By Alex Kurpeski
Miami Dolphins’ running back Lynn Bowden has had a very interesting rookie season. Drafted by the Raiders in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the rookie never even saw the field for Las Vegas before they shipped him off to the Dolphins in August. It’s rare to see such a high draft pick traded so early in their career, particularly one like Bowden, who had yet to appear in so much as a preseason game.
Though he’s been quiet for most of this season, Bowden stepped up in a big way for the Dolphins this past Sunday, hauling in seven of his nine targets for 82 yards. This performance came on the heels of an impressive game against the Bengals, during which Bowden caught four passes for 41 yards. With Devante Parker and Jakeem Grant likely out this week in a must-win game against the Patriots, Bowden may be the Dolphins No. 1 receiver moving forward. However, for fantasy football enthusiasts, Bowden may be the ultimate league-winner, as well.
Bowden’s path to the 2020 draft was rather unorthodox, as he was actually the starting quarterback for Kentucky during his final season with the program. Forced into action following an injury to Terry Wilson, Bowden’s dual-threat abilities opened up the Wildcats’ offense, as the converted receiver ran for over 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns. An incredibly explosive athlete with great receiving chops, the Raiders brought Bowden in as an RB/WR hybrid — though we never got to see how they planned to use him due to the hasty trade to Miami.
Bowden never got a chance to work out for teams, though his game tape and his larger frame (5’11, 205 lbs) drew comparisons to Deebo Samuel, who shined as a gadget player for the 49ers in 2019. There isn’t a ton of Bowden’s tape to analyze besides what we saw against the Bengals and Chiefs. Against Cincinnati, Bowden created 52 yards on his five touches, looking like an explosive weapon for the Dolphins and earning more opportunities with this performance. As we see below, the team drew up a variety of touches for Bowden out of the backfield, while also using him as a slot target.
Lynn Bowden is definitely the Dolphins “RB” to play tomorrow (if any)
He created 52 yards last week on just 5 touch opportunities, 3 of which came in the first quarter
MIA’s in for battle and will need to attack the exposable KC front-seven on the edges to create offense pic.twitter.com/n8qMwbjIT5
— Kev Mahserejian (@RotoSurgeon) December 12, 2020
Against Kansas City, Bowden saw a 71% snap share — split between RB/WR — and a 78.5% route share, to go with his 18.8% target share. As we see in the mashup below, the Dolphins drew up a number of plays with Bowden in mind, including a pass play that didn’t quite work out. Bowden is clearly a check-down receiver as of right now, but in PPR leagues we can’t afford to discriminate against points.
.@miamidolphins rookie WR @lynnbowden_1 had a big day on sunday catching 7/9 targets for 82 yards. bowden led the team in targets (tied), catches, & REC yards–and is quickly emerging as one of @tua's favorite targets.
here's a look at lynn bowden jr. vs. KC. #finsup
— josh houtz (@houtz) December 15, 2020
I loved this play in particular. Bowden’s route is nothing special but he makes his defender miss with a slippery little cutback, demonstrating a bit of that running back ability after the catch. If he can do this consistently, Bowden will have a long and productive NFL career.
Fun watching Lynn Bowden in Week 14. Glad he finally got his shot
•played on 59 of 83 snaps
•46 slot snaps
•13 wide snaps
•0 backfield snaps
•9 tgt, 7 rec, 82 yds
— Matt Gajewski (@Matt_Gajewski) December 15, 2020
Bowden is a true wild card — which adds both excitement and fear to the idea of starting him this week. In a small sample size, Bowden has gained 2.12 yards of separation per-target, a mark that would put him in the top-ten among qualified receivers. He’s lined up in the slot for 45% of his total snaps this year, seeing a 21.4% target rate when he’s on the field. Bowden’s hog rate of 14.3% suggests that Miami will look to target him early and often this week — assuming he starts. His 44% snap share at running back this week was the highest he’s received by a wide margin. With Myles Gaskin (Covid) and Salvon Ahmed (knee) likely out this week, Bowden has a chance to see some carries as well. Suffice to say, everything is trending up Bowden following several months of inactivity.
If you’re in a pinch at running back this week, feel free to throw Bowden into your lineups, as he’s eligible for both WR and RB despite having lined up mostly out wide for the Dolphins this year. If his stream of targets from Sunday’s loss to Kansas City remains steady, Bowden could be a great play in PPR formats. Heck, if you’re desperate enough throw him in as a WR3.