Chris Hogan caught his fifth touchdown Thursday night in the Patriots' 19-14 win in Tampa, setting a new career high and tying Jordy Nelson for the NFL lead.
Hogan wrestled (or is it rugby'ed?) away the team target lead from James White (37-to-35) and has at least one touchdown in four consecutive games. Fantasy's current WR2 overall was a late eighth-round pick in the final week of fantasy drafts (per FF calc) and looks like one of the year's great bargains.
From plucking a ball behind him on a crossing route to flashing his speed in the open field, Hogan is developing into not only a complete receiver but a more explosive crutch for Tom Brady than Julian Edelman. He'll likely never provide Edelman's volume, but Hogan is averaging 12.5 yards per catch — Edelman's career mark is 10.7 — and is just two touchdowns shy of matching Edelman's career-high (7 in 2015).
Hogan has nine red zone targets, trailing only Larry Fitzgerald among NFL receivers. He'd already attracted two more than Gronk through the first four games, and it's encouraging to see Hogan again find success in that part of the field despite Gronk's absence obviously freeing up defensive attention. New England was just 1-of-3 in the red area on the night, but that's not for Hogan owners to be concerned with.
Tom Brady likely woke up as soar on Friday as he's been since January after the Texans playoff game, as he absorbed three sacks and six quarterback hits from the Bucs. But the Patriots earned a victory they had to have, playing immensely improved pass 'D' in the process, with Hogan again starring.
Brandin Cooks owners may be feeling some envy after they spent a premium pick on the Patriots burner only to see Cooks get out-targeted in three of the past four weeks. Standard league Cooks owners shouldn't be as concerned as Mike Gillislee owners. Cooks is on pace for a career-high 1,212 receiving yards, albeit on just 55 catches. But Gillislee now has just one touchdown since his hat trick to open the season, during which time Hogan is settling in as the short TD scorer (average of 6.4 yards per touchdown).
Hogan again reminded us Thursday night of what a tremendous bargain he was this summer, but the Bucs may have a few on their hands, too.
Cameron Brate's hands weren't up to par last night, but he still found the end zone for the third consecutive outing and ninth time in the past 12 games dating back to last season. Brate should've had a much bigger night than his five grabs for 68 yards and a score. He dropped a second would-be touchdown and had a 16-yard catch called back due to one of O.J. Howard's two penalties on the same drive.
That the game ended with Jameis Winston jawing at Howard (zero catches) for not turning around to locate a potential game-winning score just magnifies the gap between the rookie and Brate, who went undrafted in most leagues this offseason.
But perhaps the biggest positive to come from the Bucs' loss — even beyond holding Brady's Patriots to 19 points without their top two linebackers and safeties — was the excellent debut by Doug Martin. Returning from his four-game suspension, Martin clearly was as fresh and explosive as any player on the field.
After turning just 13 carries on 26 snaps into 74 yards and a score, Martin should see his role increase significantly as he gets his legs underneath him. Dirk Koetter likes Charles Sims in a change-up role, but Martin has excelled on passing downs in the past and could be tough to keep off the field when he's showing the type of juice he did last night.
Koetter showed late last season, when Martin and Sims were sidelined, a willingness to ride a three-down back. Heck, Jacquizz Rodgers averaged 18.5 touches in each of Tampa's first two wins this season, after averaging 25 touches from Weeks 5-8 last season. But Rodgers is at just 3.9 yards a carry and Martin's return (5.7 last night) comes at a critical time for the NFL's 25th-ranked ground game, set to battle stout Arizona, Buffalo and Carolina defenses the next three weeks, respectively.
Some forward-thinking Martin owners may be mulling sending out a few trade offers today in light of Tampa's grueling upcoming schedule. But Weeks 9-14 (Saints, Jets, Dolphins, Packers and Falcons) look as welcoming as Weeks 6-8 do daunting; we'd ride what appears a promising Martin wave (or is it hamster wheel?) as long as possible.