Despite the Denver Broncos having a less-than-stellar 2021 season, the fans got to see glimpses of young talent that look to have promising upsides. Javonte Williams bowled his way through defenders and Pat Surtain locked down wide receivers. Williams and Surtain are likely to continue to surge upwards in productivity in 2022. But is there a player whose name is flying under the radar and who could make a huge impact in 2022?
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Broncos X-Factor To Emerge In 2022 NFL Season
KJ Hamler spent his collegiate years playing at Penn State as a wide receiver. In his freshman year, Hamler was forced to redshirt after suffering a torn ACL before the season. During his next season, Hamler finally broke out. He was given Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors after a game versus Ohio State in which he had four receptions for 138 yards and a 93-yard touchdown. Hamler recorded 13 receptions for 308 yards and four touchdowns in the span of five games. In his final collegiate season, Hamler ended the season with 56 receptions for 904 yards and eight touchdowns.
At 5-foot-8, Hamler was seen as being a bit undersized before the NFL Draft. Despite his height, his insane speed stood out, especially when returning punts and kickoffs. In college, he averaged 23.5 yards per return. He really caught the eye of the Broncos with a kickoff return versus Michigan in 2019. While the play was unfortunately called back because of a holding penalty, Hamler went end zone to end zone with the ball and was clocked as running those 100 yards in a blazing 11 seconds:
— Kevin Boilard (@KevinBoilard) October 20, 2019
Despite the injury history, Hamler's elusive speed was something the Broncos felt they just couldn't pass on. The Broncos drafted Hamler in the secone round of the 2020 draft.
Hamler showed promise in the preseason, especially when used in the slot. The Broncos didn't have much going on offensively due to poor quarterback play and coaching, so all the wide receivers on the team ended the season with mediocre stats. Hamler finished his rookie year on injured reserve following a hamstring injury, but he had 30 catches for 381 yards and four touchdowns.
Heading into 2021, Hamler had an exceptional training camp and preseason. He was even listed by PFF as one of the best second-year performers through the preseason. He seemed to have a knack for breaking off huge plays and using his speed to separate easily from defenders after the catch. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL in late September and was placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season.
It's unfortunate for Hamler that injuries have really weighed down his first two seasons in the league. When healthy, he has shown just how fast and shifty he can be. John Elway probably grew tired of watching Tyreek Hill torch the Broncos for years, so he drafted Hamler with the hopes that he could be that type of “burner” wide receiver.
If he can stay healthy, Hamler will greatly benefit from having Russell Wilson as his quarterback. Wilson used a similarly shifty receiver in Tyler Lockett while he was with the Seahawks, and the pair absolutely lit up the field. Once Hamler is deemed eligible to return from injury, hopefully he can stay healthy and help contribute as one of the many offensive weapons Wilson can choose from.
Denver is hoping to see much more of this from KJ Hamler
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) August 14, 2021
He just needs to get and stay healthy.