Top Receivers in NFL Draft: Lynn Bowden

Bill Huber

With some parallels to Randall Cobb, Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden checks in at No. 14 in our ranking of the top receivers in the NFL Draft.

Before becoming a star receiver, Randall Cobb played quarterback as a true freshman at Kentucky in 2008.

After emerging as a star receiver at Kentucky in 2018, Lynn Bowden moved to quarterback halfway through the 2019 season after injuries sidelined the top two passers on the depth chart. He wound up winning the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player.

“I just wanted to win, for real,” Bowden said at the Scouting Combine. “We had the better chance at us winning with me at quarterback, so that’s what I wanted to do.”

Bowden was awful as a passer but electric as a runner, with his 7.9 yards per carry leading the nation. At the Scouting Combine, it was back to receiver, where he’s one of top slot prospects in the draft.

“We both are different people, but to be compared to him was something good,” Bowden said of Cobb. “It motivated me, because people had expectations like that for me. I just wanted to set the standard and raise the bar. I’ve talked to him a couple times. I met him my sophomore year. I think we were playing Mississippi State or something. I met him in the locker room. Good dude.”

Bowden caught 67 passes for 745 yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore in 2018. He caught 30 passes for 348 yards and one touchdown as a junior in 2019 before making the switch. The move stunted his growth at the position he’d play in the NFL, but scouts appreciated his selfless approach.

“They like it,” Bowden said. “They appreciate that I did that, that I was a team player first, that I didn’t think about myself.”

Beyond the basic numbers, Bowden was much better in 2018 than 2019. According to Sports Info Solutions, his catchable-catch rate was 92 percent and he dropped four of 86 targeted passes in 2018 compared to 79 percent and six drops in 58 targets in 2019. According to Pro Football Focus, his drop rate of 16.2 percent was the worst among our top 32 receiver prospects.

What we like

What he did as a runner last season was incredibly impressive. Whether it was elusiveness or toughness, Bowden was tough to tackle. It’s easy to see him as a part-time runner and part-time receiver, with the mere threat of the jet sweep forcing defenses to pause a tick. For his career, he averaged 22.9 yards on 71 kickoff returns and returned two of his nine punts for touchdowns. “Just put the ball in my hands and we’ll go from there. If they give me the first shot to touch the ball, just show them why Kentucky took a chance on me.”

What we don’t like

Bowden played quarterback in high school, too, so he’s relatively new to the receiver position. It’s easy to appreciate how he changed positions to help the team but it did his professional career no favors. As a receiver, his game not surprisingly lacks polish – a fact exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic that could rob him of the entire offseason. Plus, he dropped far too many passes.

Bill Huber’s Top Receivers

No. 1: Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy

No. 2: Alabama’s Henry Ruggs

No. 3: Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb

No. 4: LSU’s Justin Jefferson

No. 5: Baylor’s Denzel Mims

No. 6: Clemson’s Tee Higgins

No. 7: Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk

No. 8: Colorado’s Laviska Shenault

No. 9: USC’s Michael Pittman

No. 10: Texas’ Devin Duvernay

No. 11: Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool

No. 12: TCU’s Jalen Reagor

No. 13: Michigan’s Donovan Peoples-Jones

No. 14: Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden

No. 15: Florida’s Van Jefferson

SI.com: The New Receiver U.

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