Make Up or Break Up with T.Y. Hilton in 2020? (Fantasy Football)

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Eugene Marquis Hilton,

I came into this letter expecting to start off writing one thing and a quick internet search has derailed that completely…T.Y.? How does Eugene Marquis become T (period) Y (period)? Ok, your dad’s name is Tyrone…so your whole life they called you T.Y.? In what world does someone call you by initials based on a nickname based on your dad’s name? Spoiler Alert: the end goal of this letter was to show that I am making up with you in the fantasy football world but that almost came to a crashing halt. Good grief!

(Redux) Mr. Hilton,

2019 sucked. Your franchise QB retires just weeks before the season starts and then a calf injury derailed what could have been a pretty interesting season. You scored five TDs in your first five games. Your per-game averages over those first five weeks could have equated to a 96/976/16 stat line. Those 16 TDs are quite unrealistic but even if you scored only half of those that 96/976/8 stat line would have made you the WR15 and we probably wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Instead, you ended up as the WR56 and now you have a QB that they are saying has a lame arm. What are we gonna do with you, Mr. Hilton?  Draft you…often.

That’s right, T.Y. (still feels weird but if it’s what you want to be called), I am definitely making up with you in fantasy football. Normally, I save that revelation for my last paragraph but there is no point in pretending. Early ADP has you as the WR21 in the late 4th Round pick and that feels just about perfect. Once the rookies are drafted and more fantasy leagues start drafting, that is likely to dip into the 5th, maybe even 6th Round. You paced as the WR15 last year, finished as the WR14 in 2018, and you will almost certainly and safely outplay your ADP in 2020.

Let’s start with your injury. You’re going to recover from a calf strain and this is the first time in your career you failed to play at least 14 games. I am not even remotely worried. Our own injury analyst, Matthew Betz, said “In 2019, Hilton battled a quadriceps contusion (bruise) early in the season, which is extremely difficult to play through in the short term but heals very well with a full offseason. Additionally, his calf strain, which bothered him at the end of the season never really had a chance to heal given that Hilton was attempting to play through the injury. As is the case with most soft tissue injuries, this spells poor performance given the lack of healing. With a full offseason, Hilton should recover nicely, but relative other WRs who don’t have a history of calf strains, he’ll carry a mildly elevated injury risk.

That is just about all I need to hear about injuries… moving on.

Which brings us to your new QB, Philip Rivers. The public is torn on what that means for you now but, while he is no Andrew Luck, just one year ago these words would have inspired confidence, not fear. There is little question that Rivers should be considered an improvement over Jacoby Brissett, regardless of his current arm strength. The concern is that in 2019, Rivers’ arm looked shot. It’s a good thing we don’t award fantasy points based on appearance. In 2019, with a “shot” arm, Rivers threw for over 4600 yards and 23 TDs. The yardage was the 4th most in his 16 year NFL career. His yards-per-attempt in 2019, 7.8. His career yard-per-attempt, 7.4. I think his arm will be just fine and the stat lines for his two primary WRs seem to agree with me:

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Receptions Yards YPC TDs
Keenan Allen 104 1199 11.5 6
Mike Williams 49 1001 20.4 2

Two WRs with over 1000 yards and one of them, Keenan Allen, finished as a top-10 fantasy option. The lack of TDs did kill Mike Williams‘ fantasy season (WR39) but you’ve never scored fewer than four TDs in a season and proved in 2019 that you can still score without Andrew Luck. While you won’t approach Williams 20 yards-per-catch, you basically matched Allen’s YPC in 2019 and your career average is four yards higher at 15.5. In other words, it is easily possible that we see you match or improve on Keenan Allen’s 2019, where he finished as the fantasy WR8.

The last argument that naysayers can use is that your Colts won’t throw as much as Rivers and his Chargers. In 2019, the Chargers only threw five fewer times-per-game than the Chargers did and in 2018, with Andrew Luck, Indy threw the ball eight more times-per-game than Los Angeles did. What I’m saying is that the difference, if there is any, will be negligible. Again, nothing to see here.

To summarize: You are a WR with almost certain top-15 fantasy potential and even a top-10 ceiling that I can get in the late 4th Round. Yes. Please. Your QB situation is better than it was in 2019, not worse, and your injury is one that you can and will recover from. It’s not too often that you can land a back-end WR1 with top-10 potential while drafting your WR3 but that is a very real possibility when fantasy owners draft you in 2020. T.Y., I look forward to you making me look right, enjoy your offseason.

-Ryan Weisse (@TheFantasyFive)

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