One of the most under-appreciated components of football in today’s game is the role of which special teams serves. It can be the difference between a win and a loss in the National Football League.
I believe the Pittsburgh Steelers need to re-evaluate their special teams return specialist after the 2019 NFL season. Clearly, Ryan Switzer is not the answer going forward for our return unit. Switzer has averaged just a mere 3.6 yards per punt return, while his longest return on the year was just 13 yards long. The North Carolina product has also been minimized on kickoff returns averaging 18.4 yards per kick return with 26 yards being his longest return.
Diontae Johnson looks naturally comfortable in the role of punt returner since taking over for Ryan Switzer. However, I find there is a much more suitable player for the Pittsburgh Steelers to add over the course of the 2020 off-season. It just so happens, he was a former teammate of Benny Snell at the University of Kentucky.
Kentucky’s star wide receiver
Lynn Bowden Jr. has been one of the most electrifying, and versatile athletes in college football since becoming a vital part of Mark Stoops squad last year. Bowden was used as the Wildcats number one receiving option, and their return specialist in 2018. During his breakout season, Bowden compiled a total of 67 catches for 745 receiving yards. Five of his receptions resulted in touchdowns. Imagine what stats he could put up with a true pocket passer such as Ben Roethlisberger.
Lynn Bowden’s punt return statistics would turn out to be the analytical data that really caught my eye. On just five punt returns Bowden had a total of 146 total punt return yards. That would give the Youngstown, Ohio native an average of 29.2 yards per punt return in 2018. Not to mention, Bowden took two returns all the way to the house. Those two returns for a touchdown would end up tied for most in the NCAA in 2018. Returning two out of your five punt return attempts is quite the impressive stat-line to have.
Lynn Bowden’s 2019 college football season
Kentucky’s starting quarterback Terry Wilson went down earlier in the 2019 college football season with a torn patellar tendon. This left knee injury ended his year after playing in just two games.
Swayer Smith served as the Wildcats new starting quarterback until he began to struggle for the team mid-year. This is what led to Lynn Bowden Jr. converting from a play-making wide receiver to an option threat quarterback. Bowden finished his regular season(12 games) with the following stats below.
|2019 Total Rushing/Receiving Statistics: Lynn Bowden Jr.|
|Yds||Yds per catch/rush||TD’s|
|2019 Total Passing Statistics|
|Yds||CMP %||TD: INT|
The Paul Hornung Award
After everything Lynn Bowden Jr. has done for the Kentucky Wildcats this season, he is now a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award. This award recognizes the most dynamic players in college football today. Past winners include NFL stars such as Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, and Odell Beckham Jr.
I believe Bowden is the front runner following his latest matchup against the Louisville Cardinals. He finished with a total of 284 rushing yards, and 4 touchdowns.
The Pittsburgh Steelers need Bowden’s versatility
If the Pittsburgh Steelers were to draft Lynn Bowden Jr., they will have acquired one of the most lethal playmakers in the entire 2020 draft class. Bowden would be an instant upgrade compared to Ryan Switzer and would be a dangerous return man for years to come. There is also a chance, Lynn could develop into a nice wide receiver in the league.
No matter what, the plethora of ways to use Lynn Bowden Jr. should be attractive enough for teams to take a chance on the young receiver out of the University of Kentucky.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers were to draft him, look for the team to select him between rounds 3-5. Let’s hope they pull the trigger and do select Bowden. Mike Tomlin’s team desperately needs help with their special teams play.