The New England Patriots always seem to be ahead of the curve, a step ahead of the rest.

When Bill Belichick snagged Chris Hogan from Buffalo last year, some may have wondered what he had in mind. Why get another guy who’s just like the rest? Why get a player so similar to Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola?

Let’s just call it a slick and savvy move, and not just because Edelman’s been lost for the season with a torn ACL.

Hogan is ready to have a great year, and that may have happened regardless of what took place with Edelman on Friday night in Detroit. But with Tom Brady’s go-to guy now sidelined, Hogan is primed to step into the spotlight and be that next guy to emerge.

Hogan has the versatility to do many of the same things as Edelman. We’ve already seen it during training camp, joint practice sessions with the Jaguars and Texans, and preseason games. Tight end Dwayne Allen calls Hogan, “Mr. Perfect,” and Brady is certainly in need of someone with that moniker.

For his part, Hogan already has started planting the seed that he’s not only going to be a go-to guy for Brady, but the next star of this offense.

Hogan, 28, has made himself a dependable target, and his chemistry with Brady has stood out since the beginning of training camp. He’s qualified to be the bailout guy on third down, that clutch chain mover, and someone you need to get open in a pinch.

Let’s remember, no one thought Wes Welker could be replaced in 2013, but Edelman unexpectedly came on like a freight train, and since then has been Brady’s most reliable and clutch offensive threat.

Now it’s Hogan’s time to take the baton and shine. He certainly stood out Friday night in the aftermath of Edelman’s season-ending injury. He had four catches for 70 yards and a pair of touchdowns, all in the first half.

The four catches clearly demonstrated Hogan’s versatility and ability. The first was a red-zone touchdown reception of 7 yards, showing he can finish a drive in a tight setting. The second was a 32-yarder down the left sideline in which he essentially won a jump ball with Lions defender Evan Lawson and came down with the grab in the end zone.

On his third catch, he bailed out Brady. With the Pats’ quarterback scrambling on a rollout, Hogan, who was moving deep down the sideline, sensed the trouble, and – probably hearing Brady’s shouts – rerouted his way back to catch a 6-yard delivery. On the next play, Brady hit him on the fly on a crossing route for a 25-yard gain.

There’s no question he and Brady are clicking right now. They’re in a good groove and there’s no reason to believe that won’t carry over into the regular season.

“Chris does a great job. (He’s) in shape, works hard, puts the team first, good in the kicking game, blocks, runs after the catch, catches the ball, makes tough catches, smart. A lot to like about Chris,” Belichick said of Hogan.

“He’s earned everyone’s respect as far as day-to-day attitude, performance. Has a lot of toughness.”

Last year, after Edelman (38 times), it was Hogan (12 times) who was most targeted by Brady on third down.

That number should rise this season.

Obviously, Brady and Rob Gronkowski already have a special connection. It would be foolish to think Brady won’t rely on his tight end with Edelman down, and Gronk surely will get plenty of looks, particularly during critical moments when the games count.

But opposing defenses also know all about that history. Without Edelman they’ll focus more on taking out Gronk, trying to neutralize the Pro Bowl tight end with double teams. That kind of coverage opens things up for Brady’s other receivers.

Likewise, Brandin Cooks’ speed is likely to warrant a good share of double teams, garnering the most attention of opposing defenses.

Especially without Edelman around, Hogan is going to be in prime position to take advantage. Brady certainly will find him in a pinch.

Last year the former lacrosse star broke through with a career-high 680 receiving yards and four touchdown catches, but he was only scratching the surface.

He was immense in the AFC championship game, with nine catches for 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Steelers, and followed with four catches for 57 yards in the Super Bowl.

Just like Edelman, Hogan can be used in the slot if needed, but really, he can be a little bit of everything.

He’s tough, gritty, clutch, smart, and heck, while he might not have been a college quarterback, he also can throw the football if the need arises.

So, right on cue, it’s his time. It’s going to be Hogan’s year.