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2020 NFL Draft Profile: Penn State WR K.J. Hamler

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An electric waterbug with the ball in his hands.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 30 Rutgers at Penn State
Hamler’s been compared to DeaSean Jackson, a player Shurmur coached with the Eagles.
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s no secret that the Broncos are looking to add speed and explosiveness to their offense in the NFL Draft. At his end of season press conference John Elway said it’s a priority, and yet Denver did nothing to bolster the receiving corps in Free Agency. In fact the Broncos added players at just about every other position of seeming need, which made the proclamation that BPA was the approach to the draft ring a little hollow. There’s a dire need for a playmaker.

Luckily, the 2020 NFL Draft looks like it could be historically deep at receiver. While there are more heralded pass catchers in the class and certainly bigger ones, few can match K.J. Hamler’s explosiveness. If Pat Shurmur and Drew Lock can get the ball in his hands, good things would happen.

There’s a reason Hamler’s been compared to DeSean Jackson. In a word, he’s a playmaker.

Scouting Report:

  • Elite athletic ability with elite agility, explosiveness, and sub 4.4 speed. It’s a true joy to watch how he moves through space with all his lateral mobility and start/stop acceleration.
  • Solid mental processing shows up in how he attacks DBs.
  • Solid competitive toughness, he’s scrappy like a mad chihuahua.
  • Elite jets off the line of scrimmage, playing off or soft against him will be a nightmare.
  • Elite separation quickness, few in the league will be able to stay on him long.
  • Displays an ability to maintain his speed throughout his routes thanks to low center of gravity.
  • Very good YAC player because of how quickly he can ramp up after the catch and his ability to elude defenders.
  • He should be able to screw up pursuit angles and coverage with how he plays with his pace.
  • Should be an appealing option for punt returns.
  • 5’9 and weighed in at the Combine at 178 lbs. Both marks are below the 10th percentile.
  • Marginal play strength, there’s no way around this.
  • Size will mostly limit him to slot duties in the league.
  • Average press coverage will probably mangle him at the line. Very inexperienced against it. Frame and play strength suggests this will be an issue.
  • Callow route runner who is still figuring out how to maximize his strengths.
  • Adequate hands, too many instances where he lets the ball into his frame to catch it. Displays issues tracking ball into his hands.
  • Small catch radius will impact ability to connect with him downfield.
  • 12 drops on 70 catchable targets in 2019.
  • Isn’t going to break many tackles, if he can’t dodge you he’s going down.
  • Tore ACL in high school.
Good luck sticking on Hamler in space.

What I’ve heard/read:

NFL Draft & Combine Profile - K.J. Hamler | NFL.com

Explosive slot target who hits the scales as a lightweight but could have heavyweight impact on games. Hamler’s blazing speed is used solo and in route combinations to stress secondaries and create big plays. He had an alarming number of drops in 2019 and the routes are ragged, but his athleticism and separation burst on all three levels helps mitigate those concerns. He’s a smallish slot who isn’t built for the tough yardage and could have durability concerns if he’s run into too many collisions. However, speed kills and his game-breaking potential on all three levels will be enticing as a high-risk, high-reward draft pick.

K.J. Hamler WR Penn State - Draft Player Profile | The Draft Network - Kyle Crabbs

KJ Hamler projects as a dynamic complimentary WR in the NFL. Hamler’s lack of physicality likely pegs him as a primary slot receiver, but there’s never been a better time to be a slot in the NFL. Hamler has the route running and run after catch skills to command a high percentage of targets in an NFL offense and his short area quickness will make him a handful to account for on routes run near the sticks. Still young and can afford to add a bit of mass but he’s got a clear path to impact.

K.J. Hamler WR Penn State - Draft Player Profile | The Draft Network - Benjamin Solak

K.J. Hamler is a solid Day 2 candidate for teams looking for an electric playmaker to add to their receiver corps, and is of even higher value to spread-oriented offenses that want a starting slot through whom they can funnel much of their base/series offense. Hamler is at his best in the RPO game, where he can win against leverage against conflicted overhang defenders, then beat second- and third-level angles and turn simple, install box-counting plays into chunk gains. Hamler is further a candidate for an increased downfield presence, as he has the necessary long speed, second gear burst, and route-running to separate and beat safeties’ angles. Hamler should be protected from press coverage early in his career, and may just end up a solid slot in the NFL — but as a young player who is still growing into his frame and game, Hamler’s development is conditional on improved releases against press, which will allow him to win from the Z alignment and become a field-stretcher. Hamler is a high-floor player because of his return/space ability, but should become more at the NFL level.

K.J. Hamler WR Penn State - Draft Player Profile | The Draft Network - Joe Marino

KJ Hamler is one of the most dynamic and electric offensive weapons in the 2020 class. His burst is off-the-charts and he’s going to be a difficult cover for NFL defensive backs. He complements his outstanding athleticism with good route running technique and he should have no issues creating separation at the next level. The challenge for Hamler in the NFL is his lack of size which creates restrictions on the field. The physical components of the game will be difficult despite his scrappy mentality and his catch radius is very small. In addition, Hamler’s hands need to improve and contested situations will be hard for him to find success in. Hamler has a chance to claim a starting slot receiver role early in his career while also handling punt and kick return duties. He may not be a complete receiver but the ways he wins are valuable and he presents a blend of separation skills and speed that should result in explosive plays in the NFL.

PFF Draft Guide - Mike Renner

Hamler is exactly where the NFL is headed at the receiver position. Separation is king and it’s damn near impossible to stick with Hamler. He’s more deployable as a weapon than true receiver, but there’s room for that in modern offenses.

2020 NFL Draft | Wide Receiver Pro Comparisons | Page 3 of 3 | Cover 1

KJ Hamler, Penn State – skill set of Travis Benjamin, athleticism of Percy Harvin Penn State slot receiver KJ Hamler has similar long speed and quickness as fellow prospects Jalen Reagor and Henry Ruggs, though he’s a bit smaller than each. Hamler’s juice allows him to separate both as a route runner and from incoming pursuit by defenders. That type of trait is shared by eight-year veteran receiver Travis Benjamin, who has accumulated production as both a receiver, runner and returner in his career. While they share some similarities, Hamler has a bit more bulk than Benjamin and is just slightly more gifted with the ball in his hands. Remember how dynamic Percy Harvin was when he was healthy? Hamler could approach that level of weapon for an NFL offense.

Penn State’s KJ Hamler Is The Most Exciting Draft Eligible Thrill Ride In America | The Draft Network

Hamler went 24 months (742 days, to be exact) between competitive football games before taking the field versus Appalachian State last season, so it’d be understandable for him to lack refinement as a route runner throughout his 2018 tape. Turn on the 2019 film and you’ll see a player starting to adopt the little things. There’s more controlled, subtle steps to pair with that explosiveness — looking as potent as ever. And then there’s the wiggle. Oh, the wiggle.

NFL Draft 2020: What PFF’s analytics say about wide receiver prospects - Bleeding Green Nation

For a team that suffered the highest frequency of deep ball drops like the Eagles, the proposition of adding Hamler to that mix is a risky one. Hamler let 12 catchable balls hit the deck in 2019 for a drop rate of 16.9% (t-321). Pair that with a below average contested catch rate of 36.4% and you can see why I’d be hesitant on adding the dangerous but inconsistent Penn State product.

Why he fits

1. The Broncos want to add a big play element to the offense. It’s really as simple as that. Outside of Henry Ruggs and Jalen Reagor, there may not be a better big play threat in this class than Hamler.

2. Pat Shurmur’s offense relies on receivers creating space for themselves in a way the Kyle Shanahan/Rich Scangarello passing game didn’t. Well, outside of Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb, there’s not a better separator in this class than Hamler.

3. Hamler’s game is often compared to DeSean Jackson’s, a player Shurmur saw up close on two separate stints with the Philadelphia Eagles.

4. In the modern NFL coordinators are far more open to meeting playmaking gadget players halfway with smoke screens, handoffs, and jet passes in order to get the ball in their hands in space.

5. Hamler could be hell on Shurmur’s patented slant fades and it’s easy to imagine the damage he could do on punt returns.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of math to figure out why the Broncos would be interested.

Getting Hamler in motion is an easy way to cause havoc for opposing defenses.

Final Thoughts

On my final receiver board I have Hamler as the second best slot receiver in this class behind LSU’s Justin Jefferson. While his hands and size bring a rather large element of risk, the upside may be worth the gamble at 46, especially if Elway has other plans for the Broncos’ first round pick and still want to add explosiveness to the passing game.

Poll

Do you want the Broncos to draft K.J. Hamler?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    Heck yes, he’s blue lightning!
    (300 votes)
  • 49%
    Hard pass on smol bois.
    (296 votes)
596 votes total Vote Now