The Baltimore Ravens and 31 other teams around the league passed on former Maryland standout wide receiver Stefon Diggs multiple times in the 2015 NFL draft before the Minnesota Vikings selected him at No. 146 overall in the fifth round.
He has been one of the most explosive and prolific playmakers in the game since then with five straight seasons of 1,000-plus receiving yards, according to Pro Football Reference.
Since being traded to the Buffalo Bills, he has made the last three Pro Bowls and is having the best stretch of his career that included leading being voted First-Team All-Pro after leading the league in receptions and receiving yards in 2020.
While the Ravens missed out on keeping the local product from Gaithersburg, Maryland in his home state, according to an anonymous NFL executive, they potentially have a younger and less expensive model that is just as explosive after using their 2023 first-round pick to select former Boston College standout Zay Flowers at No. 22 overall.
“Flowers’ upside is Stefon Diggs,” an evaluator said to The Athletic’s Mike Sando. “He has that from a route-running capacity.”
One of the reasons Diggs fell as far as he did was because of his lack of size at just 6’0″ and 195 pounds. It’s a doubt that many evaluators had about the 5’9″ and 182-pound Flowers during the pre-draft process but thanks to the tremendous success of undersized receivers like Diggs and others, teams are more willing to bet that they can continue to play bigger than their less-than-desirable measurables.
“Even though Zay is a small target, from a ball-in-hand, explosive play, run-after-catch standpoint, he gives them that more than Hollywood Brown did,” an executive said. “That is where I don’t have a problem with the player. I just think you have to have a plan for him.”
While some don’t believe his size will hinder his ability to make an impact in the team’s team’s new-look offense, one evaluator questioned the pick and believes that history has proven that quarterback Lamar Jackson does better when he has bigger targets.
“If we learned anything at Baltimore with Lamar Jackson, it’s that small, short receivers don’t do well,” an evaluator told Sando. “The guy he throws it to is the 6-6 tight end.”
There’s no doubt that three-time Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews has been the former league MVP’s most trusted and productive weapon in the passing game for the past four years.
However, at 5-foot-9, 180-pound, former first-round receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown recorded a career-high 1,008 receiving yards with the Ravens in 2021 per PFR prior to requesting a trade and being sent to the Arizona Cardinals.
Sando’s colleague at the Athletic Jeff Zrebiec who covers the Ravens as his beat named Flowers as the team’s rookie most likely to have “the biggest immediate impact” in a separate article.
“It has to be wide receiver Zay Flowers,” he wrote. “It all comes back to Flowers, who figures to have a significant role on offense from the jump. Lamar Jackson loves throwing the ball between the numbers, so Flowers should get his targets. He also could factor into the team’s return game.”
Ravens “Revamped” WR Core No. 18 in ESPN Rankings
Despite adding Flowers and two former first-round wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor this offseason and having another former first-rounder in Rashod Batman coming back, ESPN’s Mike Clay still has the unit ranked in the bottom half of the league.
While that seems a little harsh taking into account the team’s considerable investment, his colleague Jamison Hensley that covers the Ravens as his beat believes that it is a “solid jump for a team whose wide receivers totaled the fewest receiving yards in the league last year.”
Another evaluator told Sando that he doesn’t believe that any of the Ravens’ new additions they made at receiver this offseason are “true No. 1s” but that they can get by because new offensive coordinator Todd Monken is a “receiver coach by trade” and that Andrews is still their No. 1 pass catcher.
What some of the skeptical evaluators are forgetting or completely missing in their evaluation is that Monken has a history of highlighting the strengths of his team’s offensive arsenal wherever he goes.
At the University of Georgia the past two years for the back-to-back national title-winning Bulldogs, it was the tight end position with 2023 second-rounder Darnell Washington and projected 2024 top pick Brock Bowers as their two best weapons in the passing game.
In his last two stints in the NFL, he helped Beckham Jr. record his last season of 1,000-plus receiving yards in 2019 as the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. Prior to that, he served in the same role for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2016 to 2018 and helped guide four-time Pro Bowler Mike Evans to two of his most productive years in the league.
Flowers told reporters at the Ravens rookie minicamp that he loves Monkens’ offense and believes that it is a “perfect fit” for what he does best which he claims is everything.
“I feel like I’m a complete receiver,” he said. “I can do it all. You name it, I’ll be able to do it.”
Ravens Sign Undrafted Safety and Waive Two-Way Player
The team made a pair of transactions on Monday, May 8, 2023, coming out of their rookie minicamp by signing Jaquan Amos who went undrafted out of Ball State University, and waiving defensive end Levi Bell who they signed as an undrafted free agent out of Texas State University.
Amos is a 6’1″ and 200-pound defensive back that recorded a career-high 95 tackles including 6.5 for a loss, five passes defended, half a sack, and an interception last season according to Sports Reference. He transferred from Iowa State and spent his first three years in college at Villanova, where he had 148 tackles, eight interceptions, and four touchdowns.
In his final year of college, he was a physical presence that played safety and some nickel corner where he racked up tackles, defended the run well, and made some nice plays on the ball in tight coverage.
Bell was a two-way player in college that played defensive end and fullback for the Bobcats and had the best season of his career in 2022 with 65 total tackles including 13.5 for loss and five sacks per Sports Reference.