The New England Patriots passing attack led the league in overall fantasy points last season despite the hyper-efficient Eagles throwing for six more regular season touchdowns. The Patriots also finished just behind the Saints in running back fantasy points. New England's offense runs a lot of plays and puts defenses on their heels consistently. Just imagine if Chip Kelly had been successful and you have something like the Patriots' offense. Their offense will again be good this season. There are problems that you can point to in New England to possibly knock the Patriots down slightly, but as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are breathing, the Patriots are going to score fantasy points for your fake teams.
The question for the Patriots is always, who will get the opportunities? Last season, their target leaders were Brandin Cooks (114), Rob Gronkowski (105), Danny Amendola (86), James White (72), Chris Hogan (59), Rex Burkhead (36) and Dion Lewis (35). And if you look at targets per game, the top three were Gronkowski (7.5), Cooks (7.1) and Hogan (6.6). If you look at the first eight games for Hogan, before his injury, and discount his one game in Week 13 during which he must not have been fully healthy, Hogan tied Cooks with 54 targets compared to Gronkowski's 56. Those numbers, at the very least, show us that Hogan was a top-three target for Tom Brady when healthy, and also during that stretch, Hogan led the team with 11 red-zone targets to Gronkowski's 10, with both converting those targets into five touchdowns. That is some excellent efficiency, and if Hogan had stayed healthy for the second half of the season, his extrapolated numbers would have been 66 receptions from 108 targets for 876 yards and 10 touchdowns. Additionally, those numbers don't take into account his huge Super Bowl, when he caught 6-of-8 targets for 128 yards and a touchdown. These extrapolated statistics would have put Hogan in the top-15 fantasy wide receivers for last season without much trouble.
I think we can safely assume that a full season from Hogan will be one that you want a piece of in fantasy, so why is he the 31st wide receiver off the board at the moment? The answer is likely a mix of his shoulder injury that kept him out half of the season and the return of Julian Edelman. First off, before last season, Hogan had played in 63-of-64 games, and we saw how healthy he was not too long ago in the Super Bowl. As for Edelman, there is no doubt that he will take up a big chunk of targets, but the good news is that Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola are gone, and Edelman will miss the first four games due to PED'ing all over the place. Oh, and the Patriots have a lot of targets to go around, as they led the league in pass attempts last year. And even if Edelman weren't just coming off a significant knee injury and were poised to play all 16 games, Hogan would still be in a position to start on the outside in Cooks' old position while Edelman mans his usual slot position. The total pie would be somewhat smaller, but Belichick and company aren't going to forget about their outside receivers, and Hogan happens to be an excellent receiver.
Since becoming a Patriot in 2006, Hogan has played in 30 games, including playoffs, and shown exceptionally well for himself when given opportunities. In those Patriot games, he's seen 156 targets and caught 98 of those (62.8 percent catch rate) for 1,603 yards and 13 touchdowns. That's 16.4 yards per reception and 10.3 yards per target. Let's say that he did all of that in a monster 2017 season; where would he rank with the elite receivers in efficiency? Ok, let me show you. For receivers with 50 or more target, his 16.4 yards per reception tied for eighth with Julio Jones and his 10.3 yards per target would be sixth, just behind Marvin Jones and Tyreek Hill. That's relatively remarkable since we're giving Hogan 156 targets for the season, which would have been the second most out of any wide receiver last year. So, the guy can play football. I think we can agree on that and now he gets to start the season as the No. 2 target, right up there with Gronkowski and, based on last season, he could out-target Gronkowski in the red zone. Once Edelman does return, it should only help open up space on the outside for Hogan, as teams quickly get sick and tired of being eaten alive underneath and that ends up giving Hogan man coverage on the outside.
Hogan is going as the 31st receiver off draft boards so far, which isn't chopped liver, but all signs point to him seeing 100 or more targets, and with those opportunities from Brady in a fast-paced Josh McDaniel offense, I don't know how he won't be comfortably within the WR2 range.