Last offseason, the Denver Broncos surprised a lot of people by double-dipping at wide receiver in the first two rounds of the draft. A year later, Kahlee Jacoby Hamler finds himself looking back at a decent rookie year- and looking forward to a potential breakout season in 2021.
Let’s wish Hamler a Happy Birthday as well, as the speedy wideout turns 22 today.
K.J. Hamler’s profile
Weight: 178 lbs
Age: 21 years old
Hamler is very much in the mold of the small, fast, shifty slot wide receiver. With fast breaks and great long speed, he’s a modern deep-threat who helps open up the field and creates opportunities for other receivers and tight ends even when the QB isn’t throwing the ball his way.
The Broncos likely got a steal when they picked Hamler up with the 46th overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. An untimely hamstring injury denied him the opportunity he otherwise would have had at to show off his likely 4.2X 40 yard dash at the Combine, preventing him from rising higher in the draft.
That has turned out just fine so far, however, as Hamler managed the 12th most receptions, 14th most yards, and 9th most TDs among rookie wide receivers in 2020. Those are pretty decent marks for a guy who was WR3 on a team handicapped by bad QB play- especially in a historically talented class of rookie receivers.
In addition to his speed, Hamler boasts excellent field vision and high agility. He excels at changing direction and faking out opposing coverage players, often winning reps with a combination of that agility and good technique. Great short-area quickness and great long speed are a deadly combination in the NFL, and not many players have both to the degree Hamler does.
Hamler’s lack of size is likely his single biggest hindrance as an NFL receiver, and competing physically against press coverage or when lined up outside can be a challenge for him. It also makes him a less than ideal jump-ball receiver, although his athleticism somewhat makes up for that. The same can be said in regard to Hamler as a blocker. Success for him in that regard is usually more about scrappiness than physical dominance.
Drops are the other notable problem area. Going back to his college play, Hamler has had good but not great hands. He spread 7 drops across the 2020 season, though fortunately with only 1 multi-drop game: the week 10 loss in Las Vegas. He’ll want to push that drops number as low as possible going forward if he wants to expand his target share.
K.J. Hamler’s roster status with the Broncos
Hamler has a roster spot absolutely locked down this season. The real question is: Where on the depth chart- and the targets priority order- will he end up? With Courtland Sutton returning, Jerry Jeudy also looking to make a year 2 leap, and Tim Patrick coming off of a very strong year, Hamler has no lack of competition in the receiver room. And you can add to that the presence of Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam at tight end, and rookie Javonte Williams bringing an infusion of receiving ability at running back.
Denver has more highly talented receiving options than they could possibly stuff onto the field at one time. That means that not everyone will get the chance to fully utilize their abilities. It’s going to be a fight for snaps, and for targets, and to be honest- Hamler is at a bit of a disadvantage. He’s going to have to work his butt off if he wants to be a top 3 receiving option for whichever QB lines up behind center in 2020.
Long term, Hamler should see more opportunities once Tim Patrick gets paid elsewhere. But I’m left wondering if he’s going to end up in an Emmanuel Sanders career arc: good but under-used as a Bronco, and then great in another team’s uniform.