What's Next For NFL Leading Receiver T.Y. Hilton?

Intro: What to do for an encore? That’s the question for T.Y. Hilton in 2017, after he led the NFL with 1,448 receiving yards last season.

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INDIANAPOLIS – In the NFL record books, T.Y. Hilton went down as the league's 2016 leading receiver.

According to his playing peers around the league though, Hilton is at least the 8th best wide receiver.

That's what NFL players are saying with the NFL Network releasing the list of the top 100 players (voted on by the players themselves).

With the top 20 spots on the list still to be revealed, which will undoubtedly include a few more receivers, Hilton cracked the list at No. 61 overall, good for the 8th highest wideout.

Hilton says he doesn't pay attention to how he's viewed by those around the league.

Inside Colts' headquarters, they know the value of Hilton.

From Reggie Wayne's early sidekick to the now unquestioned top playmaker, Hilton's ascension to the league's leading receiver began last offseason, when Chuck Pagano called him the best player on the field.

"We challenged him and he challenged himself this time last year to be a better practice player," Pagano said of his star receiver. "Just to be an all-around better pro. Guys left that (wide receiver) room, and he became the guy.

"That's his room. So to add to just the football stuff – the mentoring stuff, the leadership becomes very, very important as far as setting the tone, setting the standard. Here's the example. Here's how we practice. Here's how we meet."

In terms of "football stuff" Pagano would like to see Hilton grow in this year, finding the end zone more often, along with improving on playing without the ball (i.e. blocking, disguising things better) come to mind.

No NFL receiver had more yards than Hilton last year.

A total of 25 wideouts had more receiving touchdowns than Hilton, who had six, one behind Donte Moncrief, who played in just seven games.

New receivers coach Sanjay Lal has also zoned in on another area for improvement, no matter the receiver.

"Coach Sanjay is doing a great job pushing and working me with my route running," Hilton says.

"He's more detailed than any coach I've ever had. Just coming out of my breaks, slight ankle tilt in my feet. I'm seeing it out there when I'm going against the (defensive backs)."

Andrew Luck is seeing it, too.

Luck has helped Hilton approach Hall of Fame-like numbers over the past handful of seasons.

This spring, Luck has had to do more watching of Hilton's craft instead of firing the pigskin his way.

"He's a special, special player and it's quite obvious," Luck says. "He's probably one of the few guys in this game that could just show up and make you look bad. He's really, really good. He's gifted. But he works at it too and people don't see that all the time.

"He's sharp, he's smart, he gets it in the meeting rooms and he understands. One of the big things for him this offseason is bringing the rest of that group along. He knows he needs everybody's help for him to be successful out there. It truly is a team game. The next step, like all of us, is consistency and being there every play. He's been fun to watch, I'll tell you that."

Highlights of T.Y. Hilton during the 2017 NFL Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.

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