Entering the 2015 season, no position on the Colts' roster looked deeper than the wide receiver position did. With T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, Duron Carter, and others, it looked like the Colts would be loaded and set for an explosive passing attack once again.
That wasn't exactly the case, though it can't all be traced to the receivers. Quarterback Andrew Luck missed nine games due to injury and struggled for much of the time that he was on the field, which handicapped the Colts' passing game. Then with backup quarterbacks playing over half the season, the receivers didn't have as great of a chance to produce. With that said, however, the position wasn't as great nor as deep as expected.
T.Y. Hilton still had a very good season despite being hampered for part of the year with injuries himself. He racked up another 1,000 yard receiving season, the third straight year that he has reached the milestone - and ranking third in team history in 1,000 yard receiving seasons behind only Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Hilton caught 69 passes (on 135 targets) 1,124 yards (16.3 yards per catch) and five touchdowns, producing 49 first downs. It wasn't as good as his 2014 season when it comes to stats, and to be honest there were times that Hilton wasn't as productive and wasn't getting open as much. But when you factor that into the equation and see what he still was able to do during a season in which he played without his franchise quarterback for over half of the year, it was an impressive season for T.Y. Hilton. He continues to establish himself as the team's number one wideout and will remain as such for the forseeable future.
Ideally, Donte Moncrief will be right there alongside Hilton as targets for Andrew Luck for the next several years. Moncrief took big steps forward in his sophomore season in 2015, as he caught 64 passes (on 105 targets) for 733 yards (11.5 yards per catch) and six touchdowns. He provided a nice receiving option besides for Hilton (something the Colts desperately needed) and was a playmaker. There are big hopes for Moncrief moving forward, as he's still just 22 years old.
For as good and impressive as Moncrief was, Andre Johnson was equally as disappointing. He signed as a free agent last offseason and was projected to be the team's number two receiver, and during training camp and preseason it appeared that Johnson would, at the very least, be a reliable possession receiver. But he never turned into that, as instead he struggled and was often an afterthought in the Colts' offense. He caught 41 passes for 503 yards (12.4 yards per catch) and four touchdowns, but there were games where the quarterback hardly looked Johnson's way. As the season went on, he saw his playing time decrease in favor of Moncrief, which was absolutely the right move by the Colts. He'll be 35 by the time next season starts and the Colts could save $5 million by cutting him this offseason, so it's no guarantee that he'll be back.
Phillip Dorsett was the team's first round pick last year, a pick that was very unpopular among fans and is still the source of mocking jokes. But I'll just say this: the pick of Dorsett looks a lot better now than it did at the time, and I think it might continue to look better and better as time goes on. Dorsett is a talented player, and considering how ineffective Johnson was at times, the rookie likely would have received a lot more playing time. But Dorsett was hurt and missed five games in the middle of the season (right around the time where Moncrief began to pass Johnson in snaps), so we never really got a chance to see what he could do. Still, he caught 18 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown, and he could play a bigger role in the offense next year and for the next several years.
Griff Whalen did a solid job when he entered the game as a receiver (unlike when he entered the game as a center), as he caught 19 passes for 205 yards and a touchdown. He was a reliable target for Andrew Luck who served as a possession receiver of sorts, and as the fourth or fifth receiving option, he did a fine job. He was placed on injured reserve before the regular season finale and then released from IR, however, so we'll see whether or not he has a future with the team. Regardless, in 2015 he did a good job in the role that he was asked to play and was a reliable target.
Lastly, Quan Bray spent quite a bit of time on the active roster this season, though he saw very, very little playing time with the offense. He was on the roster for one reason: special teams. Bray did a good job as the kick and punt returner and provided the Colts with a spark, likely earning him the job next year too. We'll talk more about Bray's special teams performance when we look at the special teams unit, but since he's a receiver he should be mentioned here too.
The one other guy that I'll mention briefly here is Duron Carter, even though he was never on the active roster at all. He spent the entire season on the team's practice squad after being one of the standouts of training camp and having talent. He didn't sign a reserve/future contract with the Colts, meaning he'll likely be moving on. Carter has a lot of talent, but it just didn't work out for him in Indy.
To sum it all up, the wide receiver position is filled with interesting players but didn't live up to expectations in 2015. There are both positives and negatives to point out, but it wasn't the explosive, dynamic group that we thought it was in training camp and it wasn't the best receiver position in the league by any means. The Colts do have pieces in place, however, as T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Phillip Dorsett could become a good trio for Andrew Luck for the forseeable future. That's part of the reason why I don't think the Dorsett pick is as bad as it seemed last year - Andre Johnson really struggled, so it could very well be Dorsett as the third receiver next year if the Colts move on from Johnson (which makes sense to do). Those three could be a good group, but they'd likely need to find a fourth receiver behind that. Can it be Quan Bray, doubling as a return man? Possibly. Does that mean bringing back Griff Whalen? Maybe. Or perhaps that's the justification for the Colts bringing Johnson back, as he could be the fourth wideout. Either way, the position is set up well with three very talented and young wideouts at the top of the group, even if it's not as deep as we once thought. The position didn't live up to expectations this past season, but with a healthy Andrew Luck they are set up well for the future.
For more in-depth analysis of the Colts' 2015 season, check out Josh Wilson's other position reviews: