Zay Flowers Predicted to Have Historic Rookie Season
There's a lot of excitement about first-round pick Zay Flowers and what the speedy wide receiver brings to the Ravens' revamped offense.
Draft Wire’s Natalie Miller is among the pundits who have high expectations for Flowers in his rookie season. She projected the 22nd-overall selection to have 50 catches for 850 yards and four touchdowns in 2023.
If Flowers reaches those numbers, he would tie Torrey Smith's franchise rookie record for receptions and break Smith's franchise rookie record for receiving yards (841), both of which were set in 2011.
"With the extension of Lamar Jackson finally getting done, the Ravens knew they needed to help their franchise quarterback get off the ground running with a brand-new wide receiver," Miller wrote. "Zay Flowers was one of the most explosive players and smooth route runners in this class. It is easy to see him coming in right away and being an impact player at the position."
As noted in Late for Work earlier this week, one NFL evaluator told The Athletic that Flowers' upside is Buffalo Bills All-Pro wide receiver Stefon Diggs. As a rookie with the Minnesota Vikings in 2015, Diggs had 52 catches for 720 yards and four touchdowns.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said he likes what he saw from Flowers at rookie minicamp last week.
"Zay looks just as advertised: quick, good hands, very smart," Harbaugh said. "[He is] picking things up really quickly, playing every position right now across the board with what we've installed. It's just the first two install days, but I'd say everything that you expected to see, you saw. [He is] catching the ball well."
Three Ravens Make ESPN's Top 100 2023 Draft Picks Rankings
Flowers was one of three Ravens rookies to make ESPN's Matt Miller's ranking of the top 100 2023 draft picks.
Inside linebacker Trenton Simpson (third round, 86th overall) was No. 23, guard Andrew Vorhees (seventh round, 229th) was No. 64, and Flowers was No. 70.
"Simpson was at his best playing weakside linebacker in 2021 and can excel in that role next to Roquan Smith in Baltimore," Miller wrote. "Vorhees, who tore an ACL at the combine, was a likely top-100 pick before the injury. The 2023 season will be a redshirt year for him, but the Ravens understand the value and saw his talent before the injury. Investing a seventh-rounder now for a potential starter in a year is the kind of move that good teams make.
"When need and value meet perfectly, you get the Flowers selection. The Ravens needed to give Lamar Jackson a bona fide young star at receiver, and Flowers is an elite deep threat who also runs a complete route tree from multiple alignments. We haven't seen Odell Beckham Jr. play football in almost 18 months, and Rashod Bateman hasn't developed into a consistent playmaker, so Flowers could be WR1 in Baltimore by Thanksgiving."
Kyu Blu Kelly Is One of Sports Illustrated's Top Day 3 Sleeper Picks
Cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly is another Ravens rookie who is getting some love. The fifth-round selection (157th overall) was ranked No. 3 on Sports Illustrated’s Matt Verderame’s list of Day 3 sleepers.
"After allowing Marcus Peters to leave in free agency (although it should be noted he remains unsigned), the Ravens could have big plans for Kelly in a secondary featuring star corner Marlon Humphrey, and safeties Kyle Hamilton and Marcus Williams," Verderame wrote. "At Stanford, Kelly earned two second-team All-Pac 12 honors and after last season was a standout at the Senior Bowl. He also has a ton of experience as a four-year starter with the Cardinal, giving him an opportunity to potentially shorten his learning curve at the next level.
"While Kelly could end up playing more special teams than defensive snaps, the depth chart is open, and his experience allows for the Ravens to consider him as a starting option, primarily battling with Rock Ya-Sin and Jalyn Armour-Davis for the job."
Keaton Mitchell Named Ravens' Best Undrafted Free Agent Fit
The Athletic's Nick Baumgardner named the best undrafted free agent fit for each team, and for the Ravens it's East Carolina running back Keaton Mitchell.
"Mitchell has legit 'goodbye' speed (4.37-second 40 and 1.5-second 10-yard split) plus a 38-inch vertical at just 5-7, 179 pounds," Baumgardner wrote. "The obvious limitations are in the size department. When this guy puts his foot on the ground and turns the corner, though, he darn near breaks the sound barrier. He's gadgety but could be a lot of fun in Baltimore's offense."
Mitchell, the son of former Ravens safety Anthony Mitchell, has a shot to compete with Justice Hill for the No. 3 running back spot or carve out a spot as a fourth running back.
Pro Football Focus Says Patrick Ricard Is Most Underrated Raven
Pro Football Focus’ William Moy identified the most underrated player for each team, and fullback Patrick Ricard got the nod for the Ravens.
"There were only 13 fullbacks to see the field for at least 100 snaps last season. Ricard led the position with 747 snaps, 137 more than Kyle Juszczyk — who was second among the position in snaps — saw a season ago," Moy wrote. "Among that group of 13 fullbacks, outside of Ricard, there were just two players to eclipse a 60.0 run-blocking grade — and both did so playing a limited sample of snaps. Ricard towered over his peers with an 88.6 run-blocking grade on 450 run-block snaps."
Ricard, a four-time Pro Bowler, was a key component of former Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman's system, serving as a lead blocker for the Ravens' potent running attack. He also has 40 catches for 241 yards and five touchdowns in six seasons in Baltimore.
What "Project Pat's" role will be in new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken's scheme remains to be seen, but Ricard said he is confident he can contribute even if he's not used as much as he was under Roman.
"Monken] will make a scheme based on the players versus just coming in and saying, ‘This is what we’re doing, this is how I run it,'” Ricard said during a recent appearance on [Glenn Clark Radio. "I do see a role for myself on this team with this offense, being in it for the last couple of weeks. I'm excited for it. It may not be quite as much as I was used with Greg Roman, but I'm OK with that. As long as we're winning games and I'm doing my part to help win, that's all I really care about."