PRO 2020 Rookie Spotlight: KJ Hamler, WR Penn State

Rookie Spotlight: K.J. Hamler, WR Penn State
Height: 5’ 8 5/8” (official)
Weight: 178 lbs (official)
Hands: 9 3/8”
Arm: 30 3/4”
40 yard dash: 4.27 (unofficial)
NFL Comparison: Keke Coutee, Marquise Brown

– creates separation at every level
– tracks ball well in air
– consistent vertical threat
– elite RAC
– track star speed
– asset on special teams
– sells routes well
– only 20 years old

– lacks physicality
– suspect hands
– durability risk, very small
– no combine SPARQ data

Scouting Notes: What’s most impressive about Hamler’s play (outside of his obvious speed) is his ability to use it to find separation at every level of play. One might expect a player of his less than imposing size and power to get jammed up at the line of scrimmage a lot, but Hamler is quick and shifty enough to get off clean most of the time. He regularly beat man and zone coverage alike against some of the nation’s top corners in the relatively short time he was at Penn State. Hamler is a dangerous vertical threat, who isn’t the most physical player and won’t always make the contested catch, but he tracks the ball well in the air and is an ace at catching the ball in stride over either shoulder in the mold of Hollywood Brown. Hamler is at his best after the catch, when he can turn on his elite speed in a blink of an eye to leave all defenders in his shadow. He doesn’t do a lot of dancing with the ball in his hands and doesn’t waste motion. He’s a smooth runner who can change angles without losing momentum. Hamler doesn’t look like he’s going faster than everyone else, so much as everyone else looks like they’re slowing down after him.

As a route runner, Hamler sells his routes well for someone so young and athletic. Oftentimes, really athletic players will forgo sharpness in their routes because they can afford to, at least in college. Hamler seldom falls into this way of playing, though he can drift at times. Drops were a problem for him at times, with 8 in 2019. I have to think quarterback error plays into some of those, as a lot of the great plays Hamler has on tape seem like the result of underthrows, but he will have to shore up his concentration if he wants to continue to excel in the pros.

The feather in Hamler’s cap is his kick returning prowess. He’s got joystick body control, and he even returned a ball 100 yards against Michigan, though it was called back for holding. As a blocker, Hamler does what he can and can slow a man down, but he’s not standing anybody up or setting up screens. You’re not drafting him to stalk-block. He’s about as tough as a guy his size is going to be, though.

Fantasy Outlook: There is little reason for Hamler not to be a coveted playmaker in this year’s draft, other than he’s a bit smaller than most of the top guys. That could work in his favor though, as the recency bias of having Marquise Brown and Mecole Hardman busted out last year may incline teams to look for guys like that – shifty burners who are hard to get a hand on. A lot of scouts are saying Hamler is best suited for the slot, and that may be the case, but he can probably play outside as well, with as easily as he beat man coverage at Penn. Hamler is young and has a lot to learn, but we like his chances of making a splash early in his NFL career. He’s a solid second receiver prospect to target in dynasty formats.

From the Penn State Athletic Department:


Career: 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…Ranks 16th all-time at Penn State with 1,658 receiving yards…Tied for 13th all-time at Penn State with 13 touchdown receptions…Ranks eighth all-time in kick return yards with 1,036…Ranks No. 15 on the career kickoff return list with a 23.55 average…Sits eighth all-time at Penn State wtih 44 kick returns…Passed the 1,500 all-purpose yard mark against Idaho (8/31/19)…Went over the 2,000 all-purpose yard mark at Iowa (10/12/19)…Surpassed the 2,500 all-purpose yard mark at Minnesota (11/9/19)…Became the 19th Nittany Lion to reach 3,000 all-purpose yards vs. Memphis (12/28/19)…Has 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).

Quotable from the Combine:

Hamler on how important it is to show he can play on the outside
“Very important. Me being a smaller receiver,, being very versatile is probably the main thing teams want to see. I primarily play in the slot, but I will play anywhere they need me.”

On difference between playing inside and outside from a technical standpoint
“ I think from an inside standpoint you can go, it’s a two-way go at all times, sometimes its harder to do that on the outside. That’s why I work on techniques and certain releases just to get yourself open and get a better release off the line.”

On what part of his game is being underrated
“Just because of my size. I’m light, I’m a smaller guy, my quickness, my agility, my dog mentality, being a playmaker. I get that a lot. I’ve been an underdog my whole life, so just going out there and proving something.”

On which NFL players he models his game after
“Most definitely DeSean Jackson. He’s been the player I’ve been watching since I was younger. I watch him, I watch Steve Smith, who played for the Carolina Panthers back in the day, so those are the two main guys I really watch.”

On if he keeps in touch with Miles Sanders
“Miles is really my best friend. We were roommates in college, so I always call him, he calls me probably every week or so. We keep in touch a lot. He tells me about the process and tells me to stay humble and keep grinding.”

On possibility of playing together in Philadelphia
“We always talk about it. That would be a fun adventure. That’s my guy. We talk about things like that every day. But the team that loves me and the team that wants me is going to get me.”

On if he met with the Eagles
“I actually meet with them tomorrow. Just waiting on that patiently and we’ll see from there.”

On keeping in touch with Chris Godwin
“Chris is a good guy. Just learning from him. I came in as a freshman but he was gone by then but we still keep in touch. Now he’s with the same agency I’m with. I for sure congratulate him on that. I’m proud of him. He’s a top guy in the league right now. Of course I look up to Chris Godwin.”

On his contested catch ability
“It’s most definitely something I need to work on, attacking the ball more. My small stature is probably the biggest thing that everybody‘s worried about. But I’m a playmaker, I can make plays whenever you need me to.

On taking the big hit as a smaller receiver
“Being a football player, you have to be smart. But when it comes down to it and you’ve got 3rd and 3 and you need to get the first down, you got to do what’s best for the team. It doesn’t matter what you have to do, you got to get it.”

On tracking the football
“Overall practice each and every day. My wide receiver coach Jared Parker helped me out with that and the rest of the receivers with that, just getting out to practice 15 minutes early, staying after practice 15 minutes later, just focusing ball drills, difficulty ball drills just to help us in traffic.”

On how playing in Beaver Stadium will help him transition into the NFL
“I would say it’s the same. A game is a game. Just because I’m not from the blue and white anymore, appreciate them and appreciate the fans for supporting me. But 110,000 compared to 70,000 in an NFL stadium is no different for me. It’s just another stadium, another game. It’s just on a different level.”

On if he met with the Bills and Buccaneers
“I met with them (the Bills) yesterday. I have not met with the Buccaneers”

On most important thing he can do to prove he is not just a slot receiver
“Unfortunately, I am not doing all the drills. I tweaked my hamstring during training camp. I will be doing bench press. So you guys are about to see how strong I am.”

On if he is running the 40
“I’m not going to run the 40. Like I said, I tweaked my hamstring. During training, I ran 4.27 when I tweaked it. I was going to run in 4.2 range and I wasn’t going to accept nothing less.”

On what allows him to excel as a smaller receiver
“I just think most likely from my playmaking ability. You don’t see a lot of guys my size making players as well. I’m not your typical receiver, 6’5, 230 pounds, but I can prove in other areas with my speed, quickness, hands and elusiveness, so I think those are advantages to me.”

On if he tweaked his hamstring this week
“No, a few weeks ago. I just wanted to be 110 percent healthy before doing anything possible.”

On if he’s running at his Pro Day
“Yes, sir.”

On if anyone in the league other than Chris Godwin reached out to him
“Yeah, DaeSean Hamilton, who plays for the Broncos and my godbrother is Devin Funchess, who plays for the Colts. He’s been in my corner since I was in third grade.

On what makes Yetur Gross-Matos so good
“Yetur is most definitely a freak of nature. You don’t see a lot of guys like him come out. I was blessed to play with him, great friend and he’s considered my brother. So just watching him grow from freshman year to now and we all grow as the same class has been a blessing.”

On which EXOS he is training at and his agent.
“EXOS Pensacola. Patrick Collins from CAA”

On advice Miles Sanders has given him
“He was saying stay focused, it’s a grind. Every day you gotta try to take another man’s job and just put food on the table for your family. You just have to take it serious. You’re not in school anymore, no class, all you have to do is focus on football.”

On the rookie success of Miles Sanders
“I was very proud. I think a lot of us were. A lot of people always had this cloud over his head about him playing behind Saquon, Saquon this, Saquon that, but he always wanted to be himself, he wanted to make a name for Miles Sanders. I’m proud that he’s doing really well and I’m blessed to be in this opportunity that he was in.”

On if he expected the early success from Miles Sanders
“Yes. We knew that since I came in freshman year.”

On best piece of advice Sanders gave him
“Stay hungry. That’s probably the main thing. Like I said, it’s a grown man’s sport. So, basically, you have to fight for another man’s job.

On what stands out about the depth at wide receiver
“There’s a lot of guys. There’s no guys slacking in this wide receiver class. I came out because I’m not afraid of competition, that’s just me personally. I just wanted to prove to myself and to everybody else that I can be in this league and I can play in this league for a long time. I just want to be the to the best of my abilities contribute to a good team and just go far from here.”

On what makes him stand out amongst the others
“I’m a dog. That’s just point blank, period. You don’t find a lot of people my size, doing some things that I do. Me personally, my playmaking ability, my dog mentality just stands out.”

On what he knows about the Bills
“I know they got John Brown. So I watch him a little bit. And just meeting with him, meeting with the wide receiver coach as well, it was a good experience talking to them and going over film, critiquing me and criticizing me, you have to be mentally strong for that type of stuff.

On type of dog he is
“Pitbull. Nothing else.”

On what Michigan means to him
“I left Michigan to go to IMG my senior year and it was mostly a business decision. It wasn’t to get more scholarships, it was more so for me to go against the best of the best 24/7 and just get prepared for college.

On using GPS at IMG
“It was real different. I never really experienced stuff like that until going into college. They’re tracking your heart rate, how fast you’re moving, how many miles per hour you’re moving. So just learning that every day, see if you can just get better and better and just beat that. So just knowing the sports science behind it was pretty cool.”

On if having the context of speed and space make him do anything differently
“We work certain drills with cones and just one-on-one spacing and one-on-one guys, so giving me space is probably the best thing for me.”

On how IMG helped get him where he is now
“Being at IMG was a great experience. I tore my ACL my senior year my first game. It was really a blessing. At that time, I got closer to God and he basically told me that this is an obstacle. He also told me that obstacles equals opportunities. He just told me this is an opportunity to get better at other areas that I didn’t know I could get better at. Everybody goes through adversity, so just hitting that adversity made me realize a lot of stuff about myself.

On what Pontiac means to him
“I’m from Pontiac, Michigan, so you don’t see a lot of people in my situation right now. Just having my parents by my side, keeping me in sports. If I wasn’t in sports, I don’t know where I would be today. So just having them on my side and in my corner and my coaches and people around me, so Pontiac means everything to me. I put on for the city, I love my city regardless and I’m blessed to be here.”

On potential of Pat Freiermuth and on the nickmake “Baby Gronk”
“We don’t really call him Baby Gronk. We kind of make fun of him for it but Pat’s a special guy as well. I haven’t talked to him in a few weeks but we always keep in touch. He’s going to be a great player this year. I’m excited to watch him this year and further on through his career.”

On role he sees himself playing in the NFL
“I see myself contributing to the team however I can. Wherever the team needs me at, wants me at, I’ll play whatever they need.”

On playing with Miles Sanders
“I would love to play with Miles. Like I said, I meet with the Eagles tomorrow, we’ll see what they say. I hope Miles put in a good word. But it would be a blessing to play with him. He’s one of my best friends, we stay in touch a lot. Just being blessed to be here and being able to talk to every team. It would be a blessing to play with him, but the team that loves me is going to be the team that picks me.”

On contact with the Lions
“I had an informal meeting with the Lions yesterday. We talked for a little bit. That went pretty good. I don’t know if I’m meeting with them formally or not yet. We’re going to have to see from there.”

On if he grew up rooting for the Lions
“I’m from Michigan, so you gotta root for the Lions, but I never really had a favorite team in the NFL.”

On if DeSean Jackson is still his favorite player
“Yes. Just because I think we’re similar. Small stature, he’s a deep threat, he can do everything on the field. So I think him and I are kind of similar.”

On key to separation
“For me, it’s just technique-wise. Just how your release is off the line, which way you should go. How could you break down a route. Speed cut or chop it down. Just depends on leverage of corners or what type of defense they’re playing. Coach Parker really helped me out with that, just understand the game and slow down the game.”

On element of his game that isn’t where he’d like it to be
“Most definitely my hands last year. I’m not proud of it. I dropped eight balls last year. A lot of teams know that by now. That’s why we were always 15 minutes early before practice. If you weren’t 15 minutes early, you were doing down-ups and nobody wanted to do that. He had us focusing on ball-focusing drills and I think, for me, it was a lack of focus, lack of concentration while catching the ball. I would always turn my head and try to get upfield before evern securing the ball. The most important thing on the field is the ball. Basically just focusing on that, focusing the ball all the way into the tuck, I’ve been working on that from offseason until now.”

On if he met with the Steelers
“No, sir.”

On the potential of the wide receiver class as a whole
“It’s a grade-A potential wide-receiver class. You’ve got a lot of big-name guys, a lot of guys coming here to take another man’s job. Like I said, you gotta come in here ready to work, always hungry. I’m always humble, cause there’s only 300-some of us here. There’s a lot of college players that didn’t get this opportunity. Just everybody here and all the wide receivers here, it’s a blessing just meeting new guys and be around new guys. Everybody’s going to compete. You just gotta be hungry for it.”

On if he models his game after anyone besides DeSean Jackson
“Not really. I just look at DeSean Jackson. I think me and him are similar. I’d love to meet the guy. I think he’s a great guy. So DeSean Jackson is probably my top guy.”

On his favorite route
“My favorite route is actually the slant. That’s just me personally. But I could also be a deep threat, same as him. I just love his playmaking ability. Whenever you need him to make a play, whether it’s on special teams or on offense, he’s going to do it.”

On why he likes the slant route
“I just like short routes and taking them long. That’s just me. I don’t necessarily like doing go routes, stuff like that. I just think actually being a technician and the route tree is the best thing.”

On if he feels he needs to improve his ball skills
“I don’t think my ball skills are a problem. I think that just me, lack of focusing is a problem. That’s why I said I’ve been working on that from the end of the season and through the season until now. Mainly focusing on the ball, securing it in through the tuck because the ball is the most important thing on the field.”

On what separates him from the other guys
“I think just my mentality, there’s a lot of big names here. I don’t think a lot of people know me yet. I gotta be grade-A in the interview room. I’m not that big in stature. But my mentality is just different. I come from a place where not a lot of people make it out either, working or sports, nothing like that. I’m blessed to be here and I’m ready to work.”

On where in Michigan he grew up
“I grew up on the south side, which is by St. Joe’s hospital. Silverdome got torn down and Pontiac has never been the same. When I get to that level, I just want to go back home and help people.”

On if he went to any games in the Silverdome
“I went to two games in the Silverdome when I was younger. I think it was Lions vs. Broncos and that was the first game my dad took me to. And it was Astroturf. I played on it as well through Little League. So I’m glad we got turf though.”

On the Little League team he played for in the Silverdome
“It was Little League, I played for the Pontiac Panthers.”

On if he got a hard time as a Michigan kid going to Pennsylvania and playing in the Big Ten somewhere else
“Not really. A lot of the best players in Michigan stay in Michigan. I chose a different route. I wanted to be different. I think I needed to get out of my comfort zone. I was committed to Michigan State for two years. I knew it was 35 minutes away from my backyard so I just didn’t want to go home and get into any trouble in Pontiac. Basically, I chose to be different.”

On using special teams as a selling point
“I think returning kicks and punts is very important. I’ve been talking to teams as well. If I can play gunner, I’ll play gunner. It’s really not a big deal for me. Anything I can do to contribute to the team is best for the team.”

On his ability to be versatile at the next level
“When I was in college, I didn’t really get a shot to play out wide much. I wanted to but they wanted to utilize me more in the slot to get on linebackers and nickel cornerbacks. But I can play anywhere you want. Basically, I’m ready to work. If the team has faith in me to put me outside, they’ll put me outside, but I primarily work in the slot. I’m happy to play in the slot but if they need to play outside, I will and there’s no doubt in my mind I can.”

On his meeting with the Patriots
“It was real good. It was a little different because there wasn’t as many coaches in there. There was only four. It was a little different than having 15, 20 people in the room and just a camera in front of your face. But they were really critiquing me on a lot of stuff. And you gotta take that criticism. This is a mentally strong process.”

On if he was intimidated by the meeting with the Patriots
“Not at all. Like I said, you’re just talking football. And I don’t think that’s hard for any football player here in the draft or outside of the draft. This is what we dream of, we love this sport. And if you don’t love this sport then I don’t know why you’re here. Basically just talking ball is an important key to playing football.”

On what will translate quickly and area he needs improvement
“Like I said, my speed and my dog mentality is never going to change. But like I said, just my hands and the concentration on the ball, focusing on the ball, not looking upfield before you have to secure the ball. Securing the ball and making sure the ball is only yours when it’s in the air is the biggest thing for me.”

On the toughest defensive back he faced in college
“Most definitely Jeff Okudah. Just doing a lot of studying on him, he’s a long guy, fast, very patient with his feet, technician guy, has good speed. Just studying him all that week vs Ohio State was pretty good. You learned a lot of stuff about him. Also with Shaun Wade as well. We knew those guys would follow me on the slot. I wanted them to put me outside, they didn’t put me outside. I was fine with that. We lost the game as you know but I think Jeff Okudah is the best opponent I went against.”

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