The 2020 NFL Draft offers a vast, and incredibly deep, array of offensive talent at the skill positions. As NFL teams actively look to stockpile fire power — in order to keep up with the growing trend of explosive offenses — they typically seek value in the middle rounds, hoping to unearth an overlooked gem. This piece takes a closer look at Kentucky’s do-it-all weapon and NFL Draft prospect Lynn Bowden, an offensive juggernaut and a potential gem who’s poised for a long and prosperous career at the next level.
Arriving at Kentucky
When Bowden committed to the University of Kentucky, he was touted as the nation’s most dynamic talent.
Lauded as a four-star prospect by most recruiting sites, Bowden’s elite athleticism and positional versatility on offense made the 6-foot-1, 199-pound dynamo a highly coveted prospect; Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Indiana, and Nebraska were some of the other schools hoping to land the Youngstown, Ohio native.
Fresh off a remarkable senior season at Warren Harding High School — a year in which he threw for 1,366 yards, rushed for 2,277 yards and produced 57 total touchdowns — Kentucky opted to use Bowden as a wide receiver and return specialist.
Playing in 13 games as a freshman, Bowden hauled in 17 receptions for 210 yards and returned 37 kicks for 869 yards, including a 93-yard run against Vanderbilt. He also completed three of his four pass attempts for 92 yards. Bowden was named to the Coaches’ All-SEC Freshman Team for his efforts.
Bowden used his successful freshman campaign as a launching pad towards college football stardom the following season.
Playing in 12 of 13 games for the Wildcats, Bowden amassed 67 receptions for 745 yards and five touchdowns. His 67 catches were most by a sophomore in school history, and most in a season since Randall Cobb’s 84-catch season in 2010. In addition to his breakout receiving total, he also carried the ball nine times for 36 yards, returned 25 kicks for 539 yards, and returned five punts for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Bowden was one of three players in college football to have two punt return touchdowns.
SEC coaches and Athlon Sports rewarded Bowden with second-team All-SEC honors.
Bowden’s Last Stand
Going into his junior season, Bowden’s name appeared on the Paul Hornung and Biletnikoff Award watch lists. The Hornung Award is given to the most versatile player in the country, while the Biletnikoff Award is reserved for the best receiver in college football.
Expected to entrench himself as one the premier pass catchers in college football, injuries to Kentucky’s first and second-string quarterbacks weeks into the season prompted a change of plans: Bowden would take over as the starting quarterback and guide Kentucky the rest of the way.
Kentucky’s new dual-threat passer completed 35 of his 74 pass attempts for 403 yards, with three touchdowns and three interceptions. Bowden did his most damage on the ground, however, carrying 185 times for 1,521 yards and 13 touchdowns. He added 30 receptions for 348 yards and a touchdown, returned nine kicks for 229 yards, and ran back four punts for 53 yards.
Bowden’s standout performances in 2019 came against Arkansas and Louisville. In a clash with the Razorbacks, Bowden completed 7-of-11 pass attempts for 78 yards and a touchdown, but it was his 24 carries for 196 yards and two touchdowns that was the difference in the 24-20 conference victory. In the season finale against Louisville, Bowden set an SEC record for most rushing yards in a game by a quarterback, carrying 24 times for 284 yards and four touchdowns. Bowden was named a consensus All-American, earned first-team All-SEC honors, and was presented with the 2019 Paul Hornung Award.
He closed out his college career with a touchdown pass in the waning seconds of the 2019 Belk Bowl, to give Kentucky a come-from-behind victory. He completed 6-of-12 pass attempts for 73 yards, including a touchdown and an interception, and carried the ball 34 times for 233 yards and two touchdowns in the victory.
Lynn Bowden NFL Draft Outlook
Bowden is one of my favorite prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft. Electric with the ball in his hands, he is a threat to find the end zone from anywhere on the field.
Bowden served as Kentucky’s quarterback for much of the 2019 season, but that likely won’t be his primary position in the NFL. While Bowden would be a dynamic running back at the next level, I liken him to former Wildcat Randall Cobb, who too began his college career as a quarterback at Kentucky; I believe Bowden will follow in his footsteps. Though he isn’t nearly as polished of a route router as Cobb was when he left school, Bowden has a chance to become an instant impact player at the next level.
Bowden is an intriguing playmaker that possesses outstanding change of direction, vision, and elusiveness in the open field. His quarterback background should enable him to have a leg-up on his competition in regards to understanding the various route concepts, depths, and spacing on the field. Look no further than the success that Greg Ward, a former quarterback for the Houston Cougars, is having as a wide receiver for the playoff-bound Philadelphia Eagles.
Bowden’s quickest way to a roster spot, however, will be on special teams. Returning two punts for touchdowns on just nine career attempts, Bowden has demonstrated the impact he can have with minimal touches. He will need to test and interview well during the pre-draft process, but given the spread offenses that have become so prevalent in today’s NFL, players like Bowden will be at a premium. I currently have a third-round grade on Bowden.