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Late for Work 5/1: Ravens' Best Pick? Most Pundits Agree

WR Zay Flowers
WR Zay Flowers

Best Pick? Zay Flowers, Most Pundits Agree

As pundits look over the Ravens' 2023 draft class, they are excited most with their Day 1 pick, wide receiver Zay Flowers.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, without hesitation, has Flowers as the team's best pick.

"It won't win any points for originality, but how can you say anything bad about Flowers? The dynamic playmaker out of Boston College became the latest piece to the team's offseason wide receiver makeover, which also featured the arrival of veterans Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor," Zrebiec wrote.

"The Ravens fell in love with the former Boston College star during the pre-draft process. They love his route running, his speed to get behind a defense, his ability after the catch and his toughness. They think he'll be a true home run threat and a strong complement to Beckham, Rashod Bateman and tight end Mark Andrews."

Zrebiec's teammate, Dane Brugler, agreed that Flowers was his favorite pick.

"No need to overthink this one. Flowers adds another dynamic option to the Ravens' offense, which will force defenses to cover every inch of the field," Brugler wrote. "With Todd Monken at play caller, QB Lamar Jackson locked in for the next five years and a reworked wide receiver depth chart, the narrative about the Ravens' offense has taken an optimistic turn."

ESPN's Todd McShay also pointed to Flowers, who the Ravens snagged at No. 22 as the third receiver (behind Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Quentin Johnston) in a run of four straight wideouts.

"I love Flowers' game, and no matter how many times [Mel] Kiper tries to claim this is his guy, I've been touting him since I watched Boston College practices last summer. College coach Jeff Hafley called him the 'Energizer Bunny' and it fits; Flowers plays with so much juice. He has 4.42 speed, but that's just part of it. He releases off the line of scrimmage in a flash and immediately gets separation with burst. If Flowers finds daylight, he's gone. And you bet the Ravens will use him in motion and on sweeps, putting defenses on their heels," McShay wrote.

"Think about where this offense was a few weeks ago, and think about where it is now. Baltimore signed Odell Beckham Jr., extended Lamar Jackson and now used its first-round pick on Flowers. Factor in Mark Andrews, Rashod Bateman and J.K. Dobbins, and you have a legit Super Bowl-caliber unit. It'll be a long way from the league-low 1,517 receiving yards from the Ravens' WR crew last season."

USA Today’s Doug Farrar also gave high praise for the Flowers pick.

"Flowers was my top-rated receiver in this class — not only because of all the ridiculous things he did on tape, but also because he did it with a quarterback situation that was borderline unwatchable. … I can't wait to see what he does with Lamar Jackson throwing him footballs," Farrar wrote. "… Flowers is an absolute grand slam of a pick."

But it was not a consensus for analysts agreeing on Flowers, as CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso found the Ravens' best pick to come in the sixth round with their selection of Oregon offensive lineman Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, grading it an "A-."

"College OT who probably kicks inside at the next level. Classic Ravens pick," Trapasso wrote. "Mauler in the run game and very accurate in combo block situations. Flashes of brilliance in pass pro but opens the gate too early and isn't quite as powerful moving backward. I like this pick."

Pundits Surprised Ravens Waited to Draft a Cornerback

The Ravens entered the draft with their biggest need being cornerback, yet didn't select one until Day 3. This left multiple pundits taken aback, including The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker.

"If the Ravens liked this cornerback class, they sure didn't show it," Walker wrote. "… With a chance to take Darius Rush of South Carolina at pick No. 124, they instead went with 6-foot-6 pass rusher Tavius Robinson from Ole Miss. DeCosta compared him to Za'Darius Smith for his inside-outside versatility. But analyst Dane Brugler of The Athletic had a sixth-round grade on Robinson, projecting him as a 'rotational defensive end.' Not exactly a prospect the Ravens had to take if there was a cornerback they fancied on the board."

With the Ravens selecting one cornerback in the draft, Kyu Blu Kelly in the fifth round, Zrebiec expects the Ravens to sign or re-sign a cornerback or two.

"DeCosta made clear that the Ravens aren't done and will likely sign a veteran free-agent cornerback in the days ahead," Zrebiec wrote. "Marcus Peters and Rock Ya-Sin are two of the players the Ravens have remained in contact with since free agency opened."

And though those signings will help for what feels like a title run in 2023, The Baltimore Banner’s Jonas Shaffer notes they can't get by on free agents in the long term.

"Sooner or later, the Ravens will need to develop or draft another starting outside cornerback opposite Marlon Humphrey," Shaffer wrote. "Nickelback Kyle Hamilton, who's set to move to safety, could also be tough to replace inside."

Excitement Over Ravens Reported UDFA Signing RB Keaton Mitchell

Among the Ravens' reported undrafted free agent signings is East Carolina running back Keaton Mitchell.

Last week in LFW, the Ravens were called a "best fit" for Mitchell, who could be used in the passing game of Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken. More are chiming in with their excitement over Mitchell joining the Ravens.

The Athletic's Dane Brugler gave Mitchell a 5th-6th round grade.

"Mitchell isn't built to run between the tackles and wants to stay on the outside, but he has natural run skill with the shifty and nifty foot quickness to create chunk gains," Brugler wrote. "He is a potential change-of-pace back who will help his NFL chances if he develops a role on special teams."

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