For the past few years, Colts fans have held a very curious opinion that T.Y. Hilton is “not a true number one wide receiver.” Whether this opinion was based on the belief that Hilton is too short or the belief that Hilton is not consistent enough or the belief that Hilton simply isn’t good enough, the reality is that there have been many Colts fans who have expressed the opinion that Hilton isn’t a true number one.
But here’s the truth about Hilton’s 2016 season: he was the number one, as he led the entire NFL in receiving yards - becoming the first Colts player to do so since Reggie Wayne in 2007.
It was a heck of a season for Hilton, who set new career highs in receptions (91) and yards (1,448) while also catching six touchdowns. Hilton ranked first in the league in receiving yards, tenth in receptions, first in 20+ yard receiving plays (28), second in receiving first downs (66), and tenth among qualified players in yards per catch (15.6). He also tied his career high in 100-yard games (with six), while His receiving yardage total was not only a career high and not only enough to lead the NFL, but it was also the fifth-highest in a single-season in Colts history (and Hilton now has two of the top ten seasons in franchise history in receiving yards).
The tremendous season by Hilton is no surprise, however, since he’s been playing at a high level since he entered the league. This was his fourth-straight 1,000 yard season, and it was also his fourth-straight season leading the Colts in receiving yards. He’s long been the team’s only true reliable threat in the passing game, and that was again true this year as he had 864 more yards than any other Colts player (Jack Doyle was second with 584)! Hilton was once again unquestionably Andrew Luck’s favorite target and was once again unquestionably Andrew Luck’s best target.
The rest of the wide receivers, however, didn’t really live up to expectations in 2016. Donte Moncrief looked to build off of a strong 2015 campaign, but his season this year was plagued by injuries. He missed several weeks with a shoulder injury and wound up playing in only nine games, catching 30 passes for 307 yards and seven touchdowns. Even when he was on the field, though, he didn’t really have the effectiveness that many thought he would, as his best game was a 64-yard effort in week one against the Lions. The biggest part of Moncrief’s game in 2016 was his threat in the red zone, as he has the skillset to be a dangerous weapon there and the Colts utilized it. Moncrief caught a touchdown in seven of his nine games played, and in every game in which he had more than one catch he caught a score. At one point he caught a touchdown in five straight games played, which is tied for the second-longest such streak in Colts history. Moncrief’s skills as a red zone threat were evident in 2016, but not much else. He’s a fine number two when he’s healthy, but the Colts will need to see more of that translate on the field in 2017.
That brings us to Phillip Dorsett, who actually recorded the third-most receiving yards on the team behind T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle. Dorsett caught 33 passes for 528 yards and two touchdowns on the year in 15 games played, and he saw a huge increase in opportunities this year since Moncrief missed some time with injuries. That meant that Dorsett, the team’s number three receiver, spent time as the number two this year as well, but his effectiveness was limited. He’s capable of a home run play at any moment, and he had eight receptions of 20+ yards this year and four receptions of 40+ yards, but it seemed at times like that’s where the bulk of his production came. Overall, the former first round pick still failed to live up to that status and had just as many disappointing performances as encouraging ones.
The Colts did seem to find a number four receiver this year after searching in camp, though, in Chester Rogers, who impressed when he got opportunities. He caught 19 passes for 273 yards on the season, and he showed enough that the Colts should be ready and willing to stick with him and give him more chances moving forward - because as a number four receiver, he was a nice guy to have around in 2016. Other than Rogers, however, there weren’t really many depth guys who played a role in the passing game. Quan Bray caught three passes for 36 yards, while Devin Street caught one for 20.
Right now at the wide receiver position for the Colts, it’s T.Y. Hilton and then everybody else. Hilton’s their top guy, he’s their best guy, and he’s Luck’s favorite target. In 2016, Hilton had a career year and led the NFL in receiving yards, and it’s unlikely that his play will drop off anytime soon. After Hilton, however, things still weren’t great in 2016, so the Colts have to hope that Donte Moncrief can stay healthy in 2017 and make some strides forward, that Phillip Dorsett can achieve the potential the Colts saw in him on draft day, and that Chester Rogers continues to develop. No matter what, though, the Colts’ passing attack figures to be dangerous once again next season, with Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton once again leading the way.