For skill position prospects, advanced stats like Breakout Age and College Dominator Rating are highly predictive of future NFL success. However, another statistical indicator of dynamic ability at the professional level is all-purpose college production in all three phases: rushing, receiving, and special teams. When a wide receiver earns college carries, it shows the coaches wanted to get the ball in his hands and let him make a play. The same goes for when a player earns opportunities returning punts and kicks.
Julian Edelman transitioned into a Hall of Fame-level slot receiver after playing quarterback and returning punts in college at Kent State. Additionally, Curtis Samuel turned into a legit NFL receiver after playing H-back and tallying over 700 yards receiving and 700 yards rushing in his final college season at Ohio State. Two 2020 NFL draft prospects whose advanced stats and metrics fit them into the all-purpose profile are Memphis’ Antonio Gibson and Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden.
Antonio Gibson, Memphis
Antonio Gibson began his collegiate career at East Central Community College (Mississippi). As a freshman, he scored 10 touchdowns in 10 games and saw action as a rusher, receiver, and kick returner. His junior college production earned him an opportunity at the University of Memphis, where he had a quiet 2018 season behind NFL backs Darrell Henderson and Tony Pollard. Gibson had a truly historic senior season in 2019 once he had the backfield to himself. Since 2007, only eight other players have eclipsed 350 rushing yards and 750 receiving yards in a single collegiate season. Six of those players have at least been interesting, if not extraordinarily productive at the NFL level, including: Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, Charles Sims, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, and Curtis Samuel.
Gibson was dynamic in the kick return game in 2019, averaging 28.0 yards on 23 returns. His true coming out party though, where he put all his skills on display, was against SMU. Gibson scored three touchdowns, each a different way: one rushing, one receiving, and one on a kickoff return. Gibson led the Tigers to victory, becoming the only player since 2000 to exceed 90 yards rushing, 130 yards receiving, and 150 yards on kick returns in a single game. He’s currently a Top-10 running back in PlayerProfiler’s Dynasty Rookie Rankings, propelled by his 12.70-percent (88th-percentile among qualified running backs) College Target Share. Grab Gibson now, before he takes a flamethrower to the Combine.
Lynn Bowden, Kentucky
Lynn Bowden was a star dual-threat high school quarterback in Ohio. He went to Kentucky as a four-star wide receiver prospect. During his transition to wideout, he primarily contributed in the kick return game in his freshman season. He showed enough to earn All-SEC Freshman team honors as a return specialist. Bowden had a sophomore breakout campaign in 2018 and posted a 20.9 (40th-percentile) Breakout Age. He accounted for over 36-percent of Kentucky’s receiving yards and also returned five punts for the Wildcats. He took two of the punts to the house for touchdowns, one against Missouri and the other against Penn State in the Citrus Bowl.
Through his first four games as a junior, Bowden averaged over 96 yards combined rushing and receiving. He appeared to be progressing as a receiver. However, after an injury to starting quarterback Sawyer Smith in game five, Kentucky inserted Bowden as a dual-threat quarterback to try and save their season. The decision paid dividends as he flourished and led the SEC in rushing with 1,468 yards. Don’t be deceived by his 26.3-percent (40th-percentile) College Dominator Rating. He is a nightmare for defenders in open space and that should continue at the next level. Already a Top-20 wide receiver in PlayerProfiler’s Dynasty Rookie rankings, look for Bowden to rise after he obliterates the Combine.