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Hamler promises to be a productive speedster for the Broncos

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At 5-foot-9, the former Penn State wide receiver is not the ‘prototypical’ wideout. It hasn’t been a problem.

Penn State v Maryland Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

John Elway always likes to choose the best player available, so you just hope that aligns with team needs as well.

And after the Broncos picked their second-round choice at No. 46 - wide receiver KJ Hamler from Penn State - the “need” was revealed.

A need for speed.

Hamler, a 5-foot-9, 176-pound speedster, likely just took the Broncos’ third wide receiver spot. And after Denver took super speedster Jerry Jeudy in the first round, the addition of Hamler - coupled with current WR1 Courtland Sutton - makes the Broncos’ wideout roster highly enviable.

Add in last year’s first-round pick Noah Fant plus Drew Lock’s favorite college TE target, Albert Okwuegbuna, picked today, and this offense is one big stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.

But if Hamler was a surprise pick to many Broncos fans - many of whom were looking for an offensive lineman or cornerback at that second-round slot - he was not a surprise to John Elway and Vic Fangio.

“Hamler was a target for us in the second round because of his is explosiveness and speed, he’ll be able to really stretch the field for us,” Elway said, adding that he felt like the offense “needed another speed guy.”

“He’s very, very explosive, really can run and has big play ability. A guy like as Vic would say, scares the heck out of defenses,” Elway said. “Plus, he has the ability to run routes, he’s quick, he’s tough and again you can go back and say he is a great returner.”

And that’s what the Penn State road runner plans to be for his new team.

“I think I bring to the table speed, quickness, playmaking ability,” he said in his first NFL press conference. “I’m versatile, I can play outside and I can play in the slot. I can return kicks and punts. I’m a playmaker.”

The only interaction the Broncos had with Hamler before drafting him was a FaceTime from wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni, who had also recruited Hamler. But the Penn State wide receiver will be joining some familiar faces as he reconnects with former Nittany Lions teammate DaeSean Hamilton as well as Jeudy, who he played with on his team for The Opening, a football camp for high school recruits.

Elway did address the issue of drops, acknowledging that Hamler had more than usual last season. But the GM and head coach believe those to be “concentration drops,” not iffy hands.

“It’s not because he doesn’t have good ball skills...he’s got just the concentration drops, which are the easy drops that you don’t concentrate looking in,” Elway said. “We felt those are things that are very obviously coachable. He’ll be on that jugs machine as much as all of those guys.”

Hamler isn’t happy with his eight drops last season either, as he told The Athletic. He’s been working on that.

“My hands last year, I’m not proud of it,” Hamler said. “I think, for me, it was a lack of focus, lack of concentration while catching the ball. I would always turn my head and try to get upfield before even securing the ball. The most important thing on the field is the ball. Basically, just focusing on that, focusing the ball all the way into the tuck, I’ve been working on that.”

Although Hamler didn’t run the 40 at the Combine because of a slight hamstring injury (that he assures Broncos Country is better now), he believes he would have “been in the conversation” for 4.2.

That’s fast.

And though Hamler has been hearing his whole life that he’s small for this sport, he doesn’t care because it hasn’t been a problem for him. During the 2019 season, the sophomore wide receiver/kick returner/punt returner had 56 catches for 904 yards plus eight touchdowns.

“I’ve been an underdog my whole life, so being in this situation right now and being part of the Broncos organization is amazing,” he said. “I’m going to give them 150 percent, 24/7, 365. That’s me.”

From Pontiac, Michigan, Hamler is proud of his hometown but knows that not a lot of big names come out of that area, and he plans to change that.

“Not a lot of people from where I’m from make it or do anything good so I wanted to be a positive influence for Pontiac itself. I’m putting on for my city,” he said. “The ‘dog’ mentality is something I do on and off the field. I don’t take anything from anybody. I don’t back down to anybody. It’s like a David and Goliath story. I’m the smallest guy, the smallest frame, but I’ll give you everything I’ve got.”

At the NFL Combine in February, he said as much to all the scouts and coaches listening.

Elway and Fangio apparently heard him.

“You don’t see a lot of guys my size making plays,” Hamler said then. “I’m not your typical receiver, 6-5, 230 pounds, but I can prove (it) in other areas with my speed, quickness, hands and elusiveness, so I think those are advantages.”