Chris Hogan: The Path to WR1 Fantasy Season
Editor’s Note – Check out The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Season: Series Guide to see how our writers compile their projections and the methodology behind this series.
Among our Path to WR1 profiles thus far, we have examined Corey Davis, Michael Crabtree, Josh Gordon, Golden Tate, Tyreek Hill, Sterling Shepard, Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry, and Will Fuller. All of these guys are currently outside the Ballers consensus top 15-WRs.
We turn our attention to Patriots wideout Chris Hogan, who now becomes super relevant to this discussion. There’s an obvious window of opportunity available now that we know Julian Edelman will be suspended for the 1st 4 games of the season. We can make a case for his upside given that we’ve seen Hogan play like a top-12 WR before when Edelman was out last year. Currently, Hogan is the consensus WR40 in PPR leagues according to the Ballers rankings. Let’s find out what it would take for Hogan to leap into top 12 status this year.
2017 Season Recap[lptw_table id=”54434″ style=”default”]
Since coming to New England, Hogan has flown under-the-radar as a startable fantasy asset with some big play potential added with Tom Brady. Hogan started out 2017 on fire with some monster performances as he was the WR5 in PPR through the first 5 weeks of the season. He torched Houston for 2 TDs in Week 3 and followed that up touchdowns in consecutive weeks. He suffered an AC joint sprain in Week 8 and did not return to game action again until Week 14. According to the NFLsavant.com, he saw at least 6 targets in every game of the regular season, a remarkable achievement and something Gronk did not accomplish.
During his 5-week hiatus, he essentially was left for dead on waiver wires as fantasy teams geared up for the playoffs. However, Hogan lit up the Eagles in the Super Bowl registering 6 catches on 8 targets for 128 yards and a TD. His WR63 finish for the year is definitely driving down his current draft price as owners are left asking themselves: Was that 2017 start an illusion? Did he benefit solely from Edelman’s absence? Was the Super Bowl a sign of things to come?
The Path for 2018
In order for Hogan to ascend to the WR1 territory in 2018, there are a number of statistical benchmarks he must meet to overcome other WRs and be a major difference maker.
Target Share– What is troubling is the simple fact New England tied the Bills for the 2nd lowest target share for WRs (48%) in the league. The RBs and Gronk get such a large share that it’s been hard for any WR not named Edelman to see 8+ targets most weeks. Through those first 5 weeks of 2017, Hogan saw 37 targets, roughly 19% of Tom Brady‘s pass attempts. It’s not hard to imagine a repeat of that for Edelman’s suspension but what about the rest of the year? If Tom Brady improves the overall target share for the WRs on the team even slightly, Hogan can see upwards of 100+ targets on the high-end of his outcomes which are aided by Edelman’s suspension.
Catch Rate– Despite being known mostly as a downfield threat earlier in his career in Buffalo, Hogan has been utilized with a number of crossing and drag routes while showcasing his after-the-catch speed. In the Super Bowl, his 26-yard seam route TD on safety Rodney McCleod showcased that he can win from the slot as well. His catch rate has been well above 60% since coming to New England as Brady’s efficiency helps everyone. Hitting 60% is the highest on the range of outcomes if he continues to run down-field routes.
Receptions– With Edelman out, there are roughly 30+ targets vacated during those 4 games. While those won’t all go towards Hogan, he does stand to benefit the most among a WR-corps with little competition in the pecking order. Hogan has never caught more than 41 passes in a season, the highest coming in his rookie year in Buffalo. If he saw roughly 100+ targets on the year, Hogan could end up with 65 catches on the high-end. While that total might be frighteningly low for a hopeful WR1, Marvin Jones snuck in last year with just 61 catches. He might be the template for the kind of season Hogan would need to creep into elite territory.
Yards– Hogan would need a yards-per-catch of upwards of 16+ yards to keep up the WR pace since his volume is lower than most. To compare, Jones leaped into the stratosphere at 18 ypc in 2017. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities given he was money in 2016 at 17.9 ypc. The key here is his down-field targets. The top end yardage total I’m seeing if everything breaks right for Hogan and he plays all 16 games is around 980 yards. That’s roughly the same total as Jarvis Landry (last season’s WR4) and Doug Baldwin (WR14) and over 100 more than Davante Adams (WR13).
aDOT & Air Yards– Hogan’s aDOT has stabilized the last two years at 13.5, a solid indicator that’s he’s being targeted down the field by Brady. We care about this because of his excellent YAC skills and ability to take a slant or seam route to the house. His Air Yards profile indicates there are a ton of yards left to be had. At 13.22 Air Yards per target, he was only slightly below Antonio Brown (13.43), the clear-cut top WR in the game. As Next Gen Stats shows, Hogan outperforms Antonio Brown when it comes to reaching a high max speed (mph) when he’s traveling past 30 yards downfield.
TDs– As with every WR1 profile we’ve discussed, predicting TDs is the hardest part of this business. They are often fluky and WR TDs as a whole was down in 2017. Hogan, on the other hand, has been a viable end-zone weapon for Tom Brady as he’s averaged a TD once every 8 catches since being in New England. To compare, the uber-productive Michael Thomas is once every 14 catches, AB is every 9.86 and Doug Baldwin is every 11.27 over the last 2 years. While we can expect some regression to the mean for Hogan, his overall opportunities (if he remains healthy) in 2018 should increase. Despite only playing in 9 games, Hogan saw 14 red-zone targets on the year including 4 of his TDs. Among the range of outcomes, it’s possible for Hogan to hit 9+ TDs in this high-powered offense, the same total that propelled Marvin Jones last year to WR1-ville.
WR1 Possibility: Could Happen But Not Likely (<17.8%)
This percentage is based upon the combined average of the Fantasy Footballers writing staff. One of the main complaints was the number of elite fantasy options Hogan would need to leapfrog. In other words, if we’re betting on Hogan seeing a WR1 season, we’d also need to bet on a number of top notches guys have “down years” as his reception totals and yardage totals would likely be on the extreme low-end of elites. There are a number of outliers as 6 players have finished with less than 110 targets and a WR1 finish in PPR leagues over the last 10 years according to our WR1 Series Guide.
Hogan is a screaming value in drafts with an added early-season bonus due to Julian Edelman‘s suspension. If he gets off to a hot start like he did in 2017, he provides some prime trade bait. We’ve yet to see him be utilized in a full-time role and be fully healthy since being in New England. With some turnover at WR (Danny Amendola) and a rocky offseason for Brady and Co., Hogan could provide much-needed stability for not only the Patriots but also fantasy owners looking for major upside at his current price according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com.