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Colts Receiving Corps Undergoing Major Change

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T.Y. Hilton looks set in the slot for the long term in Indy. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.
T.Y. Hilton looks set in the slot for the long term in Indy. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Notable players: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, LaVon Brazill

One-word description: Temporary

Right now, the Indianapolis Colts wide receiving corps looks very promising for the 2013 NFL season, but that may change before long.

I’ve always believed that a team needs three specific kinds of receivers to create the complete package. First and foremost, you need the possession receiver who you know can rack up consistent chunks of yards and touchdowns to move the chains and score points. The Colts have one of the best go-to guys in the league to fit that role – Reggie Wayne. Next, you need the big speedster that can constantly stretch the field and keep the defense from keying too much on your no. 1 guy or the running game. The Colts signed Darrius Heyward-Bey this offseason for that exact purpose. Finally, you need an elusive slot receiver that can catch short passes and do some damage in the open field. Indianapolis traded up in the 2012 NFL Draft to nab the slot receiver of the future in T.Y. Hilton.

Behind that trio, the Colts have some promising young talent to serve as backup – LaVon Brazill, Nathan Palmer and Griff Whalen.

So, again, the Colts appear to have a complete, strong receiving group for Andrew Luck to pass to. But in even just one year, a lot could change.

For starters, Wayne is starting to get up there in age. He’s 34 now and will turn 35 in November. He proved last year he’s still one of the NFL’s most dangerous weapons, but there’s no telling how much longer he can keep that going. Former Colt receiving great Marvin Harrison took a sharp decline when he turned 35.

Heyward-Bey isn’t old, but he’ll be on a short leash. The Colts decided to only sign him for one year because of his up-and-down play during his four-year career. He’s essentially being given a one-year tryout to prove he can be a reliable receiver. If he doesn’t perform well, he’ll be out of Indianapolis in 2014.

Brazill was thought to have the most upside of the three reserve wideouts, but the recent news of his four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy has put his future with the team in jeopardy. The Colts were already concerned about his maturity, and now with a suspension, there’s certainly no guarantee Brazill will make the final 53-man roster after training camp.

Hilton’s job should be safe for years to come, but that’s about it. The Colts would be very wise to spend a high draft pick next year on a talented possession receiver to begin the process of replacing Wayne, and Heyward-Bey and Brazill are under big pressure to convince their team to hold on to them. Palmer and Whalen showed promise in last year’s training camp, but it’s hard to tell in practice whether they’re for real or not.

In just one to two years, this receiving corps could have a completely different look to it.