On first glance there is nothing sexy about Chris Hogan’s career. He entered the NFL in 2012 as an undrafted and unheralded free agent. He spent the first four years of his career toiling away in the wasteland that is the Buffalo Bills. Hogan spent the last three seasons as the latest interchangeable Caucasian wide receiver to win Super Bowls in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady system. At age 30 he has never exceeded 41 receptions, 680 yards, or five touchdowns in a single season.
If he had spent the last three years with the anonymity of the Tennessee Titans instead of the exposure of the Evil Empire, many of us would have never heard of him. But if you look a little deeper, there are reasons for Panthers fans to be optimistic.
Hogan gets yards
While Chris Hogan isn’t a high-volume receiver he makes the most out of every opportunity. In his three years with the Patriots (2016-2018), Hogan’s 15.4 yards per reception ranked ninth in the NFL per Football Reference (min. 100 receptions). In 2016 he led the NFL with 17.9 yards per reception. Even if Hogan only pulls in somewhere between 30 and 40 receptions next year, many of them could go for big chunks of yards.
Hogan gets open
Based on free data available from Player Profiler, in 2018 Hogan averaged 1.41 yards of separation from the closest defensive back at the moment the pass target arrived. This was consistent with his Patriots teammate Julian Edelman’s 1.48 yards (one of the craftier players in the league) and significantly better than Josh Gordon’s 1.08 yards of separation.
While it’s not apples-to-apples to compare Hogan to Panthers players from 2018 because they played in different schemes, his 1.41 yards of separation still looks good when you do.
Average yards of separation, 2018
The only Panthers wide receiver to exceed Hogan’s 1.41 separation yards was Jarius Wright at 1.48. For those of us who follow the Panthers closely know that Wright was clutch in big moment last year, getting himself open on third downs or when Cam Newton was scrambling. If Chris Hogan can have a Jarius Wright effect of making things easier on Cam by simply getting open, he’ll be a helpful weapon in the arsenal.
Football Outsiders loves it some Chris Hogan
Look, I know Football Outsiders metrics aren’t for everybody. Same goes for Pro Football Focus and every other rating/grading system. If you want to throw out this paragraph as junk science, then that’s well within your rights as a football fan. That said, in 2018 Football Outsiders ranked Chris Hogan as the No. 20 overall wide receiver in terms of DVOA - Defense-adjusted Value Over Average.
In summary, DVOA attempts to measure a player’s value, per play, when compared to an average wide receiver in the same game situations. Here is how Football Outsiders ranked Hogan along with the Panthers wide receivers in 2018:
2018 Football Outsiders DVOA ranks
|Player||DVOA||DVOA WR Rank|
|Player||DVOA||DVOA WR Rank|
Overall, on a per-play basis, Football Outsiders placed Chris Hogan’s value somewhere between D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, both of whom proved to be productive players last year.
Don’t expect Chris Hogan to put up a 1,000-yard season and make the Pro Bowl next year. Given the Panthers offensive scheme and the way the ball will likely get distributed among multiple targets, Hogan’s numbers may not be very impressive. But they don’t need to be. The Panthers need productive, efficient receivers who can get open and make big plays, which are skills Hogan has refined over his career.
Chris Hogan played a limited but important role in helping the Patriots win two Super Bowls. Let’s hope he does the same in winning the first one in Carolina.
How many receiving yards do you predict for Chris Hogan in 2019?
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