Top 100 lists rarely do well where the NFL is concerned. They are rightly criticized by fans from every direction. Pete Prisco of CBS Sports turned in a perfect example of why that criticism is warranted. There are several problems with lists like these, not the least of which is they don’t give weight to the value of positions, because if they did, the list would start with 20 or so quarterbacks. In today’s NFL, that is by far the most important position on each team. That means that right out of the gate the list is going to be flawed.
Prisco’s list starts like you would expect, with Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady at the top. Paying lip service to Tom Brady is Prisco’s most favorite pastime, so he really did try to be fair on at least that first spot, because Rodgers is definitely the superior quarterback in every way. But that was about as far as he made it before it began to suffer. As I read down the list, apart from finding rankings that didn’t really make sense like J.J. Watt at 9 despite having only played 8 games over the past two seasons, I noticed something. No Colts.
Many of you rightly are saying that this is a very young team with a lot of completely unproven talent. That is totally correct. While I believe that there is a great deal of upside on this Colts team, right now it is mostly just potential. Until some of those players get on the field and prove it, they don’t deserve a spot on this list.
That leaves basically two obvious candidates I think Colts fans pretty universally would agree are more than deserving. The omission of Andrew Luck is relatively understandable. Until he is throwing a football and can prove he is healthy, that is to be expected. Prisco notes before his list that Luck is not on it, but that he would be in the middle if he were.
I could belabor that point as well, but as we’ve said, if quarterbacks were properly ranked on a top 100 it would not really be fair to all the other positions. Luck is a lock as a top 10 quarterback when healthy, and in my opinion, more like a top 5.
That leaves Prisco’s unforgivable snub. T.Y. Hilton makes no appearance on this list, which includes 12 wide receivers. He isn’t in the list of 3 receivers who “just missed” either. In other words, Pete Prisco is saying that T.Y. Hilton is at the very best, the 16th best wide receiver in the NFL.
While this list of receivers is certainly a good one, Hilton’s absence is absurd. Over the last four seasons, he has averaged 74 catches for 1,221 receiving yards, 5.5 touchdowns each season. Keep in mind two of those seasons have been marked by significant absences of Andrew Luck but Hilton’s production has not significantly declined. Over his career he has averaged 15.8 yards per reception. That’s the highest number on this list with the only player who even close is Julio Jones.
Over the last four seasons Hilton trails just five of the receivers on this list in average yards per season: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas. Thomas and Beckham haven’t played four seasons, so that needs to be factored in as well, and I didn’t count Beckham’s 2017 season numbers because he missed most of it with injury. Still, that is a pretty good group of receivers. It is a group Hilton belongs in.
Toward the bottom of the list are players like Adam Thielen and Davante Adams. While they may belong on this list, they have no business above a player of Hilton’s sustained quality. Thielen has had one good year of production. Adams has never broken 1,000 yards receiving. They may well be on their way to more consistent careers, but Hilton already has the proven consistency and excellence that places him above guys like that.
This is another example of how significant recency bias is where football writers are concerned. As analysts have done with Luck, many have forgotten how good Hilton is simply because the Colts haven’t been featured in as many nationally televised games. Hilton, a four time pro bowler, is just one season removed from being the NFL receiving yards leader. What is really frustrating here though, is that teams like the Texans and Bengals have been equally irrelevant, yet Green and Hopkins still find themselves on this list.
The Colts will have a chance to change their national perception just once in this coming season, as they have only one prime time game, against the Patriots in Foxboro. Until they begin asserting themselves as real contenders, it is likely that we will continue to see Colts players get this same kind of treatment. All we can hope is that Hilton will keep these kinds of slights in the back of his mind and go to work proving them wrong.