NFL Draft

2020 NFL Draft Player Profile: Penn State WR KJ Hamler

From now until the 2020 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

#1 KJ Hamler/WR Penn State – 5’8/5 178

The Good

– Game-breaking player, dynamic in the open field and routinely the fastest player on the field
– Great burst off the line, elite stop/start ability
– Strong route runner who creates space at top of route, uses head fakes and setups to lie to defenders, threatens vertical and gets on CBs toes to win underneath
– Tracks and adjusts to the ball in the air well
– Shows effort as a blocker, even if size hurts him
– Some versatility, played inside and out (mostly in the slot), used as bit-piece in run game on jet sweeps
– Big-play ability reflected in stats and production
– Experience in kick and punt return game with moderate production
– Young, developing player with room to grow
– Good hand size despite small frame (9 3/8 inches)

The Bad

– Small, slight frame without much muscle
– Size will create obvious durability concerns
– Struggles in contested situations and jump balls, too many drops and hands are below average, body catches too often and bobbles some grabs he should make with ease
– Didn’t have to face much press but likely will struggle in NFL with releases and had more issues as a route runner when faced with any type of physicality
– Predictably overpowered as a blocker and offers little in functional strength, though shows effort and works hard
– Production was good not great, more limited body of work as a two-year player

Bio

– 26 career starts
– Redshirt sophomore, only 20 years old (turns 21 in July)
– Career: 98 receptions, 1658 yards (16.9 yards per catch) 13 TDs, 1 rushing TD
– 23.5 career KR average (44 attempts), 6.0 PR average (37 attempts)
– Ran track in high school
– Missed senior season of HS with knee injury
– Four-star recruit coming out of school

Tape Breakdown 

Not gonna lie. KJ Hamler is a lot of fun to watch. He was literally the fastest player on the field in every game I watched and I wish he could’ve run the 40 at the Combine. It was going to be in the 4.3’s, maybe even high 4.2’s. His speed is absurd and he made big play after big play at Penn State.

Here’s a couple of them. Love this first one, simply outrunning the safety who had the angle. That is speeeed.

 

Hamler is also a twitchy route runner with ability to create space thanks to his nuanced route running and threat of speed. Watch him get on the CBs toes here to threaten vertically and letting him separate underneath. Really impressive.

 

Though there are fair questions about his hands, Hamler does a nice job adjusting to and tracking the ball in the air. His QB play at Penn State was less than stellar (his QBs each of the last two years completed under 60% of their passes) and he dealt with a lot of bad balls that hurt his chances and numbers.

Still, his hands aren’t great and he predictably struggles in contested situations. Can’t count on him to make every catch. Loses out this jump ball in double-coverage (that’s LB Josh Uche impacting this play, by the way). Play he should’ve made.

 

And here’s a couple of drops. Definitely struggles in contested situations and his hands will frustrate you.

 

His frame is of course a problem, especially for Pittsburgh, and there will be concerns over durability. He, like most college offenses, rarely saw press so he got to work with free releases and build up his speed with little resistance. The NFL is much different, presenting a new challenge and tougher projection for Hamler.

There’s a clear Tyreek Hill vibe here. But speed alone doesn’t guarantee NFL success. Hamler’s best home will be in the slot, winning vertical and allowing that open things underneath. Getting him in stacked releases to avoid press would be ideal and don’t count on him to help out as a blocker, though his effort there is commendable.

Projection: Mid Day Two

Games Watched: vs Ohio St (2018), vs Pittsburgh, vs Michigan, at Minnesota

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