Patriots Upgrade: Chris Hogan & Martellus Bennett
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made an effort to upgrade quarterback Tom Brady’s surrounding cast with a number of moves this offseason, which in turn, has allowed his decision to bring in former Buffalo Bills receiver Chris Hogan to fly under the radar.
Belichick signed Hogan to a three-year, $12 million offer sheet as a restricted free agent, and though Buffalo was still interested, they couldn’t afford to match the Patriots’ offer and declined their right to refusal March 11, via Ian Rapoport.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 11, 2016
Hogan, 27, has brought in 87 receptions for 959 yards and six touchdowns in his three-year career. Though he didn’t see a great deal of targets as a slot receiver in Buffalo, the former Monmouth product hasn’t missed a game since entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2011.
Hogan played wide receiver at Monmouth for just one season before he was brought into the league, for he originally pursued lacrosse at Penn State. For what it’s worth, Hogan led the Nittany Lions with 29 goals in 2009.[the_ad id=”58837″]After releasing Brandon LaFell earlier this offseason, Hogan, 27, is coming in to New England as the No. 3 (possibly No. 2) wide receiver option behind Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Given his experience both on the outside and at the slot position, Hogan will provide New England another versatile receiver that they can move around depending on the how they see the matchups on a week-to-week basis.
According to Mike Florio of NBCSports.com, Amendola is on the verge of being sent out of New England, which would of course thrust Hogan into an increased role. Amendola, 30, is on pace to earn a base salary of $5 million in 2016, and with Belichick always looking to get cheaper at the wide receiver position, he will likely force Amendola to either take a pay cut or pack his bags before the start of the season.
Amendola’s roster spot is also being threatened due to the recent addition of former Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett. The Patriots traded away a fourth round pick in exchange for Bennett and the Bears’ sixth round pick on March 17.
On top of pushing Amendola out, Bennett’s role in New England’s offense should have a relatively negative impact on Hogan’s fantasy value. With Rob Gronkowski already taking a healthy chunk of the targets, Bennett should have a substantial role in New England’s offense due to Belichick’s obsession with having two quality, productive tight ends.
Yes, Hogan’s potential to put up quality numbers has dramatically increased now that an established, future Hall of Fame quarterback is throwing him the football, but he still isn’t a primary option in the Patriots offense. It was already a given that Gronkowski and Edelman will pull a majority of the targets in their offense, but the addition of Bennett has really pushed Hogan out of the picture in terms of touches. While Amendola’s departure would still benefit him, Belichick should still be in the market for a playmaker at the receiver position come draft day, and with that being said, Hogan’s target count would take another significant hit.
At 6’1”, 215 pounds, Hogan is, however, a taller and much stronger receiver in comparison to Edelman and Amendola, which in turn, could lead people to believe that Hogan could have a presence in the red zone, but the Patriots’ two tight ends nearly eliminate that possibility. With both Bennett and Gronkowski likely taking every snap when New England in the red zone, it’s tough to imagine Belichick making him Brady’s No. 1 option in any situation near the goal line.[the_ad id=”58882″]Hogan is not in a situation where he needs to be relied on as a volume catcher or a red zone threat, nor has he even proven that he is capable of putting up desirable numbers in terms of fantasy. Though his stats will unquestionably increase in the Patriots high-octane offense, Hogan’s ceiling isn’t bright enough to make up for his probable floor.
If a guy like Edelman or Gronkowski goes down for an extended period of time, Hogan would be a solid option to take off the bench and insert into a starting option, which as a result, could make him a quality selection in the later rounds of a fantasy draft. If New England’s receiving threats remain healthy, expect Hogan to have to fight for anything more than 400 yards and four touchdowns on 35 receptions, but if someone does go down, we could see his numbers peak around 55 receptions for 700 yards and possibly six touchdowns.
It’s easy to get drawn in by the idea that a player who had some success without Brady could explode with him when given the opportunity, but it’s safer to allow those who are feeding off the hype to take Hogan ahead of you rather than taking a chance on him early in the draft.