After taking Henry Ruggs III in the first round, it was no surprise that the Las Vegas Raiders dipped back into the wide receiver well in the third round given the depth of receivers in this draft and the team’s desperate need for help. What was a surprise, however, was when they picked “wide receivers” at picks 80 and 81 — Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden and then South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards.
Three receivers in your first four picks? Huh?
Well, turns out they didn’t grab three receivers — they grabbed two and a running back, which brings us back to Bowden and the 2020 NFL Draft’s most interesting man.
For starters, there’s the backstory. This video from Kentucky does a great job of giving you context for Bowden and where he comes from:
And then there’s the tape. Oh yes, there’s tape.
In 2019, Bowden was awarded the Paul Hornung Award, which is granted to the nation’s most versatile player — which makes sense considering he finished the season as Kentucky’s leading rusher, receiver and their second-leading passer.
Yep, you read that right.
After injuries to Kentucky’s top two quarterbacks, Bowden asked to be given a chance to play quarterback — where he led his team to a 6-2 record in eight starts. What’s even more remarkable is that SEC defenses knew he was going to run the ball just about every time, and yet, he still ran for 1,369 yards in those eight games (171 yards per game).
By the end of the season, he led the SEC in rushing yards and rushing yards per attempt, despite gaining just 99 rushing yards in his first five games (you know, when he was playing receiver still).
“Bowden is just a guy you want to get the ball into his hands,” Thor Nystrom of Rotoworld said. “With his broken tackle rate, it’s hard not to think that (the transition to running back in the NFL) is going to work. What he did last year is unprecedented in modern, big boy football. He started out as an undersized slot receiver, then in the middle of the season they move him to quarterback and all these ridiculously talented defenses know you can’t throw and so they’re geared up to stop him and yet they couldn’t do anything.”
When I talked to Brett Kollman of “The Film Room” on YouTube, he made an interesting comp: Tarik Cohen.
“I expect him to get probably 7-9 touches a game, split between carries and catches, with most of his catches coming from the slot when matched up against linebackers,” he said.
Which brings us to Jon Gruden: the mad scientist who must have been losing his mind at the prospect of coaching Bowden.
“I have no doubt that you can be a great player,” Gruden told him when he called him to let him know they were drafting him. “I’m excited as hell. I’ve wanted to coach you since the moment I met you.”
Well, I actually wonder if it was the moment Gruden saw this:
The Raiders just drafted Lynn Bowden so it’s time to watch the high school video of the time high school punter Lynn Bowden took a bad snap for a 99-yard touchdown pic.twitter.com/q4ubTrDYjo
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) April 25, 2020
Or if you prefer the college version…
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) April 25, 2020
From the person to the player, the more I dig into Bowden, the more I see how perfect of a fit he is within the Raider offense. He’s not a 20-carry-a-game back (he doesn’t need to be), but he’s a guy that is lethal with the ball in his hands and who can do just about everything. Once they establish him as a guy who can take a carry, then they can split him out wide to create mismatches (I mean, he did have 114 catches for over 1,300 yards as a receiver in the SEC) or even just line him up in the wildcat.
All in all, sign me up.
If you enjoyed this deep dive, feel free to take a look at our previous ones: