- Games played: 16 (12 starts)
- Snaps played: 725 (65.8 percent of offensive snaps)
- Targets: 78
- Receptions: 41
- Yards: 593
- Yards/reception: 14.5
- Touchdowns: 2
- Longest reception: 47 yards
The Big Picture
Let's start by adding a little context to Pierce's Year 1 stats. Over the last 10 years, there have been 145 wide receivers selected in the first 100 picks of the NFL Draft. Generally speaking, teams view the first 100 picks as where you'll find players who can contribute immediately – there are, of course, exceptions, but for this, we're just looking at the top 100 picks.
On average, those 145 receivers put up these numbers as rookies:
- 59 targets
- 35 receptions
- 472 yards
- 3 touchdowns
So Pierce, statistically, had an above-average rookie season compared to his peers. That's an encouraging foundation on which he can build going into Year 2, when wide receivers often make a jump in production – a jump we've recently seen in Indianapolis:
|Michael Pittman Jr.
"I got a lot to learn from, a lot of tape and that's what I'm really excited about in the offseason," Pierce said. "I see I can make plays in this league. It's, now I know the things I need to work on and study the tape, see what I gotta work on to become a better player."
When the Colts drafted Pierce with the 53rd overall pick last spring, they envisioned him as an outside-the-numbers ball-winner who'd instantly bring a vertical element to their passing game. Pierce quickly became that guy: 21 percent of his targets were on go balls, the highest rate of any route he ran, and he caught seven of 17 go balls for 209 yards (29.9 yards/reception) and two touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus.
And Pierce showcased an ahead-of-the-curve level of detail on those go routes – on his game-winner against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 6, he beat cornerback Shaquill Griffin with his release but didn't drift toward the sideline, a common mistake young receivers sometimes make on those deep shots.
"There are two things on go routes that can kind of throw you off. No. 1 is not being patient with the release. No. 2 is not saving space," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "A lot of times DBs are trying to use that sideline to kind of widen you, slip and limit the amount of space that you have to kind of make that play. Honestly, that's something he's worked hard on from the beginning of his time here. He was very productive doing that stuff in college, but it's just different the way the hashes are, how good the DBs are at kind of squeezing off that space. I think that's something that he's really improved at."
The Colts also saw Pierce respond well to a couple of challenges – one early in the season and one late. In his NFL debut against the Houston Texans, Pierce dropped a touchdown and sustained a concussion; toward the tail end the of the season, wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne said he saw Pierce hit a rookie wall.
"I told him and I told him in front of the receivers, I said, 'I think you had hit the wall man. You've got one more game left. Jump over the wall,'" Wayne said before Week 18. "He looked at me and he shook his head and I said, 'Hey, it happens with everybody.' I said, 'I had hit the coaches wall probably by Week 7 (laughing).' So, you just have to find a way to keep pushing. But I enjoy being around him. The guy is a hard worker. He wants to be good. He wants more involvement. (Expletive), everybody does. I enjoy everything about him. I enjoy just seeing him go out there, work hard and push through. He's grown a lot. He's grown a lot from the first day he walked in – hell, from the first time I met him going to see him work out in Cincinnati. That's Drago man, I call him Drago. He's going to keep fighting."
Pierce said his goals for the next few months are to work on refining his route running and expanding his route tree, which align with the expectations the Colts have for their young wide receiver's development. He proved in 2022 he can be a vertical, outside-the-numbers, contested-catch threat. If Pierce can translate his offseason goals into Year 2 production, he'll have a chance to make a significant second-year leap in 2023.
"We think he's progressing nicely," pass game specialist/assistant quarterbacks coach/offensive playcaller Parks Frazier said. "We really do. We think that he gives us a vertical threat that we obviously need. I think that's something that's huge to take pressure off the run game and other areas of your pass game that we need. I think he definitely gives us that as well as some other things that he can do. I think he's still got a lot of areas that he can and is going to improve, and a lot of that is expanding his route tree and doing different things with him that we know he can do."
View some of the best photos of wide receiver Alec Pierce in his 2022 debut season with the Colts.