KJ Hamler not only will contribute at wideout for the Denver Broncos but also as a return man. He was electric at times last year for Penn State. Here are Hamler’s odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year as well as the Broncos’ over/under win total.
After selecting Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, they decided to double down on the position by selecting Penn State’s Hamler with their 46th overall selection in the second round.
In his redshirt freshman season in 2018, Hamler set the Penn State freshman record for all-purpose yards with 1,417, topping the previous mark of 1,237 set by Saquon Barkley in 2015.
Last year, Hamler had 56 catches for 904 yards and eight scores. The yardage total was 10th in school history. His 1,586 all-purpose yards were also 10th. The TD catches were 11th best. He surpassed the 1,000-receiving yard mark for his career against Maryland (9/27/19), becoming the 33rd Penn State player to reach the 1,000-yard receiving mark.
Hamler ranks 16th all-time at Penn State with 1,658 receiving yards. He tied for 13th all-time at Penn State with 13 touchdown receptions and ranks eighth all-time in kick return yards with 1,036. He became the 19th Nittany Lion to reach 3,000 all-purpose yards vs. Memphis (12/28/19). Hamler finished with 33 catches of 20 or more yards (16 in 2018, 17 in 2019), 14 catches of 30 or more yards (6 in 2018, 8 in 2019), eight catches for 40 or more yards (3 in 2018, 5 in 2019) and four catches of 50 or more yards (1 in 2018, 3 in 2019).
Hamler is an explosive but extremely undersized (5-foot-9, 178 pounds) receiver who has drawn Tavon Austin comparisons due to his small frame, terrific speed and versatility. Hamler’s hands are an issue (nine drops last season), but he figures to be busy as a slot weapon (89% slot last season), returner (81 combined kick and punt returns at PSU) and rusher (13 carries in 2019) in Denver.
His explosiveness is needed in the Broncos’ offense, which tied for 17th in the league in pass plays of at least 30 yards last season. Here is what Broncos General Manager John Elway had to say about the Hamler selection during his press conference after day two of the 2020 NFL Draft.
“Obviously with Hamler, 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. 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. We’ll have to go back and see how much he does return, but he does have that ability. He’s a tough guy for his size. He’s a guy that can really run and that’s why we’re excited about him.”
While some analysts feel Hamler’s more diminutive stature could be his Achilles heel at the pro level, former Broncos legendary wideout Rod Smith sees it as being a tangible advantage. Hamler is breathtakingly fast — many teams considered him among the fastest player on the draft board this year.
“That’s it, that’s his advantage,” Smith said. “He is smaller. If you notice while I was telling how to play smaller, you got DBs who are bigger, stronger…and these guys got good footwork as well. But he can get underneath them. What I mean by underneath them, playing with strength, playing with power. And like I say, his stride is perfect, man. He has the perfect stride for running routes. Getting in and out of cuts, he’s got that wiggle.”
Though Hamler didn’t run at the 2020 NFL Combine because of a tweaked hamstring, he said he previously posted a 4.27-second 40-yard dash. Once he reaches full speed, he’s hard to catch up to. During a 100-yard kick return against Michigan, the Broncos timed Hamler in one 40-yard stretch and clocked him at 3.93 seconds.
Denver opens the season on Monday, Sept. 14 at home vs. Tennessee.