This 2016 quarterback class will be a unique referendum on the Buffalo Bills' chain of command in the draft room.
In one corner, you have Doug Whaley, a man who has often been connected to taking talented athletes from winning programs. That suggests he'd prefer, well, several players (maybe Cardale Jones?). In another corner, you have Terry Pegula, the Bills owner who might pull for his alma mater and an intelligent, flawed thrower in Christian Hackenberg.
Then you wonder if Greg Roman has a horse in this race. His connection? Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan. Roman coached two seasons of offensive line at Stanford, while current head coach David Shaw was his direct superior as the offensive coordinator to Jim Harbaugh. They run very similar offenses, with extra linemen, multiple tight ends, and several shared passing concepts. It makes you wonder: would Roman advocate for a player who already has three years of experience running his offense?
Hogan originally hails from McLean, Virginia. He joined the Cardinal at the right time, redshirting while Andrew Luck was preparing to become the first overall pick. Luck had such a storied career that Stanford is naming its offensive coordinator position after him. The quarterback coach, though? That spot will be named after Hogan, thanks to his own successes.
A fifth-year senior, Hogan was a science, technology, and society major at Stanford who was twice-voted a team captain. He collected a 36-10 record as a starter, including a 2015 Rose Bowl win over Iowa.
His dad died of colon cancer in December of 2014. Being part of a tight-knit family, Hogan had to adjust, but he used the memories of his dad to fuel his play on the field.
Standing at 6'3" and weighing in at 215 pounds, Hogan has the size of a classic pocket passer. He has an average arm, and the firepower to make pretty much any NFL throw - although, due to his throwing mechanics, he sometimes has to sell out to make a deep out or a 40-yard throw succeed.
This is an example of Hogan's arm talent. From the opposite hash, on a slippery playing field, Hogan completes a 15-yard out where only his receiver could catch it.
Mechanics and accuracy
This is Hogan's biggest question mark. If he doesn't fix it, he will not succeed in the NFL. The biggest problem I have isn't with his arm action, although we'll talk about that. The first thing he needs to improve is his stance and footwork. Check out this picture of Hogan in the process of throwing a pass:
Look at how wide his legs are, and how that stance sinks him toward the ground. He's standing like an offensive lineman. This hurts him in multiple ways.
It reduces his pocket mobility, because smaller steps are easier for making adjustments in the pocket compared with long loping steps. It saps strength from his deep passes. Passers generate torque in their throws from swinging through their hips and their shoulders as they follow through. When Hogan's feet are spread like that, he can't rotate his hips effectively. The usual result is that these passes take flatter angles, and don't have the 'oomph' that he should be able to generate.
The other flaw with his throwing, as I mentioned, is his arm. Here's another freeze frame of Hogan throwing the ball. See how low and away his throwing arm is positioned?
This is an issue because it slows down his throw (telegraphing his decision, giving defenders more time to move into position), and it exposes the ball to being poked out by an edge rusher. I don't think it's a killer, though. Philip Rivers has had a nice, long career with his wonky release, and Byron Leftwich was a long-term backup despite a slow release. Yes, Tim Tebow had a weird release and failed, but his issue was that the release affected his throw-to-throw accuracy.
I've seen Hogan throw with faster, more compact arm action in his senior season, he's just inconsistent about it. Generally, his accuracy is solid, but when it's bad, I think the failing is more due to his footwork and less due to the arm motion.
In terms of touch, Hogan could be better. A lot of his sideline passes and deep balls just don't take the pretty arcs that I've seen from other players.
Everything I've read suggests that Hogan is possibly the smartest quarterback in this class. Whaley freely admits that the Stanford system has prepared him for Buffalo's offense more than any other quarterback in the draft has been prepared.
That said, I'm not really sold on Hogan's field vision. I've seen him ignore wide open receivers an awful lot, and sometimes that backfires on him. Take this play against Notre Dame. There are 20 seconds left in the game, his team is down by one, and they have two timeouts. They need to go 30-35 yards, and have to save one of those timeouts for preparing their kicker. Hogan takes a shot on the sideline, but the safety has plenty of time to come over and break up the play. Meanwhile, he missed his slot receiver running clear across the middle for an easy 20-25 yards.
Some of the time, it's because Hogan is just confident in taking a shot deep. Take this play at Oregon State: Hogan escapes a collapsing pocket, and knows that his receiver has a step on two defenders, so he goes all-in on the deep ball. Unfortunately, his receiver made a bad adjustment to the pass, letting the touchdown throw fall through his hands. If Hogan noticed, he had a receiver open for a 15-plus yard gain, but he wanted to go for the throat.
Hogan is pretty fearless in the pocket, and he's quick enough processing things around him. Although his footwork is hit-or-miss, he makes efforts to step around his linemen in a more refined fashion. He's capable of throwing when being tackled, and is aware of his ability to extend a play by running for the first down, finding a check-down receiver, or quickly lofting it to an open man when the pocket is collapsing. Here's one example, from a play against Oregon State:
Hogan is the sixth and final quarterback we've connected to the Bills this offseason. If I were to rank the players in that list, it would look like this:
- Paxton Lynch
- Connor Cook
- Cardale Jones
- Kevin Hogan
- Dak Prescott
- Christian Hackenberg
Hogan's ability to master Buffalo's offense, his mind for the game, and his good arm talent give him a nice floor for a rookie backup. Issues with his ball placement are mechanical. If he fixes them, he can be a Ryan Fitzpatrick-like starter in the league. If not, I still think you have a decent Frank Reich type backup.
Is Buffalo's goal to find a future franchise quarterback, and hedge their bets against Tyrod Taylor's potential departure? Then they should pick one of the first three names. Are they satisfied with settling for a player who might not graduate to the starting role? Hogan should be their target, and he'd come at a good discount compared with the first three names.