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2020 NFL Draft prospect profile: KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State

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Hamler has game-breaking potential, but will his size hold him back?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 30 Rutgers at Penn State Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2020 NFL Draft is absolutely stacked with wide receiver talent. There are receivers to fit every team and scheme in the League, and it seems as though everywhere you look there’s another receiver starter potential.

That’s good news for the New York Giants who could stand to add another receiving threat to help open up their offense. Most of the focus has been on the bigger receivers, to find another outside receiver to compliment their selection of slot receivers. However, one of the most dangerous receivers in the draft is also one of the smallest players.

Penn State’s KJ Hamler might not have tested at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, but nobody who has seen his tape needs a stopwatch to know that he has afterburners on his feet. Could the Giants use his explosive speed to help open up the rest of their offense?

Prospect: KJ Hamler (WR, Penn St.)
Games Watched: vs. Pittsburgh (2019), vs. Michigan (2019), vs. Minnesota (2019), vs. Memphis (2019)
Red Flags: ACL (2017)

Measurables

Stats

Games Played (starts): 26 (26)

Receptions: 98
Yards (YPC): 1,658 (16.9)
Total Touchdowns: 14 (13 receiving, 1 rushing)

2019 Stats

Games Played (starts): 13 (13)

Receptions: 56
Yards (YPC): 904 (16.1 per catch)
Total Touchdowns: 8 (8/0)

Quick Summary

Best: Agility, Speed, Explosiveness, adjustments
Worst: Size, catch consistency
Projection: A starting slot receiver with scheme versatility.

Game Tape

Full Report

K.J. Hamler possesses exceptional quickness, agility, explosiveness, and speed for the wide receiver position.

Hamler is a rare athlete for any position, showing a good, sudden release off the line of scrimmage. He wastes no time or movement getting into his routes, but does a good job of varying the tempo of his route stems to throw off defenders’ timing. Hamler has the ability to make quick, sharp, crisp breaks at any point in his routes, and his respect for his raw speed allows him to both sell double moves and to create separation out of his breaks.

Hamler shows rare speed and acceleration in the open field, allowing him to run away from defenders with minimal separation. He shows a good ability to track the ball in the air and was frequently used on “spot” throws where he was asked to run down balls thrown vertically.

Penn State’s offense also manufactured touches for Hamler with receiver screens, or as a ball carrier out of the backfield or on sweeps.

Hamler is also a tenacious blocker in the run or screen game. He is very willing to engage with bigger defensive backs, and shows good technique to gain inside leverage while.

Hamler’s lack of size and mass are his biggest limitations. As a receiver he can get bullied in press coverage or at the catch point by physical corners. Likewise, while he is a feisty blocker, he struggles to sustain blocks once a bigger defender decides to shed him. Hamler also shows inconsistent hands which could lead to turnovers in the NFL. His hands aren’t small, but he has a tendency to “basket catch” rather than extend, frame, and pluck the ball with good technique.

Overall Grade: 6.6 - Has the traits to become a dependable starter early in his career and should immediately be an important contributor for any team that drafts him. An early Day 2 value. [Grading Scale]

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EQRRZM3WAAErALK?format=jpg&name=medium

Projection

K.J. Hamler projects as a starting slot receiver at the NFL, with the versatility to be a dangerous weapon in any scheme.

Hamler played outside in college, but the NFL will likely view him as a slot receiver. Offensive coordinators will want to compensate for his lack of size by lining him up off of the line of scrimmage and away from press-man coverage. The slot is a natural fit considering his size and the fact that slot corners are rarely a defense’s best coverage player. He could also be considered as a Flanker, particularly if the opposing defense doesn’t have the athletes to match up with him.

Hamler’s impressive quickness, acceleration, and speed make him a mismatch as soon as he gets into his route, but his slight frame makes it easier for defenders to knock him off his route at the start of the play. Hamler is more than just a vertical threat, and has the ability to be dangerous on short and intermediate routes as well. His ability to stretch the field as well as create big plays on slants, screens, or crossing routes should appeal to any offensive scheme.

Coaches will also like the competitive toughness he shows as a run blocker, though they should scheme to have his block be the difference in a running play’s success.

Hamler should spend time polishing his route running, as he has the quickness to turn his routes into legitimate weapons to create separation. He will also want to spend time with the jugs machine, working on his hands. Hamler has big hands for his size and flashes the ability to pluck the ball out of the air, but his technique is very inconsistent. That could, perhaps, be a function of inconsistent quarterback play, but it is still something he needs to work on to be successful at the NFL level.

Schemed correctly, Hamler has game-breaking potential in the same vein as Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs or Marquise Brown of the Ravens.