Before General Manager Mike Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden submitted the Las Vegas Raiders' No. 80 overall pick for Lynn Bowden Jr., I truthfully didn't know who he was; however, I saw a clip circulating on social media prior to the draft of a high school punter returning a botched snap 108 yards for a touchdown, unaware of who the spinning and weaving playmaker was.
Blown away by the amount of broken and missed tackles, I continued scrolling through Twitter amazed at what I had just seen, and curious who the player was. Come to find out later, the punter was Lynn Bowden Jr., one of the newest members of the Silver and Black.
Whether he was playing punter in high school, or running back, wide receiver, and quarterback in college at the University of Kentucky, Bowden's athleticism and versatility was one of his biggest talking points among spectators, which is why the Raiders spent a third-round pick on him.
Bowden played at Kentucky for three years and amassed 4,956 all-purpose yards and 24 touchdowns. According to his former head coach, Mark Stoops, he's one of the best Wildcat's to ever suit up and he couldn't be happier about where he's headed.
"I think for Lynn to be out in Las Vegas with the Raiders organization moving to a new city, a new stadium, I know there will be lots of excitement out there when they get going and Lynn will help and he'll contribute to that organization, and to that excitement," Stoops told reporters on a conference call Monday morning. "I know some guys on their staff very personally and closely, and they're excited about having him. Very proud of Lynn, he's come a long way, that's been well documented. One of the best players to ever wear the blue and white, and he'll do a great job in the NFL. We're excited for him."
At Kentucky, Bowden grew a lot on and off the field, and Stoops believes he'll continue to do so with the Raiders coaching staff. Both Gruden and special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia know Stoops personally, and have formed a close relationship through the years. During the evaluation process, Stoops and the Raiders were in frequent communication, and says Bowden will have plenty of people to lean on when he gets to Las Vegas.
"I think he'll be a great fit," Stoops said. "The fan base will be energized by him and he'll feed off that. I think Coach Gruden is a good fit for Lynn because I know [Jon] and I think the way he can relate to Lynn and help him to continue to grow is important. Richie Bisaccia the special teams coordinator and I go way back, and know each other for a long time. Richie is another [coach] that will be a great mentor for him. I think he'll be a guy Lynn can lean on."
Friday night, after the Day Two of the draft ended, Mayock shared with reporters that the Raiders' plan is to use Bowden as a running back, which he did a little at Kentucky, but not a ton unless it was a direct snap. Bowden's primary function was as a receiver, but his versatility, once again, is one of his biggest attributes. When asked how the 2019 recipient of the Paul Hornung Award will impact the NFL, Stoops referenced the 2020 College Football Playoff Champion, and how the Tiger's versatility helped them win a title.
"It can create a lot of problems, you saw that last year with LSU and what a great job they did at using their running backs at the receiver position," he said. "It puts a lot of stress on defenses and they did a remarkable job. I know Coach Gruden will have his ways to use [Bowden], but I think that's the first thing you think of. If they're going to use him primarily at running back they can put him in motion or line him up at returner. He can do a lot of things and that's what we had hoped moving into the draft, that Lynn's versatility would help him and I think it did."
Moments after receiving some of the best news of his life, Bowden hopped on a conference call to field questions about being drafted by the Raiders. When one reporter asked if his versatility and inconsistency at one specific position hurt his draft stock, Bowden said, "No. I like to win games."
We can focus all we want on Bowden's athletic gifts, but Mayock and Gruden see more than the obvious. They see a player who's passionate about the game and willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
With the 80th pick overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders select running back Lynn Bowden Jr.