INDIANAPOLIS — Eight receptions; 174 yards; one touchdown; one dramatic game-winning play.
Those were Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton's numbers Week 3 in 2016 against the San Diego Chargers, a performance that earned him a solid overall grade of 89.2 from Pro Football Focus.
It would end up being Hilton's best performance of an impressive season; one in which he earned an overall PFF grade of 87.3, indicating a consistent high level of play from the fifth-year Florida Atlantic product.
He was recently recognized for his efforts, coming in at No. 54 in PFF Sam Monson's "Top 101 Players From The 2016 NFL Season" list, joining Andrew Luck (who was ranked 33rd) as the two Colts representatives this season. (The Colts.com writer acknowledging Luck's ranking last week somehow glanced over Hilton's name later down the list. Tsk, tsk.)
So what led to Hilton's big jump in 2016? Monson explains (and you can see his entire list by clicking here):*
With the incredible seasons from Atlanta's Julio Jones and Tampa Bay's Mike Evans, it's easy to forget that it was T.Y. Hilton that led the league in receiving yards, with 1,448 over the regular season from his 91 receptions. Hilton was incredibly productive as Andrew Luck's top target, catching 63.6 percent of balls thrown his way.Best performance:Week 3 vs. Chargers, 89.2 gradeKey stat: Hilton gained 2.35 yards per route run, third in NFL.*
Indeed, Hilton in 2016 became the first Colts receiver since Reggie Wayne in 2007 to lead the NFL in receiving, and he continues to do it pretty quietly.
He has built one of the best five-year starts to a career for a wide receiver in NFL history, yet finds himself playing in an era alongside other relatively young standouts that get more attention, like Jones, Evans, Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown (each of whom have certainly earned any attention and praise thrown their way).
But make no mistake: the Colts know what they have in T.Y. Hilton — and that's all that matters.
"Made plays, crucial, critical plays in games for us. A lot of improvement, and that's a thing for a guy that's been in the league for five years now," Colts offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said of Hilton. "Last offseason coming in and taking the approach he did and making the improvements he has, becoming a complete receiver. Going down inside, playing outside, can play everywhere and doing the things he's done and the approach he's taken and the leadership role that he's started to really take in this season in terms of the team."
Chudzinski said Hilton's evolution from more of a deep threat to an all-around receiver has allowed him to achieve such accomplishments as three straight Pro Bowl selections and becoming the league's leading receiver (and such a high ranking from PFF, of course):
"The thing about T.Y. that I've got to know is he's an extremely smart football player," Chudzinski said. "He understands the game so well. So explaining things, talking through things, he sees the game well, sees it out on the field. But just his ability to go everywhere and do everything for us and he's expanding that because at one time earlier maybe in his career he was just the deep ball guy, but he's become a complete receiver in that way. Again, just making the crucial, critical catches for us. Sometimes the ugly catches, the ones a guy is draped all over him inside that may have only been a six-yard gain but they got us a first down. I think that those are the areas he's improved specifically on."
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