Jacob Dunne | May 6th, 2020
With the 46th overall pick in the NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos select Kahele Jacoby (K.J.) Hamler, wide receiver, Penn State. Having already drafted wide receiver Jerry Jeudy in the first round with the 15th pick, president/general manager John Elway took another wide receiver to surround Drew Lock and pro bowl receiver Courtland Sutton.
Heading into the draft, the Broncos desperately needed to upgrade their offensive line and wide receiver corps. The Broncos only took care of one of those needs with their first two draft picks.
Who is KJ Hamler?
Hamler was born and raised in Pontiac, Michigan. He was a two-year letterman and two-time state champion at St. Mary’s Preparatory School in Orchard Lake, Michigan before transferring to the famed IMG Academy in Florida for his senior year. Unfortunately, he would never play a down for IMG Academy. Hamler suffered a torn ACL during the preseason, which forced him to miss his entire senior season. Hamler received 27 collegiate offers including Michigan, Michigan State, and Oregon before committing to play for Head Coach James Franklin at Penn State University.
Penn State Years
Hamler immediately earned No. 1 wide receiving duties as a redshirt freshman at Penn State. On top of his starting role on offense, Hamler’s speed earned him kickoff and punt return duties. Here were Hamler’s receiving stats over the two seasons he played at Penn State:
- Freshman: 42 receptions for 754 yards and 5 touchdowns
- Sophomore: 56 receptions for 904 yards and 8 touchdowns
On top of balling out in the receiving game, Hamler averaged 26.2 yards and 21.4 yards per kickoff return during his freshman and sophomore year, respectively. Hamler was also a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile player in the country. Embed from Getty Images It wasn’t just Hamler’s playmaking abilities that helped Penn State on game days, but it was his leadership skills that head coach Franklin valued the most.
I really love K.J. in really every way. He’s awesome in meetings and the locker room. He’s a culture driver. Then, on the football field, he can change the game in a minute on offense or special teams. – James Franklin (Penn State Football Head Coach)
Franklin constantly praised Hamler for the enthusiasm and energy he brought to meetings and the locker room during his time at Penn State. His speed, production, and leadership skills earned him a Round 2 draft projection from NFL.com.
Much to the surprise of Broncos fans everywhere, Denver doubled up on wide receiver and selected Hamler with the 46th pick in the second round. With offensive linemen Josh Jones and Ezra Cleveland still on the board, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that Elway would shift his focus away from skill position players and draft one of those two offensive linemen. With zero centers on the roster and two shaky offensive tackles, Elway defied logic and took speedy wide receiver KJ Hamler with the 46th pick in the second round.
After watching that video, you can see why he’s referred to as the “Human Joystick“. Hamler not only creates separation with his elite speed, but he also uses his elusiveness and stutter step to blow past defenders. A hamstring injury kept Hamler from running the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, but that didn’t stop Elway from figuring out his 40 time. Elway discussed his method to Peter King of NBC Sports:
“He had a 100-yard kick return against Michigan, and so we just figured we’d time him [in a 40-yard interval] on that play. We timed him at 3.93 in the 40, but of course he had a running start. He just has a different speed than anyone else. This has become such a speed game. Watch Kansas City. We love Courtland, we love Jeudy. Get Hamler in the slot against quarters coverage, releasing upfield at 4.3 or 4.32 speed, and that’s going to put a lot of pressure on the safeties, I know that.”
The potential trio of Sutton, Jeudy, and Hamler was too tantalizing for Elway to pass up in the second round. Elway admittingly wants to emulate the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense, and he believes Hamler will be a matchup nightmare in the slot against quarters coverage.
It’s hard to blame Elway’s thought process behind drafting two wide receivers in-a-row. Being in the same division as reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, the Broncos need all the offensive firepower they can get. Hamler’s presumable 4.3 40 time speed in the slot should give the Broncos an advantage over most defenses. With Sutton and Jeudy occupying the X and Z spots on the field, Hamler should FEAST in the slot. Few slot cornerbacks can cover the speed that Hamler possesses. Hamler could quickly become Drew Lock‘s go-to guy on third downs. I envision most of his routes being short slants with hopes he can take it to the house with his elusiveness and speed.
Fantasy Football Implications
Hamler has WR4 dart-throw fantasy appeal heading into the 2020 Fantasy Football season. His value could inch towards WR3 status when the Broncos face-off against the Kansas City Chiefs, but his overall redraft value hinges on the health of Sutton and Jeudy. As long as those two are healthy, Hamler is nothing more than a dart-throw fantasy option next season. Dynasty owners should take a flier on him within the first 50 picks of their rookie drafts.
Hamler’s 2020 Projections: 52 receptions | 728 yards | 4 touchdowns
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images