The NFL Draft is fast approaching, so it's time to dig into the 2023 rookie class. Today Dwain profiles an intriguing WR prospect…
- Rookie Draft ADP: 11 (WR4)
- Underdog ADP: 99 (WR47)
- Mock Draft V3: 23rd overall (Chiefs)
- Landing Spot: Baltimore Ravens (22nd overall)
The Ravens' passing personnel, with Zay Flowers in the fold, is a nearly 180-degree shift from where it was five months ago. Lamar Jackson's last two regular-season pass attempts went to Devin Duvernay and DeSean Jackson. Jackson, with his new five-year deal, will step out in Week 1 of the '23 season with Rashod Bateman, Odell Beckham Jr., Mark Andrews, and Flowers in tow. But there may be some growing pains.
While new OC Todd Monken's offenses have used 11 personnel often, Baltimore's thrived in two-receiver sets. Jackson operated with three WRs on the field on just 20.2% of his dropbacks through Week 12 last year. Flowers' YAC-ability will pay dividends with a dual-threat passer like Jackson under center, but there may be a lag in fantasy value while the aerial attack gets in sync.
Way-too-early 2023 redraft rank: WR5
Flowers wasn’t a household name early in his career, thanks to a Boston College offense that couldn’t even muster 2,300 passing yards in either of his first two seasons. However, he dominated opportunities from his sophomore season onward and compiled 78 receptions for 1,077 yards and 12 TDs in his senior campaign.
That last season put him on the radar for NFL draft analysts and mock drafters – his expected draft capital resided in the third round before 2022 but frothed to late Round 1 status over the last few weeks. He could still end up slipping into the second round, but that now appears to be more of a floor scenario.
Despite a smaller stature (5’8 and 182 lbs.), Flowers demonstrated the ability to play on the outside and attack vertically. His best fit might be in the slot in the NFL, but he can unlock the intermediate zones of the field and has the potential to function as an off-ball Z in two-wide sets.
He is the WR5 as a Tier 2 option in the Fantasy Life Rookie Super Model.
Flowers delivered a 34% dominator rating in his age-20 season and followed it up with marks of 36% and 47% in his junior and senior years. He was an absolute target monster over that stretch, with target shares of 28%, 28%, and 31%.
Flowers was more productive against zone coverage with a career 2.38 yards per route run (YPRR) versus a 1.81 YPRR against man. However, only 58% of his targets against man coverage were deemed catchable, and he still demanded a healthy target per route rate at 26%.
The Boston College product was a plus player in yards after the catch (YAC), with a 6.8-yard average. What makes that number impressive is the fact that Flowers wasn’t just an underneath option – he garnered a 13.0 career average depth of target (aDOT), which is above average.
Typically, as aDOT goes up, YAC comes down. Since 2014, players with an aDOT between 12 and 14 yards averaged a 4.9 YAC, which Flowers beat by almost two yards.
Flowers played most of his snaps on the outside, and, on average, 30% of his targets came 20-plus yards downfield, well above the NCAA average of 17%.
While his success rate attacking downfield at the next level could be a challenge against longer and faster defensive backs, he certainly shouldn’t be viewed as an underneath-only type of prospect.
He has a knack for jumping into a defender's back pocket and putting them in a blender once their hips turn. There are a lot of ways to get Flowers involved at the next level, which gives him outs – especially with a creative play-caller.
We have seen four-year options like Chris Olave and Calvin Ridley prosper in recent years, so this isn’t a death knell for Flowers.
One difference is how highly those prospects were already thought of before their senior seasons, which does add some risk to Flowers’ profile.
However, his early breakout as a sophomore and continued improvement are good signs that help ease concerns about his four-year status.
On-ball vs. Off-ball Splits
The more significant concern for Flowers is the career splits in on- and off-ball alignments against Power Five programs, per PFF data.
While he has shown an ability to play outside and win despite his small stature, he has limitations when lined up on the line of scrimmage.
It could be a bigger challenge for him at the next level against stronger competition.
There is a chance Flowers will grow in this area of his game, but this issue could push him into a full-time slot role. On a pass-heavy team that loves to deploy 11 personnel, that could end up being a good thing, but it could make him landing-spot dependent, which adds risk to his profile.
Of the WRs in the top two tiers, Flowers grades the lowest when you remove projected draft capital. There is a lot to like about his game, but he is an older prospect without prototypical size.
Flowers could develop into a nice WR2 on a high-end passing offense thanks to his mixture of YAC and intermediate aDOT prowess. If he can’t progress in on-ball alignments, it could create a cap on playing time and make him slot-dependent.
His high-end comp is Christian Kirk, and Jalen Reagor is the low-end comp.
If you believe in him, you can draft Flowers in a dynasty league while also receiving a 100% deposit match of up to $100 on Sleeper Fantasy to use for their over/under game. Seems like a draft-day steal, right?