Last season, one of the biggest issues that the Patriots dealt with was injuries. And when the injuries started piling on, the team's weak wide receiver depth was exposed. When Julian Edelman went down with a foot injury last season that required him to miss several games, Danny Amendola was the "de-facto" #1 wide receiver.
But when Danny Amendola was forced to miss week 16 with Julian Edeman still on the sidelines, the Patriots were proven to be completely barren at the wide receiver position as Brandon LaFell and KeShawn Martin were forced to start that week.
This past off-season, the team addressed the issue by not only adding some depth to the position with drafting Malcolm Mitchell and Devin Lucien, but also by signing free agent Chris Hogan as well.
Hogan comes over from Buffalo, where he spent the last three years of his career after being an un-drafted free agent out of Monmouth University in 2011. He is coming into his sixth season in the NFL and is 27 years old. Over his tenure with the Bills, Hogan played in all 48 games possible with six starts (all coming over the past two seasons). He has never missed a game due to injury and has only dealt with a myriad of minor injuries during his career in the NFL thus far. Over the past two seasons with the Bills, Hogan accumulated 120 targets, 77 receptions, 876 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
Danny Amendola is entering his eighth season in the NFL, his fourth with the Patriots and is 30 years old. In his three years with the team, Amendola has played in 42 games out of a possible 48. He has 17 starts with the team and has accumulated 212 targets, 146 receptions, 1,481 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Amendola has dealt with injuries over his NFL career, including a torn triceps that caused him to miss 15 games in 2011, two concussions, a fractured collarbone, a torn groin muscle he dealt with all of the 2013 season, and a sprained knee that hobbled him for several weeks in 2015.
Over his time with the team, Amendola has become one of Tom Brady's most trusted targets on the field and also has made several restructures to his contract over the past few seasons in order to stay with the team and lower his cap hit. After Edelman's injury in week 10 last season, Amendola accumulated 44 targets, 32 receptions, 304 receiving yards and one touchdown from weeks 10-13, before he suffered his own injury in week 15 against the Titans.
Amendola underwent knee and ankle surgeries earlier this off-season and did not participate with the team in organized team activities (OTAs) or mini-camp with the team. He may be ready for training camp, but that is far from a guarantee at the moment.
Chris Hogan, on the other hand, has been practicing with the team in both OTAs and in mini-camp as well. He seems to be acclimating well with the Patriots, NESN.com's Doug Kyed named Hogan one of his 12 "mini-camp stars" and calling him "the Patriots' best wide receiver on the practice field throughout mini-camp". Now this is only mini-camp, and it may not be hard to earn this title while both Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola sat out, but it is something to keep in mind since Amendola may or may not be ready for training camp. If Amendola is ready, he would be most certainly less than 100%. And if he isn't, it allows Hogan to receive more reps with the team's quarterbacks.
At 6'1", 220 pounds, Chris Hogan has the size to actually play outside for the Patriots, and PatsPulpit's own Bernd Buchmasser wrote last month that Hogan could take Brandon LaFell's old "X" receiver role. Hogan actually played nearly 49.9% of his 2015 snaps from the slot wide receiver position but 58.3% of his receptions and 57.6% of his targets came from when he played outside.
As an outside wide receiver in 2015, Hogan had 21 catches on 34 targets for 255 yards and a touchdown. Hogan saw seven receptions on 13 targets for 144 yards and a touchdown as the Bills' "X" wide receiver and 14 receptions on 21 targets for 111 yards as the "Z" wide receiver. Hogan showed that he has the versatility to play both in the slot and outside wide receiver roles while with the Bills and could be used in both positions with the Patriots.
Amendola, who the Patriots brought on to "try" and replace Wes Welker, has been mostly a slot wide receiver during his tenure. In two wide receiver sets, Amendola has been off the field for the most part (when everyone is healthy) as Julian Edelman plays the "Z" role for the team and an outside wide receiver usually plays the "X" role. Also, Edelman can also play the slot wide receiver position as well, which keeps Amendola off the field as well.
To summarize, due to Chris Hogan's recent contract signing (three years, 12 million dollars), his age (27 years old vs. Amendola at 30 years old), his ability to play in an outside role for the team, and the fact that he hasn't been known to be hampered by injuries quite like Amendola, it would not be surprising to me to see Chris Hogan be the team's #2 wide receiver in 2016. Also throw in the fact that Amendola is on the sidelines still following his surgeries in the off-season and may not be ready for training camp, it only helps Hogan's case that much more.
Don't get me wrong, Amendola will still be involved in this offence, but his role may be reduced with the "new guy in town" Chris Hogan stealing the show so far.
Fantasy Impact: If Chris Hogan does end up being the Patriots starting "X" wide receiver and develop a role on the outside for the team, that could a terrific situation for him fantasy football wise. The Patriots passing attack is usually one of the deadliest in the NFL with Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman causing major damage on the field.
Tom Brady finished 3rd in the NFL in 2015 with 4,770 passing yards and 1st in the NFL with 36 passing touchdowns. As the team's potential #2 wide receiver, Hogan could be in line for a solid WR3 season considering how Edelman, Gronkowski and Amendola usually deal with injuries at one time or another during the regular season. He could be in line for a 60/850/5 season (rough estimate), which would be good for 115 points in standard leagues and 175 points in PPR (point per receptions leagues). That would've made him the 35th best wide receiver in both standard and PPR leagues for fantasy football in 2015, which would make him a low-end WR3 in 12-team leagues.
Danny Amendola finished as fantasy football's 53rd (standard) and 47th (PPR) best wide receiver in 2015, making him nothing more than a low-end WR4/high-end WR5. With Edelman, Gronkowski, Hogan, and Dion Lewis also in the mix for targets for this upcoming season, Amendola probably won't be much more than what he was last season without some injuries occurring to the team's other playmakers.