According to Pro Football Focus (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts have the NFL’s 22nd best wide receiver unit ranking:
22. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Only three teams had a worse receiving grade than the 64.0 posted by Colts receivers during the regular season, and this unit will have a massive impact on the Colts’ prospects in 2020.
T.Y. Hilton is the No. 1, a speedy outside receiver with five 1,000-yard seasons under his belt. Hilton was banged up last season and he played in only 10 games, but he’s one year removed from ranking fourth in the league in yards per route at 2.54 in 2018. The Colts drafted a fine complement to Hilton in second-rounder Michael Pittman, Jr. out of USC, a big-bodied possession receiver who has dropped just four passes over the last two seasons. Pittman’s 6-foot-4 frame is a good fit for QB Philip Rivers, who has had great success throwing to bigger receivers through the years — and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to use his size at the short and intermediate level. Pittman’s presence takes some pressure off 2019 second rounder Parris Campbell who is at his best as an after-the-catch threat. Campbell ran a 4.33 and averaged 9.4 YAC/reception during his college career at Ohio State, but he lacks the polish and route running to be a true No.2 receiver at this point in his career. Fourth-year receiver Zach Pascal is also in the mix after he posted a strong 71.4 receiving grade to go with 607 yards and four scores a year ago. He did most of his damage at the short and intermediate level, and at 6-foot-2, he’s yet another receiver who could become an early Rivers favorite. The Colts need their big targets to emerge and Hilton to get back to form to rank among the top receiving units in the league.
As mentioned, the Colts’ 4x Pro Bowler, T.Y. Hilton, is coming off a down season—having been limited by both injuries (including a torn calf) and starting quarterback play down the stretch in 2019.
Hilton caught 45 receptions for 501 receiving yards (11.1 ypr. avg.) and 5 touchdown receptions in 10 starts this past season—as he had no receptions for 40+ yards for the first time in his 8-year career.
However, when healthy, he remains one of the game’s elite deep threats and is a true playmaker with the football in his hands—as a bonafide #1 wideout.
Meanwhile, the Colts drafted rookie Michael Pittman Jr. with the 34th overall pick. At 6’4”, 223 pounds, Pittman is the type of big bodied wideout who should complement Hilton and serve as a tall target downfield for veteran starting quarterback Philip Rivers.
For his young age, he’s already very polished—featuring great hands, nuanced route-running, and the ability to play all over the field. However, Pittman is really special highpointing the football and playing ‘above the rim’ downfield where he can consistently win 50-50 jumpballs. He should be a natural ‘X’ in the Colts’ offensive system.
There’s also 2nd-year wideout Parris Campbell, a 2019 second round pick, who was severely limited by injuries during his rookie season—catching 18 receptions for 127 receiving yards (7.1 ypr. avg.) and a touchdown reception during 7 games (3 starts).
With a better slate of clean health, Campbell should be able to showcase his 4.31 speed in the slot and dynamic ability with the football in his hands. He should be a big play threat for the Colts offense down the seam and as a gadget wideout within their offense.
Lastly, there’s the underrated Zach Pascal, who has made some big plays for the Colts and continues to be an exceptional blocker along the outside.
The 25 year old wideout caught 41 receptions for 607 receiving yards (team-high) and 5 touchdown receptions in 16 games (13 starts) this past season. He remains a key wide receiver piece for the Colts offense.
There’s also the likes of Marcus Johnson, Daurice Fountain, rookie Dezmon Patmon, and Ashton Dulin a little lower on the Colts’ current wide receiver depth chart.
With Philip Rivers’ arrival, the Colts wide receivers collectively should be placed in better positions to be productive—as he’s willing to take chances downfield, anticipate reads, and throw to all levels of the field (with improved accuracy over his starting predecessor).
Additionally, the Colts’ receiving room should theoretically have better health than they did last season—or at least, one could only hope given the unit’s injury decimation last season.
The Colts’ wide receiver group is more talented than their current #22 overall ranking here, but a combination of improved health and production during 2020 will go a long way toward proving it on the field.