Interchangeable personnel and quality execution on both sides of the ball have proved crucial to New England’s repeated success throughout Tom Brady‘s time in Foxbourough. Bill Belichick being the de facto general manager has paved the road for New England’s success by giving him the power to manage the team roster in anyway he sees fit. This system has worked so efficiently because Belichick’s big picture view and football knowledge allow him to consistently do what’s in the team’s best interest through roster management, be it by trading top athletes or picking up players in order to gain the pieces the team needs.
As a result, New England has become notorious for taking under-recruited receivers and developing them into sharply reliable, intelligent weapons in Bill Belichick’s offense. Last season, that receiver was Chris Hogan. Hogan posted 680 yards on 38 receptions in his fourth year in the league, which was good enough for the third most receiving yards for New England last season. We’ve seen this in New England with receivers such as Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and a handful of others, but what sets Hogan apart from those who came before him is his fascinating path to the NFL.
Chris Hogan and His Journey to the NFL
Most of the athletes that make it to the NFL start playing football at a young age and continue through college. However, Chris Hogan didn’t play football in college until his senior year. In high school, he played both football and lacrosse at a high level, but ultimately made the decision to play lacrosse on scholarship at Penn State, where he went on to play for three years. After sustaining an ankle injury in 2008, Hogan decided that he would spend his final year of eligibility playing football instead. So he left Penn State for Monmouth, where he would earn a starting job at receiver for his senior year.
After finishing his only college football season with 12 receptions for 147 yards and three touchdowns at receiver, while also racking up 28 tackles and three interceptions at cornerback, Hogan set his sights on the NFL. In July 2011, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by San Francisco before being let go that September. Nine days after that, the New York Giants picked him up as a practice squad player but 11 days later he was released. That December, Miami signed Hogan to their practice squad, where he stayed for almost a year before his practice contract was terminated.
2012 was a big year for Chris Hogan. After being signed to the Buffalo Bills practice squad in November, he was quickly promoted to the active roster just a month later. In 2013, he finally saw playing time and had 83 yards on 10 receptions. The 2014 season saw an uptick in production, where he tallied 426 yards on 41 receptions and four touchdowns. That next year, in 2015, Hogan would go on to have his breakout season, which consisted of 450 yards on 36 receptions with two touchdowns. For each of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 season, he played in all 16 games.
Upon the arrival of 2016, Hogan caught the Patriots’ attention, with whom he promptly signed as a restricted free agent. He went on to have big games against Cleveland in the fifth game of the year, where he had 114 yards receiving, and against Houston and Pittsburgh in the playoffs, where he had four catches for 95 yards and nine catches for 180 yards, respectively. He also had four catches for 57 yards in the Super Bowl.
Every year since making Buffalo’s active roster, Hogan’s reception yards have increased. Now only 29 years old going into his fifth NFL season and second in New England, expectations for Hogan to further improve his game are high. He surely possesses the athleticism and speed to take his game to new heights but production numbers this year may take a hit with the recent addition of Brandin Cooks. This season, it will be interesting to watch whether or not Tom Brady starts favoring Cooks as a target, if Tom’s methodical spreading of the football across the entire field will continue, and how the style of play will affect other receivers’ statistics.