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Hold Off on the Luck Comparisons, but Hogan's Quite Good

Kevin Hogan compares favorably to some of the other top young QBs in the country.

Stephen Dunn

Darius Tahir (@dariustahir) takes a closer look at Kevin Hogan's numbers to date.

It’s a hard thing, to evaluate and put Kevin Hogan into context. After all, he’s a guy who can create this reaction by one presumably-knowledgeable source (Jonathan Martin), comparing Hogan to Luck: (going to presume RT = endorsement here, though I’m sure a band of journalists will fall upon me to inform me otherwise. Maybe also, it’s my diseased memory telling me otherwise, but I seem to remember Martin saying such in his own words on Twitter.)

On the other hand, you have the more tempered reactions from folks like Ted Miller, who says (in addressing "Kevin Hogan" in a chat): "You've shown a lot of poise, but the next question is whether you can advance from game manager to play making weapon. You're probably behind Mariota and Hundley and beside ASU's Taylor Kelly."

Or then there’s Tyler Mabry’s reaction in an entertaining AMA on Reddit: "I think [Luck and Hogan are] completely different players. Andrew's more of a pocket passer whereas Kevin's fit's the 'athlete' mold. What they do have in common are the intangibles... you can't teach leadership or composure under pressure."

Right. So everyone seems to agree he’s a really good player. Duh -- this is the hard-hitting news you’ve come to expect. This is curious, because the headline numbers are pretty modest -- especially when you consider how many sacks Hogan takes (11 in six games versus Nunes’ 8 in 8.) Here’s Hogan compared to the guy he replaced, adjusted for sacks (i.e. sacks count as passing attempts and yardage lost to sacks goes into the passing yardage category; similarly adjusted on the rushing yardage totals):

Completion% YPA TD% INT% Rushing YPC TD%
Nunes 51% 6.6 4.11% 2.88% 111 5.84 15.7%
Hogan 67% 6.4 6.25% 2.08% 264 7.13 5.4%

Closer than I thought it’d be in a passing sense before I ended up compiling the numbers -- I put a lot of importance on the yards per attempt statistic. Obviously the 51% completion from Nunes indicates an extremely high level of volatility (with the 6.6 YPA being too meager a payoff.) If you’re going to have a low YPA, you need to be highly consistent on the way there -- which Hogan is. He’s also significantly better at playmaking (about 50% more TDs) and at avoiding interceptions. (The running, well, obviously.)

Hogan’s numbers are surprisingly modest (with a huge caveat we’ll get to later). That underscores some of the underlying problems with the offense -- i.e. little threat in the downfield passing game. Remember when I wrote earlier that Hogan would surely be taking more shots downfield as he progressed this season? Events proved me wrong. Let’s compare the passing distribution between Hogan debut, vs. UCLA Round I and vs UCLA Round II:

1-10 yards 10-20 yards 20+ yards ?
Colorado 16/21 4/21 1/20 4
Round I 13/18 4/18 1/18 4
Round II 17/22 3/22 2/22 7

Pretty similar all around -- there’s a difficulty in getting the ball downfield, which makes your life much more difficult than it needs to be (requiring extreme precision in navigating the field, rather than eating up yardage in big chunks).

A large part of this is supporting cast rather than Hogan per se (his YPA on long passes was 13, which is good). The announcers reached for the "everyone covered downfield" phrase an awful lot against UCLA Round II, which makes sense when there’s no authentic vertical threat on the team. The offensive line also had one of its worst games in a while, with Hogan frequently forced to scramble away, throw the ball away, etc. -- that’s what the 7 ? reflects (which is one of the higher numbers I’ve seen in a while.) UCLA was also able to do it without sending particularly exotic rushes or blitzes -- the vast majority of the time just sending four rushers. The offensive line part should work itself out just fine; the playmaker aspect is a huge problem, particularly if Zach Ertz and Toilolo decide to head for NFL riches. (This is as good a time as any to shout FREE KELSEY YOUNG. He only averages 10.3 yards per touch from scrimmage.)

This is also an excellent time to bring back mention of that big caveat: evaluating Hogan statistically is extremely tough because of competition. Hogan’s played four ranked teams over five games; has had three road games versus two home games; has only played one true cupcake. It’s extremely difficult to measure him versus the peers Miller notes at the beginning of the article -- i.e. Kelly, Mariota, Hundley.

Nevertheless, let’s give it a shot. All four of these guys faced two common opponents -- Colorado and Oregon State. Here are their numbers versus those common opponents (sack-adjusted):

Completion% YPA TD% INT% Rushing YPC TD%
Hogan 71.4% 7.5 8.9% 3.57% 116 8.28 0%
Kelly 56.8% 5.86 8.1% 1.35% 85 7.73 0%
Mariota 69% 7 12.8% 0% 111 10.1 18.2%
Hundley 61.2% 7.28 3.52% 0% 80 5 18.75

And, in the spirit of helping make tricky comparisons, let’s compare Hogan to some of his notable national counterparts -- the sophomores, redshirt freshmen and true freshmen -- in games versus ranked opponents (sack-adjusted, of course) (you’ll note they’re ranked by YPA):

Completion% YPA TD% INT% Rushing YPC TD%
Braxton Miller 55.3% 7.05 5.26% 0% 290 9.7 3.3%
Hundley 57.2% 6.54 3.77% 1.26% 243 7.83 6.45%
Hogan 67.2% 6.37 5.17% 2.59% 186 7.15 7.69%
Travis Wilson 56.5% 6.09 2.89% 4.34% 56 3.5 0%
E. Golson 45.9% 5.39 1.64% 3.27% 124 5.39 4.34%
Manziel 59.8% 5.15 1.57% 2.36% 227 5.4 2.38%
Mariota 58.5% 5.1 3.07% 1.54% 189 11.81 6.25%
Kelly 53.8% 4.85 5.66% 3.7% 210 7.5 0%

Hogan, I’d say, compares pretty well. He’s not head-and-shoulders in front of any of the packs I’ve got him running in, but he acquits himself well and doesn’t look out of place. (The guy who does look out of place, incidentally, is the one Ted Miller suggests is a peer -- Taylor Kelly, who just looks bad here. Evidence suggests he’s a decent-ish QB at best.)

It’s tricky to read too much into any of these comparisons -- Manziel, for example, who comes out poorly here, primarily does so because the ranked teams he faced were Florida, LSU and Alabama. Not exactly going to boost your statistics. It’s just suggestive.

For us, what it suggests is that Hogan’s a good, but not necessarily fantastic QB at this stage of his development -- it’s best to hold off on any giddy Andrew Luck comparisons (Luck was an insane 9.3 YPA versus ranked teams his freshman year. It was obvious early, though Luck was fortunate to have a good supporting cast -- better than Hogan’s, at any rate). He’ll need to cut down on the sacks and he (and his coaches and teammates) will need to figure out how to get the ball downfield more consistently. But, yes, your instincts were likely correct: Hogan is a real good one. So far. (Insert cautionary tales about Keith Price and all that.)

(All data -- including much more than you could ever want -- here.)