2020 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: KJ Hamler, Penn State
With official looks at Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and all of the big-time running backs, we now have the luxury to start digging into the rest of a very talented pool of offensive skill position prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft. KJ Hamler is one of our favorites here at RotoExperts due to his young age, early breakout age and jaw-dropping physical tools.
KJ Hamler, just leaving future NFL DB’s in the dust pic.twitter.com/HVc52XKwHa
— Davis Mattek (@DavisMattek) February 18, 2020
This thread shows that while Hamler never even achieved a 1,000-yard season, he is the sort of Mecole Hardman-esque prospect that makes a team develop a plan for honing the immense physical talents that a player like Hamler has. The QB play at Penn State during Hamler’s time there was subpar (at best) and Big 10 football is generally lower-paced, lower-scoring and more run-heavy than Big 12 and SEC schools so we do need to remember that while evaluating Hamler.
2020 NFL Draft Scouting Report For KJ Hamler
Unlike many of the prospects in this class, Hamler actually did not play as a redshirt freshmen (though he was an early declare which is perhaps the most important signal that a wide receiver prospect can send about their future success). Hamler was a four-star recruit and probably a large reason why he did not play as an 18-year-old freshman was that he tore his ACL in his final season of high school. Forcing him to play on a non-fully recovered knee would have done more harm than good. He wasn’t on the same level of a recruit as CeeDee Lamb but not that far off from someone like Justin Jefferson.
Probably the first thing anyone noticed about Hamler as a player is that he was an extremely dynamic kick returner. In his first-ever game (as a 19-year-old), he had a huge kick return that set up Penn State for a game-tying drive. One of the things we know about prospects now that we didn’t five years ago is that kick and punt return production highly correlates to success at the next level because of the raw agility and speed needed to be successful on those plays. Hamler had over 1,000 kick return yards at Penn State while averaging over 23 yards per kick return.
As a 19-year-old redshirt freshman, Hamler lead Penn State in receptions, more than doubled up all of his teammates in receiving yards and finished second on the team in touchdowns. His 25% Dominator Rating at 19 qualifies as a breakout (by our thresholds, particularly because no one else on the team was close to him in yards) and Hamler accounted for 17% of Penn State’s TOTAL offensive yardage output in 2018. His age-19 season included a 4-138-1 game against Ohio State and 5-66-1 against perennially tough Michigan State.
KJ Hamler’s age 20 season, however, sent him rocketing up draft boards. With even more subpar QB play, Hamler registered eight touchdowns (most on the team), 31% of the teams total passing yards and accounted for 11% of the teams’ total plays on offense. Penn State went 11-2 and was theoretically alive for the college football playoff though it was never a serious possibility. Hamler was the best player on that team and showed it when it counted. He had 7-119 against Minnesota, 6-108-2 against Michigan and 5-57-1 against Michigan State.
Despite only playing for two seasons at Penn State, Hamler was productive, had a few signature moments and put together enough of a portfolio for us to think he projects as an above-average NFL wide receiver.
Projecting KJ Hamler In The 2020 NFL Draft
Part of the evaluation with Hamler is that we essentially know he is going to destroy the combine. Much like it didn’t matter for Marquise Brown that he wasn’t able to run at the combine, no one is thinking that Hamler doesn’t have A+ speed. For someone like Justin Jefferson or Denzel Mims, the combine is going to be huge. Hamler is going to run in the 4.3’s and post a sub 11.00 agility score. In recent years, we have seen the NFL favor that style of player (Mecole Hardman, Marquise Brown) over the giant, redzone threats (JJ Arcega Whiteside, Hakeem Butler).
The Rotoviz Box Score Scout comps for Hamler with a draft position 50 (halfway through the second round) are frankly, tantalizing. I came into writing this prospect report being interested in Hamler and am leaving it thinking he might be the best value in 2020 dynasty rookie drafts.
Those…those are some pretty impressive comps. Michael Thomas, Juju Smith-Schuster, Jeremy Maclin, even A.J Brown and Christian Kirk make the list. Of course, similarity scores are not gospel and the draft is still two months away from happening. We could be optimistic on just how highly Hamler ends up getting drafted. However, the sort of breakout production he had in a short time at a young age in a Power Five conference is remarkable.
The film grinders like him too! NFLMocks.com describes Hamler as “a highly athletic receiver who will primarily run out of the slot. With his dynamic ability in the open field and strong ability to create separation, he will be successful against man coverage where he can go one-on-one with a corner.” Ben Solak from the Draft Network thinks ” 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. “
The role for Hamler right away is going to be clear: run down the field and get past bigger, slower safeties. Much like Mecole Hardman and Marquise Brown were used situationally as rookies, Hamler can help an NFL team right away by simply creating more space. We are highly anticipating his eventual landing spot because I have a suspicion that he might end up projecting better than NFL Draft favorite Henry Ruggs III from Alabama.