KJ Hamler Not Just A Slot Guy (2020 NFL Draft)
KJ Hamler, Penn State
Weight: 178 pounds
40-yard dash: N/A
Vertical Jump: N/A
Broad Jump: N/A
3-Cone Drill: N/A
Hamler didn’t participate in many of the Combine activities due to a strained hamstring, which was a bit of a letdown considering he likely would’ve been in the upper echelon of athletes in the class. He’s a speedster who can be a handful to deal with at every level of the field due to his athleticism. We’ve seen plenty of players like him fail in the NFL due to durability and/or inability to overcome the physicality of the NFL, but is Hamler different?
While at Penn State, Hamler was used somewhat sparingly, as he totaled more than five receptions just four times in his two years there, which spanned over 26 games. That didn’t stop him from accumulating four games of 100-plus yards in 2019, highlighting his big-play ability.
Here’s my detailed scouting report on KJ Hamler (ratings out of five stars):
Played in the slot quite a bit for Penn State. He plays to his size, which is small. You must understand what he is and what he isn’t, which doesn’t offer much versatility. He didn’t have to face much press coverage while in the slot, could be an issue if a team moves him to a perimeter, but he may have enough shake/wiggle to get by. Still, he projects primarily as a slot-heavy receiver. He can help out on special teams, as he took part on 81 kickoff/punt returns in two years at Penn State.
RATING: ⭐⭐ 1/2
Route Running/Ability to Separate
Does a good job utilizing every part of his body to release off the line of scrimmage, which is needed for a player of his stature. Sells his routes well, stays low in the breaks. He allows defenders to knock him off his line far too often, particularly when he’s coming across the middle of the field. Twitched-up athlete who has wiggle to shake plenty of cornerbacks. His route-running combined with his speed is fun to watch.
RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
Has plenty of juice and it’s not just long-speed, either. If you don’t get your hands on him within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, he’s going to blow by you. Saw far too many defensive backs think they’d be able to simply turn and run with him, but none succeeded. He doesn’t take any time to ramp up speed, either, as it’s almost instantly. He eats up yards quickly and should be a field-stretcher in the NFL instantly.
RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
More of a body-catcher than a natural with his hands, doesn’t allow him to win very many contested catches. Lets the ball come into his body far too often. This is the part of his game that could hold him back from a big role, as he’s just not consistent enough in his ball skills.
Needs to get better at avoiding defenders in his path, or at the very least, stop coming back towards the line of scrimmage to avoid them, as it leaves him short of the sticks. He tracks the deep-ball very well but isn’t going to win very many contested catches, as he allows the ball to come into his body far too often.
RATING: ⭐⭐ 1/2
After the Catch
He has zero thickness to his build, so he’ll be tossed like a ragdoll if a defender gets his hands on him. The issue for most defenders is that they struggle to get hands on him. He has solid vision in the open field and his speed (that doesn’t require ramp-up) allows him to beat players to a spot, though he’s not as good as someone like Henry Ruggs in this department. No team will draft him because he’s a tackle-breaker, but rather because once he gets by you, there’s no coming back.
RATING: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
Projected Draft Spot
Hamler is a prospect where teams know exactly what they’re getting and it’s on them to find ways to get him on the field. There are plenty of teams who can use a field-stretcher, which leads me to believe he’ll be off the board by the end of the third-round. If the Saints pass on a receiver in the first-round, he could absolutely be the long-term answer to replace Ted Ginn. Other teams that should be interested include the Chargers, Bears, and Eagles.
When you have a speedster who’s undersized, most wonder if they’ll be able to win on the perimeter, and that’s precisely the case with Hamler. There were similar questions about Dede Westbrook, who plays in the slot the majority of time for the Jaguars. While I still believe Westbrook can be more than that, Hamler may have that opportunity depending on where he lands. Westbrook wasn’t as polished as a route-runner, but he has better hands than Hamler, and likely why he has the full-time role in the slot.
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