Rod Smith Reveals why Broncos' Rookie WR KJ Hamler is a 'Game-Changer'

KeithCummings

Most folks in Broncos Country are extremely high on John Elway’s 2020 draft class, which was top-loaded in consecutive rounds with potentially game-changing wide receiver talent. First-round pick Jerry Jeudy’s ability to run super tight routes and Velcro hands distinguish him as an excellent complement to the size and strength of Broncos' WR1 Courtland Sutton on the other side.

On Thursday, Broncos' Ring-of-Fame Rod Smith joined Phil Milani of the team site to dissect the abundance of wide receiver skills the team has added to its offense. After studying the tape of second-round pick KJ Hamler, Smith's hot take should provide another jolt of optimistic energy to Broncos fans.

“I don’t know what he runs the 40 in, but I can tell you it’s extremely fast," Smith told Milani. "So, those guys are game-changers in the NFL just now, that smaller receiver in the slot. I was like, 'Man, we’ve got one.'"

Some draft experts have criticized Elway for reaching too early when he used the No. 46 overall pick on the Penn State play-maker. Such draftniks have cited the concentration issues that led to an inordinate number of dropped passes in college, and perhaps even more damaging, Hamler's relative lack of size at 5-foot-9 and only 176 pounds.

As the Broncos' all-time leading receiver, Smith knows a thing or two about playing the position. One of the few undrafted receivers to eclipse the 10,000-yard mark during his prolific career, the NFL veteran of 14 years and back-to-back World Champion brings a unique perspective to analyzing the Broncos' new blood at the position. 

While many analysts feel Hamler’s more diminutive stature could well be his Achilles heel at the pro level, Smith sees it as being a tangible advantage.

“That’s it, that’s his advantage," Smith said. "He is smaller. If you notice while I was telling how to play smaller, you got DBs who are bigger, stronger…and these guys got good footwork as well. But he can get underneath them. What I mean by underneath them, playing with strength, playing with power. And like I say, his stride is perfect, man. He has the perfect stride for running routes. Getting in and out of cuts, he’s got that wiggle.”

Smith is excited about all the physical tools that he's seen on Hamler’s game film from college which could well make him Drew Lock’s home-run threat this coming season if things pan out. Putting that explosive package into a polished and savvy receiver is the task at hand for Broncos' WRs Coach Zach Azzanni. 

The onus, obviously, is on Hamler to develop but his coach will have a significant impact on how quickly that happens. With his speed being so dangerous, Smith stressed the importance of Hamler consuming chunks of yards first before they turn into long balls.

“When he catches the ball in space, for him, the thing is going to be, 'Hey, get up there get two more, get five more, get seven more'. And if they absolutely miss, it’s gone,” Smith said. 

Elway has retooled the Broncos' receiving corps in recent times with both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders jettisoned in back-to-back years. Even with the arrival of new options to replace them, Smith highlighted Sutton as the man who must step up to become the veteran voice in the WR room.

“As the leader of that group now, because he is—we are not paying him to just catch passes anymore," Smith said. "He has to step into that leadership role of that group." 

Long have the Broncos searched for a genuinely game-altering receiver who can flip the field on one big play. Smith finished off his discussion with Milani by giving props to the Broncos' front office for being bold and aggressive in equipping the new offense with explosive talents like Hamler and Co.

“Shout out to the organization for bringing in the guys that you brought in " Smith said. "The scouting department with [Director of Player Personnel] Matt [Russell] and [GM] John [Elway], and all those guys said, 'Hey, listen, we are on the hunt to win now; let’s go and get the talent to do it.'” 

It's going to be fun to see how all these pieces fit together. 

Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithC_NFL and @MileHighHuddle.

Comments (17)
No. 1-13
Waltm6$6
Waltm6$6

The more I watch Hamler’s tapes the more I feel he is a great addition to the offense

Protectyrqb
Protectyrqb

I hope he does better than Eddie Royal. He needs to do some heavy eating and powerlifting the squats to improve his power and burst! Anybody can do it!

Pmanningsir1
Pmanningsir1

Coaching matters, it's not talked about much but the coaches are under pressure to develop him to where he has the impact and be the dangerous weapon he has the potential to be.

Jimrichard
Jimrichard

Eddie Royal was actually one of the better of the small fast guys the Broncos had compared to the real busts which are many. Everyone points to Tyreek Hill but he is more the exception than the norm. Everyone seems to be ready for Hamler to fail, but maybe he will be exceptional and prove us wrong. Even if its a shorter career it might help the other receivers get open.

BeGoodBroncos
BeGoodBroncos

Guys gonna be a stud. Broncos are a Dynasty in the making. Our Glory days will be back soon :)

Nick Kendell
Nick Kendell

Editor

Really love the Hamler pick, probably my favorite of the draft

Thomas Hall
Thomas Hall

If he can hold up he can be a good one!

Erick   Trickel
Erick Trickel

Editor

If he can catch the ball, he can be a major threat, but that is a huge concern due to bad hands and bad catching technique.

Arctic Bronco
Arctic Bronco

KJ is instant excitement with the ball in his hands. He missed a couple of years with a knee injury so it seems like he still has lots of room for skill development.

KeithCummings
KeithCummings

A lot of pressure will be on KJ cos of going at 46 overall. He clearly has the tools but needs to get working hard on watching the ball into his hands before he turns upfield.

kormathaw1
kormathaw1

I am excited to see if KJ can live up to his potential to be the Broncos next Mark Jackson, Eddie Royal, Emanuel Sanders, or better. But what I am more impressed with is his personality and leadership. In interviews, you can already see that if he can produce, he will be an emotional leader on the team.

Lance Sanderson
Lance Sanderson

Even despite getting Jeudy, my no. 1 WR in the class, I'm probably more excited about the potential that Hamler brings to the offense. Finally having an elite speed threat that can still route decent routes over the middle of the field is going to open things up so much for the offense.

Grapplerr87
Grapplerr87

Eddie Royal is a good example of of what Hamler could be. Royal was injured throughout his career and never met expectations, but the game has also changed and now smaller, fast, slot guys are being utilized better throughout the league. I truly hope he can stay healthy and become one of the game changers we need.


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