The pre-draft process can be a nerve-wracking whirlwind for viable prospects and NFL hopefuls leading up to NFL draft every year. Former Boston College star wider Zay Flowers met with several teams and went on numerous official top 30 visits but the team that seemed the most “genuine” in their interest in getting to know him was the one that ended up selecting him in the first round.
The Baltimore Ravens completed their nearly four-month-long courtship of the electrifying playmaker by taking him No. 22 overall on Thursday, April 27, 2023. As the first round began to unfold and 21 picks went by including two prospects at his position directly ahead of him, he had a feeling that he’d be calling Charm City home.
“I knew if I got to 22, I knew I was going to be a Raven,” Flowers said in a conference call following his selection. “We’re just going to make every team that didn’t pick me pay for it.”
While he was the third receiver to have his name called on the night, according to head coach John Harbaugh, he was the top wideout prospect on the Ravens draft board unanimously.
“Zay was our top-rated receiver, I would say 100 percent consensus,” he said. “Everybody had him as our guys and for him to be there for us and just kind of fill out that room was a great blessing.”
General Manager Eric DeCosta shared that the team had already had Flowers on their radar for nearly two years dating back to last offseason.
“I thought he was explosive last year and we talked about him last year,” he said. “We watched Zay at length two years ago. [We were] excited about him then.”
The Ravens had been linked to him throughout the pre-draft process starting with the report that several of their representatives were linked to the hip with him during practices for the East-West Shrine game.
“I built a relationship with [quarterbacks] Coach Tee Martin early,” Flowers said. “At the Shrine Bowl, we just sat on the sideline – because I practiced one day, and the rest, I sat out – and we were just chopping it up the whole time. He [was] just picking my brain, like, ‘Why do you think you can play outside? Oh, so you think you’re a dog?’ So, I like that kind of competitiveness and him challenging me, and I built a connection with him right there.”
He said that they were interested in him as a person just as much if not even more than as a player and that on one of his visits, they hardly talked about football.
“Everybody in the building was genuine,” Flowers said. “A lot of places I went to, I had to put on kind like a front and when I got here, everything was just pure. It was genuine.”
He is joining a team and an offense that is loaded with talented pass catchers at wide receiver with three first-rounders in Odell Beckham Jr., Rashod Bateman, and Nelson Agholor as well as at tight end with three-time Pro Bowler Mark Andrews and second-year pros Isiash Likely and Charlie Kolar.
Their backfield is also stacked with the two-head monster of J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards who will be fully healthy this year compared to last when they were returning from severe knee injuries. The rookie is excited to be a part of this impressive arsenal and can’t wait to see what they can all accomplish together.
“They let me fall to them so it’s going to be a lot of plays being made on Sunday, Monday, or Thursday,” Flowers said. “Whatever day we’re playing on. Being able to play with them and have all these weapons next to me, I just want to improve my game.”
Ravens Recieve High Grades For Day 1 Decisions
Despite only making one pick and not pulling off one of their usual impressive trade downs to accumulate more picks, DeCosta and Co. were still lauded for their work on the first night of the draft.
Before even mentioning their actual draft pick, NFL.com’s Chad Reuter made certain to acknowledge and applaud the “re-signing of Lamar Jackson to a five-year, $260 million contract”. He saw it as a “nice start” to what would be a fruitful day that was made even sweeter by giving Flowers to Jackson as his newest dynamic weapon in the passing game and gave the team an ‘A’ grade for day one.
“They added to everyone’s happiness when selecting Flowers, a downfield threat and zone-eater over the middle who can snatch a quick throw from the former MVP and take it the distance. Once again, the Ravens stayed patient and got a good player,” he wrote.
ESPN lead draft analyst Mel Kiper had the Ravens among his “biggest winners” from Day 1 and also credited the team for locking up Jackson before the draft even started. While he didn’t assign them a letter grade, he was still effusive in his praise of the selection of Flowers.
“What a day for Baltimore, which locked down Lamar Jackson for five more years and then got its quarterback a playmaker in Flowers, one of my favorite prospects in this entire class,” he wrote. “He’ll make Jackson’s life so much easier. He can run every route, and he’ll dominate out of the slot. Yes, the Ravens signed Odell Beckham Jr., but that was just a one-year deal. They have plenty of room for Flowers.
“The Baltimore wide receivers combined for 248 receiving yards when lined up in the slot last season, fewest in the NFL. Flowers plugs a big hole.”
In his final collegiate season, the former Boston College Eagle recorded career highs across the board according to Sports Reference with 78 receptions for 1,077 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. He made explosive plays all over the field at all three levels of the defense and projects to do the same at the next level for years to come.
Ravens Projected to Target Most Glaring Need on Day 2
Heading into the second day of the draft, the team still has a huge hole to fill at cornerback since they are in need of a new starter opposite three-time Pro Bowler Marlon Humphrey. Unfortunately, they don’t have a pick in the second round and aren’t on the clock in the third until No. 86 overall.
While they could wait until after the draft sometime next week to find a replacement for or bring back three-time Pro Bowler Marcus Peters, several pundits have them projected to address the position with a day 2 prospect. Given the wealth of depth at corner in this year’s draft, they could very well still land a starting caliber outside or slot corner on Friday night.
Pro Football Network’s Ian Cummings has the team using their third-rounder on Utah cornerback Clark Phillips in his day 2 mock draft. At one point, he was viewed as a fringe first-rounder early on the pre-draft cycle but concerns over his size at 5’9″ and 184 pounds as well as his unimpressive testing numbers will likely cause him to fall within their range.
“For the Ravens, who need more coverage help, his value is too good to pass up here,” he wrote. “Phillips is a chippy, instinctive playmaker with solid functional athleticism, and the versatility to play the slot and the boundary.”
The Ravens have needed a new nickel corner since releasing Tavon Young last offseason and Phillips has the grittiness and coverage skills to fill that role. He was also quite the ballhawk in college two with nine career interceptions that included six in his final season alone per Sports Reference.
Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness believes that the team should try to target Kansas State cornerback Julius Brents on day 2. The 6’3″ and 198-pound defensive back started his collegiate career as an Iowa Hawkeye before transferring and establishing himself as a legitimate NFL prospect as a two-year starter for the Wildcats.
“With 4.5 speed, Brents is fast for a player his size and is coming off the highest-graded season of his career during which he allowed just 24 receptions from 52 targets in coverage,” he wrote.
Other corner prospects mocked to them in the third round include Purdue’s Corey Trice and Minnesota’s Terrell Smith.