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Many are excited, and rightly so, at the chance Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff have to observe Carson Wentz up close and personal at the Senior Bowl this week. But there is another quarterback of interest on the Cowboys' North roster: Stanford's Kevin Hogan.
I had seen his name come up in the comments section a few times, so I thought I'd turn my eyes to him and, frankly, I like what I see. At 6'3-1/4", 217 lbs (according to the official weigh-in), Hogan is not imposing, but he's not pint-sized, either. His 10-1/8" hands are slightly bigger than Wentz's so that shouldn't be an issue. What is an issue is an unorthodox delivery and poor productivity. His career high 2,867 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2015 looks absolutely mediocre next to the 4,719 yards and record 43 touchdowns of conference-mate Jared Goff, and when you consider that Hogan had 8 interceptions next to Goff's 13, you might wonder what it is people see in him. I did.
Watching him on film, I liked Hogan for the same essential reasons I like Goff. When looking at the big three quarterbacks right now (Goff, Lynch, and Wentz) there is a lot of discussion of prototypical size, mechanics, and a "pro-style system". A lot of that is too technical for me and, please understand, that is absolutely a reason to take what I have to say with a massive grain of salt. But, as a result, I focus mainly on three things: does the player make sound reads? how does the player respond when blitzed or pressured? and, definitely not least, how often does the ball get down the field?
A word about that latter, as it's very important to me. Accurate deep balls are nice, but since the days of Aikman I have been led to believe that the most important aspect of an NFL quarterback (and passing attack) is the "intermediate passing game." The ability to consistently hit passes all over the field at 12-15 yards deep is key to stressing a defense both horizontally and vertically
Goff is, in my estimation, clearly better than Lynch and Wentz at all of my criteria. He's far and away the best at sensing pressure and moving around the pocket. He seems to make more reads and looks off safeties more often. And most of all he's least likely of the three to check down. When I look at Kevin Hogan, I see him doing a lot of the same things. So, how to explain the difference in stats between Hogan and Goff? Pretty simple, actually. Hogan had 304 attempts to Goff's 529. If you take Goff's per attempt average and give him the same number of attempts as Hogan, you get 2,711yds, 25 TD, 7 INT...which suddenly looks a lot like Hogan's numbers.
Hogan is listed as low as the sixth round on a lot of draft sites. I think you'll see him go well before that and not just because of quarterback inflation. He's very smart, consistently makes plays, even under pressure, and is widely regarded as having terrific intangibles. He also had really big games against strong defenses (Notre Dame and USC, both of whom had a few draftable players) and, for those that like that sort of thing, beat Goff when they played head-to-head (though that was really more Christian McCaffrey's day as he had 192 yards rushing and 389 all-purpose yards on the day).
You may be intrigued, now, but are probably still asking, "but what does he do? What catches the eye about him?" Here's what I saw.
First, an incompletion.
This shows a lot of what I like about Hogan, even though it's not a huge play. It's extra nice because you see his view and it gives you an appreciation for what quarterbacks see. Hogan is locked on to his man in a good way, not because he's not reading the field, but because he knows what he's got, pre-snap. His slot receiver is running a deep corner route to the side where the safety is cheated up. Hogan knows that if his receiver out-runs the safety there's an area he can get the ball to without fear of interception. As he sets to throw, Hogan could easily be distracted by the defender suddenly coming free in his face. He stands in, makes the throw, and takes a huge hit. If the receiver doesn't lose his feet going after the ball, this is likely a huge completion as the ball is pretty accurate for a throw that far down field.
Now how about a checkdown?
Right out of the gate, Notre Dame sends a corner blitz and Hogan reads it perfectly, getting the ball to one of his biggest playmakers (the aforementioned McCaffrey, son of Denver WR Ed McCaffrey) right in the area the corner just vacated for a neat little seven-yard gain. But see if this next play reminds you of anyone.
This is 3rd and 3 near the edge of field goal range. These are important plays to make. While not exactly Romodini here, Hogan does a nice job of climbing the pocket and finding a receiver for the big conversion. Immediately following this play...
...Hogan makes a nice read and throw into a window for a really nice gain setting up a TD (the ruling of TD on the field was overturned).
Of course, like anyone else, I love a good deep throw.
Nothing special about it, just good touch and accuracy on a deep ball into double coverage.
His ability to get the ball to receivers at medium- to long-range within windows is the thing which stands out to me.
But Dallas fans will probably be most appreciative of a certain slipperiness occasionally worthy of a certain Jedi.
Now, there are other, less-than-perfect bits as well, or people would be talking more about him. But I truly believe that Kevin Hogan has a future in the NFL and has all the qualities you want from your quarterback, even if he needs a little polish. I am anxious to see how he stacks up to Carson "number four overall" Wentz in the Senior Bowl and look forward to what people more expert than I have to say about him. But, for now, I suggest quietly adding him to your radar.