As a senior at Louisville, Powell was named to the All-Big East Conference first team after rushing for 1,330 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 games for the Cardinals. On October 15, Powell ran for a season high of 209 yards and 2 touchdowns against Cincinnati. Prior to the 2011 NFL Draft, Powell was invited to the 2011 Senior Bowl.
Powell was drafted by the New York Jets in the fourth round with the 126th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. Powell made his professional debut on November 17, 2011 against the Denver Broncos. Powell would finish the 2011 season by playing in only 2 games. In those 2 games Powell ran for 21 yards on 13 attempts and 1 reception for 7 yards.
Bilal Powell in week one of the 2012 NFL season had 3 rushes for 10 yards and 1 reception for 16 yards in a 48-28 Jets win over the Buffalo Bills. Powell got his first start at running back on September 30, 2012 against the San Francisco 49ers. He rushed for only 11 yards on 4 carries in 34-0 Jets loss. On November 18, 2012 the Jets faced the St.Louis Rams. Powell had 11 carries for 42 yards and had 2 touchdowns along with 2 catches for 18 yards. For Powell, all of these were career highs.