By LARRY VAUGHT
During his time at Kentucky, Lynn Bowden was often compared to former UK star Randall Cobb — a comparison Bowden certainly embraced.
On Friday Bowden became the first UK receiver since Cobb in 2011 to be drafted when the Las Vegas Raiders took him in the third round.
Almost immediately Bowden, UK’s do-it-all player, drew comparisons to another player — New Orleans Saints backup quarterback Taysom Hill who did a little bit of everything for the Saints last year like Bowden did for UK.
Bowden doesn’t mind this comparison, either.
“Taysom Hill, he’s one that they always compare me to,” Bowden said after being drafted. “I’m happy about that. I feel like I’m going to wake the world up. It’s only a matter of time.”
Bowden was the 2019 Paul Hornung Award winner as the nation’s most versatile offensive player and a first-team All-American. He moved from receiver to quarterback midway of the season and was sensational running for over 1,000 yards and averaging 9.2 yards per attempt on third down runs.
He threw for close to 500 yards and three score. He returned punts for 1,628 yards and two scores. He had 1,303 career receiving yards and 1,528 yards and 13 scores rushing. He had eight running plays of 40 or more yards, second most of any player in this year’s draft.
Las Vegas general manager Mike Mayock does not look at Bowden as a receiver like many projected he would be in the NFL. Instead, Mayock says Bowden will be a versatile running back that coach Jon Gruden can use in a lot of imaginative ways. Rather than become a starter at one spot, Bowden likely will play multiple positions depending on matchups. Mayock said Bowden will return punts — a position of need for the Raiders.
“Ultimately he’ll probably be what we call a ‘Joker’ which I love in Jon’s offense. Somebody that’s able to do multiple jobs. But day one he’s going to come in and be a running back,” Mayock said.
“We can move him all over the place. In the SEC two years ago, he caught 60-70 passes in the slot. Last year he was the quarterback slash wildcat gaining over 1,000 yards. We think he’s one of the more athletic, tougher guys in this draft. We’re going to train him to be a running back and if he’s able to handle that job, we’ll be able to do some other things with him.”
That’s fine with Bowden.
“Whatever the Raiders need me to play,” Bowden said. “I am not sold on any position, and coach Gruden said we are going to do a lot of things.”
That’s basically what Bowden told me UK recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow sold him on about Kentucky. The first time I talked to Bowden in person was at the Ohio-Kentucky All-Star Basketball Game his senior year. He had played quarterback in high school but knew UK was going to use him at receiver. He didn’t care. He felt he could do both — and he was right.
Bowden was one of the more intriguing players I have watched play at UK but also never forgot the quiet confidence he had the first time I talked to him. He was not overly outgoing, but it was confident in his ability and didn’t hide that.
He played with a chip on his shoulder at UK to show coaches at Ohio State and other places that made a mistake passing on him because they worried about his academics and character. He’ll take that same attitude to the NFL to show while going in the third round of the draft is not a bad thing, he has playmaking ability he thinks merited a higher selection.