K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State
A hamstring injury kept Hamler out of the Combine. Penn State’s Pro Day was cancelled due to Coronavirus concerns, so we have no athletic testing on him.
Hamler was tabbed a 4-star prospect by most scouting services. But a 2016 torn ACL cost him his final high school season and had him redshirted for his 1st year at Penn State.
Hamler was clearly back to 100% in 2018, though. He burst onto the scene, leading the Nittany Lions in catches and receiving yards. He ranked 2nd on the team with his 5 receiving scores. The season included a big 4-138-1 line against Ohio State. Hamler’s market shares: 20.5% of the team’s catches, 26.6% of the receiving yards and 23.8% of the receiving TDs.
His 18.0 yards per catch ranked 19th in the nation among players with 30+ grabs. Sixteen of Hamler’s 42 receptions (38%) went for 20+ yards. He also scored a rushing TD and handled return duties, averaging 26.2 yards per kick return and 6.9 yards per punt return. The redshirt freshman was named honorable mention All-Big Ten as a receiver and returner.
Hamler remained Penn State’s lead dog this past year and boosted his numbers across the board. He accounted for 25.8% of the team’s receptions, 31.4% of the receiving yards and 32% of the receiving TDs. Those marks rank 13th, 10th and 12th out of 23 of this year’s top WR prospects. His 2.48 yards per route run was good for 13th among those 23.
Hamler added 43 more yards on 13 carries and averaged 21.4 yards per kick return and 5.5 yards per punt return. He was named 2nd-Team All-Big Ten as a receiver and honorable mention as a returner.
Courtesy of @WhatsOnDraftNFL
Games watched - Ohio State (2018), Idaho, Pittsburgh, Michigan, Minnesota
If he was healthy enough to run at the Combine, Hamler would have challenged Henry Ruggs for fastest WR in Indy. When he opens it up, it looks like someone hit the fast-forward button. That makes him a major weapon on both downfield shots and after the catch.
Hamler carries that speed through his breaks to create separation on short and intermediate routes. Pro Football Focus charted him with a step or more of separation on 64% of his targets 10+ yards downfield last year — the 4th highest rate in college football.
Hamler was almost exclusively a slot receiver at Penn State, playing 92% of his snaps from the inside over the past 2 seasons. That’s where he figures to play as a pro.
Hamler’s size is a real limiting factor, though. At 5’9, 178 pounds with 17th percentile arm length, he has a tiny catch radius. He’s not gonna win many contested balls and rarely makes a catch with a defender near him.
Hamler’s hands are also inconsistent. Per Pro Football Focus, he dropped 16 of 114 catchable targets over the past 2 years — a worrisome 14.0% drop rate.
Hamler’s size is a legit concern. There have only been 13 instances of a sub-180-pound WR posting 800+ receiving yards over the past 10 seasons. Five of those came from DeSean Jackson; John Brown and Jamison Crowder accounted for 2 each; and the other 4 were by Travis Benjamin, Anthony Armstrong, Cole Beasley and Andrew Hawkins.
Jackson — who was just 5’10 and 169 pounds coming out of Cal — is the optimistic projection for Hamler. Jackson has reached 120 targets in just 2 of 12 seasons but has still tallied 8 top-36 fantasy finishes.
Hamler is unlikely to ever be the focal point of an NFL passing game. And landing spot will be important. Ideally, he ends up with a play-caller who knows how to maximize his ability and with an accurate QB that can put the ball on Hamler’s number.
But that speed will certainly translate to the next level and gives him a shot to be a high-ceiling fantasy play.