can buy anyone at a great price, but if they can’t stay on the field what good does it do us? Hilton missed six games last year and two in 2018. Fortunately, for Hilton, none of those injuries would be classified as severe. Prior to that, he hadn’t missed a game since the 2014 season. I know recency bias is fierce, but this isn’t indicative of a player who is “injury prone”. Now, Hilton is poised to enter the 2020 season with a clean bill of health and as one of the focal points of a much improved offense.

Summary

Due to the reasons listed above, though there are more, I believe that T.Y. Hilton presents an enticing buy low opportunity for contending dynasty players prior to the 2020 season. You can always utilize the potential detractors that I mentioned above in your negotiations to help obtain the price you want. If you only play redraft, he makes for an excellent target in the 4th or 5th round. If he falls further than that, it’s a steal.

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