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WR Dissonance: Wes Welker and T.Y. Hilton

Hilton

For the first-level wide receivers, check this article. As a reminder, I’ll start by looking at ADP, then find the receivers about whom the Fantasy Pros experts disagree the most within each tier of receivers. In other words, if a receiver is one of the second 12 being drafted, he’s a WR2 by ADP. From those 12, I’ll look at the two with the most variable rankings.

WR2 Dissonance

Here are two receivers being drafted in the second 12 at the position about whom the experts have the biggest disagreement.

Player Best Worse Ave St.Dev ADP
Wes Welker (DEN/4) 13 39 20 6.2 17
Ty Hilton (IND/10) 13 50 29.4 8.3 24

Wes Welker

Welker is currently drafted as the 17th receiver in PPR formats. In order to return value, based on 2013 numbers, he’d need to average 14.9 points/game. The WR Sim App gives him a median projection of 13.7. However, the App also gives a high-end projection of 18 points/game. So the safe interpretation, relying on the median projection, is to view him as being over-drafted by about one point/game. The rose-colored interpretation would see the 18 point/game high projection as something attainable, and view him as potentially undervalued.

So which is it? Last year I said that Welker shouldn’t be a target. Whoops. I apologize if you followed that advice.1 Matthew Freedman made a really good argument for Welker being undervalued this season. There’s not much to say beyond what Freedman offered, so I encourage you to read that article. The basic idea is that, while Welker appeared to score an inordinate number of touchdowns last season, he also recorded fewer than expected receptions. So “reversion to the mean” in both categories likely cancels itself out. He’s also remained productive in his 30s, so there’s not much to indicate a potential age-related decline.

Freedman’s article prompted a rebuttal from Justin Winn. Also well done, and more detailed than what I’ll offer here, so go read that as well. Two good takeaways however relate to the likelihood that Welker returns to his career average production, and his role in Denver’s offense. On a percentage basis, it would be a really big leap for Welker to return to New England-level targets, receptions, and yards. And even with Eric Decker gone, he’s still no better than the third option behind the Thomases Demaryius and Julius.

Earlier this offseason I noted that Emmanuel Sanders seemed more like an eventual Wes Welker replacement than a Decker replacement. Fantasy Douche explored that idea further in this article. With similar size and speed profiles, Welker and Sanders could cannibalize each other, and the scenarios where they both return their ADP value are unlikely.

Conclusion: Not to cop out, but here’s the cop out. Back to the WR Sim App. Welker’s low and median PPR projections are almost identical to those of Randall Cobb and Keenan Allen, who are both drafted higher and profiled here. But Welker’s high projection is, well, higher.

Player Low Med High
Welker 11.1 13.7 18
Allen 11 13.2 16.5
Cobb 11 13.9 16

So, arbitrage opportunity! In a comparison, I’d rather have Welker than Allen or Cobb, thanks to the lower ADP and higher ceiling. But in a vacuum, I’d probably pass on Welker altogether.

T.Y. Hilton

Hilton finished last season as the WR19 in PPR formats, yet he’s being drafted as WR25. On a per-game basis, he was last season’s WR25. So at worst he’s fairly valued, and he might be undervalued. Let’s dig deeper.

We know that the Colts have invested very little into their defense. So they might need to keep the pedal to the metal in terms of trying to score points, as it doesn’t look like their defense will carry them. His schedule is light on tough pass defenses, too. It’s also good to know that, while he is less productive (like most receivers) when his team is trailing, the impact isn’t that great for Hilton. His pass game involvement is relatively flat across game situations.

The case against Hilton goes something like this.

  • While his raw stats went up last season, his efficiency metrics declined.
  • His heavy usage last year was mostly the result of injuries elsewhere. With healthy receivers this year, his usage might decline. This actually has some merit. Take a look at this  game split from 2013.

hilton

When Reggie Wayne is in the lineup, Hilton’s numbers take a decent hit. This is true not just for 2013, but 2012 as well. This is worth keeping in mind. It’s totally fair to question whether or not Wayne can return to form, but banking on a Wayne decline to justify a Hilton selection may not be a sound strategy. However, I think there are still good reasons to select Hilton that are more about the Colts’ offense.

Our current understanding of the Colts’ offense is that they intend to run a lot of two-tight end sets. That means just two WRs on the field at a time. I think Hilton is the most likely of the Colts’ receivers to have a full time presence in those 2-TE base formations. Let’s look at the competitors. Da’Rick Rogers is intriguing, but unproven. Ditto Donte Moncrief. Hakeem Nicks is banged up and reportedly continues to deal with nagging aches and pains in training camp. Wayne is the number one receiver, for as long as he’s healthy, but he’s also aging.

Hilton has the best combination of experience, youth, and ability to stretch the field, which neither Wayne nor Nicks seem capable of doing at this point in their careers. Moncrief has solid 4.4 40 speed, but as a rookie, he seems more likely to be a substitute than a starter. Without Hilton on the field, it seems like the Colts’ offense would be easier to defend.

To put it differently, if you have to pick two of the Colts’ current receivers to get the bulk of snaps, how many of them are you putting before Hilton? Any way you slice it, you’d have to pick an aging/declining/injury prone player, or a raw/rookie type player.

Finally, there’s this. In order to return his ADP value, based on last season’s numbers, Hilton needs to average 12.5 points/game (PPR). His median WR Sim App projection? 12.4 points/game.

Conclusion: Count me in on Hilton. He projects to return ADP value, and seems the most likely of all the Colts’ receivers to be a healthy, full-time part of their base offense. A decent schedule and relative immunity to game script give him some upside as well.

———-

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  1. If I just keep saying he’s not a target, one of these season’s I’ll be right.  (back)

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