After five seasons in the NFL, it’s time to see where T.Y. Hilton ranks among a couple of the Indianapolis Colts’ all-time great wide receivers.
T.Y. Hilton Showing All-Time Great Potential
According to NFL.com, the man formerly known as Eugene Marquis has racked up over 5,800 and 30 touchdowns, averaging 15.7 yards per catch. Hilton needed just 374 catches to amount his current yardage, but how do Hilton’s numbers compare to former Colts’ receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne?
During his first five seasons, Harrison caught 413 passes for just over 5,500 receiving yards and 47 touchdowns. The hall-of-famer caught more passes for touchdowns than Hilton, but Hilton does have the edge yardage wise. Additionally, Harrison only averages 13.2 yards-per-catch throughout his 13-year career. The former Syracuse receiver’s highest average for a season is 14.5; Hilton’s is currently 17.2, his rookie season.
Wayne’s first five seasons are the least among the three. During that time, Wayne only caught 304 passes for about 4,100 yards and 28 touchdowns. He did not score a touchdown until his sophomore season. Furthermore, Wayne did not break the thousand-yard mark until his fourth season, where he accounted for over 1,200 yards. Wayne just barely edges Harrison for yards-per-catch at 13.4, but the New Orleans native is least amongst the three in touchdowns. Before casting Wayne to the bottom of the Colts’ receiving totem pole, it is necessary to look at a few factors.
Firstly, Wayne came into the NFL in 2001, and Harrison entered the league in 1996. Peyton Manning became a professional player in 1998, meaning the Harrison-Manning duo had three years to mesh and build chemistry. Moreover, Edgerrin James had been wearing the horseshoe since 1999. In those two years, James averaged about 1,600 yards and 4.3 yards-per-carry; don’t forget his 26 touchdowns between those two seasons. Wayne entered an offense with a well-established triple threat in Manning, Harrison, and James. It’s worth noting Indianapolis did have Marshall Faulk with Manning and Harrison at the same time, but that was for just Manning’s 1998 rookie season. During that season, Harrison only played 12 games and had under 800 receiving yards. These offensive circumstances can help us better understand Hilton’s early success.
Hilton has been what could be considered the sole beneficiary of a struggling ground game in Indianapolis. The Colts have only had a thousand-yard rusher once since the Chuck Pagano-Andrew Luck era began. The year was last season in 2016 when Frank Gore barely passed the thousand-yard mark on his second-lowest yards-per-carry season for his career at 3.9; his lowest was in 2015 with Indy at 3.7. Also, Hilton has not had a legitimate opposite receiver to take away coverage.
Donte Moncrief showed that potential just once in his three seasons. During his sophomore season in 2015, Moncrief had over 700 yards and six touchdowns opposite of Hilton, but no one else has stepped up to help “The Ghost.”
Harrison had Manning throwing him passes for all but two years of NFL career, and Wayne had the two-time Super Bowl champion for all but four. Hilton does have Luck, but the former Stanford Cardinal did miss 10 games between the last two seasons, nine of which were in 2015. However, the 5’9” force still made an impact. Hilton had a career year with a league-best 1,448 yards in 2016, and in 2015, he caught over 1,100 yards.
Wayne played 15 seasons, and Harrison played 13 seasons, averaging 14 between the two. Where would Hilton stack up between two if he played that many years? Take Hilton’s 5,861 career yards and equate the number into 14 seasons. Hilton would have 16,410 yards, which would put him past Harrison, who sits at 14,580, and Wayne, who has 14,345. Hilton’s 30 touchdowns could become 84 if he keeps the six-touchdowns-a-season pace over the next nine years. He would pass Wayne’s 82, but Harrison would still hold the lead with 128 career scores.
Hilton is on a hall-of-fame pace, but if he gets the proper help from both the ground and passing games, he could be a legend in both the Colts and NFL’s history. Hopefully, his speed can have Steve Smith, Sr.-like longevity as well. Only time will tell how long The Hilton remains open.