Broncos select Michigan natives KJ Hamler, Michael Ojemudia on Day 2
John Elway pledged to give Drew Lock more weapons and better protection in an NFL draft teeming with wide receivers and offensive linemen.
The Denver Broncos general manager provided Lock with with two terrific targets and added an athletic center through the first two nights of the NFL Draft.
Elway selected Penn State speedster KJ Hamler, a Pontiac native, with the 46th pick in the second round of the NFL Draft Friday night, 24 hours after using the 15th overall pick on Alabama standout Jerry Jeudy, the highest wide receiver ever selected by Denver in the common draft era.
In the third round, Elway added protection for his second-year QB by drafting LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry, who was named first-team All-SEC in 2019.
Elway didn’t neglect his defense, either, selecting Iowa cornerback Michael Ojemudia and Arkansas defensive tackle McTelvin Agim in the third round.
Elway has five more picks Saturday.
Ojemudia, a Farmington Hills Harrison product, will help fill the void left by the departure of Chris Harris Jr. to the Chargers this offseason, and Agim solidifies a refurbished defensive line that includes trade acquisition Jurrell Casey.
The jewel of Day 2 for Denver, though, was Hamler, who provides a jolt to the Broncos’ offense and special teams.
“I think I bring to the table speed, quickness, playmaking ability,” Hamler said. “I’m versatile, I can play outside and I can play in the slot. I can return kicks and punts. I’m a playmaker.”
Hamler, who is generously listed at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, is elusive with an uncommon burst of speed and has modeled his game after DeSean Jackson and Steve Smith.
The Broncos see him as a Tyreek Hill-type playmaker who can also serve as Denver’s kick returner and help the Broncos chase down Hill and the Super Bowl champion Chiefs in the AFC West.
Hamler wasn’t sure if Elway told him he’d also return kicks.
“I really couldn’t hear him just because my family was yelling and we were all crying,” Hamler said. “So it was kind of hard to hear him, but I hope he has that in mind. I would love to return kicks and punts.”
The Broncos’ once-formidable offense has been stuck in neutral for five years and last season Denver averaged a meager 17.6 points a game, 28th in the NFL, as their playoff drought reached four seasons.
A tweaked hamstring before the NFL scouting combine prevented Hamler from challenging John Ross’s record of 4.22 seconds set at the 2017 combine.
“I won’t say I think I was going to break the record, but I was going to be in the equation,” Hamler said. “I was going to be in the conversation – 4.2 was the only thing on my mind.”
He said his hamstring is fine now: “I’m fully healthy. I’m fully recovered. I’ve been running real good.”
Even though he’s undersized, Hamler stood out even in a class of wide receivers like none other.
Hamler said he was surprised when Elway picked him after spending his first pick on Jeudy, but he said he was eager to team up with Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and former college teammate DaeSean Hamilton in Denver, where he expects to quickly make his mark.
“I’m the smallest guy with the smallest frame,” Hamler said, “but I’ll give you everything I’ve got.”
Hamler was a standout at Orchard Lake St. Mary's, where he helped the team win back-to-back Division 3 state titles in 2014 and 2015, before transferring to Florida's IMG Academy for his senior season.
He was also recruited hard by Michigan State before he chose to go to Penn State.
"A lot of the best players in Michigan stay in Michigan," Hamler said at the combine. "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."
Ojemudia said facing the likes of Jeudy, Hamler, Sutton and tight end Noah Fant in his first training camp will microwave his NFL education.
“I mean, that’s going to be big,” said Ojemudia, who was a third-team All-Big Ten selection in 2019. “It’s going to be harder than the games sometimes.”
Detroit News staff contributed.