It feels like Zay Flowers is about to fit right in.
The 22-year-old exuded confidence and calm in his first appearance as a Raven alongside general manager Eric DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh on Friday afternoon. He’s the third first-round receiver the franchise has drafted in the last five years, an indicator of just how much receiving talent has eluded the Ravens in the draft. But in Flowers, Baltimore adds a player who got the seal of approval from Lamar Jackson, Steve Smith Sr., Odell Beckham Jr. and plenty of others with team ties.
While team officials and highlight tape have helped give a sense of how Flowers will fit on the field as a rookie, his press conference offered deeper insight into his personality and the character traits that have helped pave an unlikely path to a top prospect. Some of those insights, gathered in three quotes:
1. “I don’t think any corner gave me a problem in college.”
There are receivers who headline polished, high-octane offenses at blue-chip football programs, and there is Flowers, who was an offense unto himself for Boston College.
His receptions (78), receiving yards (1,077) and receiving touchdowns (12) were all among the top 20 figures in college football last year, but what makes Flowers’ numbers more impressive is how he was the focal point for the 3-9 Eagles offense, which ranked only 122nd of 131 in points per game. He had nearly 700 more yards than any of his teammates, seven more touchdowns (BC had only 21 passing touchdowns total) and had 49 more receptions. He was virtually the only receiving threat, and opponents still had trouble stopping him. He had at least 65 yards and four receptions in nine of his 12 games as a senior.
What happens on the gridiron in live action was the most important data for the Ravens, who liked Flowers during the 2021 season before he chose to return for another year of school. But his college resume was accentuated by an impressive East-West Bowl practice, where DeCosta said Flowers stood out from the group, in part because of his 4.42-40-yard-dash speed.
“It was him and everyone else,” DeCosta said. “[He] was really just explosive [in] just one day of practice, and you just saw the difference.”
John Harbaugh added that Flowers was the team’s top-ranked receiver by consensus. Both Harbaugh and DeCosta suggested new offensive coordinator Todd Monken was pleased with the double jackpot of retaining Jackson and adding Flowers to the mix of an already bolstered receiving corps.
Flowers definitely doesn’t lack confidence. On Thursday, he said an offense with him and Jackson would be “double-juiced up” with headaches for the defense. The team released video of him FaceTiming with Odell Beckham Jr. (the two share a trainer), and OBJ showed plenty of enthusiasm for teaming up with Flowers: “I got goosebumps.”
When asked which corner he might want to face in the pros, he said he’s looking forward to matching up with all of them.
“In my opinion, I feel like I can play outside, inside, special teams — wherever you need me to make a play,” Flowers said. “If I can touch the ball in any type of way, I feel like I’ll be good, whether it’s jet sweeps, shallow crosses, punt returns. I feel like I can be used in any way.”
2. “I hear him [Lamar Jackson] though: South Florida got the best athletes. Why not get a receiver from down there?”
Flowers played football at University School, roughly an hour’s drive from Boynton Beach, Florida, where Lamar Jackson played high school ball. But that’s well within the shadow that the Ravens QB casts on South Florida to this day: “Down there, Lamar’s a legend. Everybody’s a Lamar fan. You gonna see people wearing his jersey no matter where you go.”
Jackson also keeps an eye on talent from the Sunshine State, too. And if his endorsement wasn’t clear enough by alluding to “More good news dropping soon” then tweeting “Well it happened” as the Ravens selected Flowers, DeCosta offered that his franchise quarterback (who just signed a long-term extension) gave them some positive feedback in January when the team talked to him about receivers in the draft.
“One thing about Lamar, if you’re from South Florida, he’s going to know you,” DeCosta said. “He had a lot of opinions about Zay and he was very, very excited we got him last night.”
He adds to a South Florida-to-Baltimore flock that includes Jackson and Tyler Huntley. Flowers has come a long way from being just a three-star recruit and the 179th-ranked player in Florida coming out of high school. He staved off NIL offers from other schools to stay at Boston College out of loyalty: “B.C. gave me my first opportunity.”
Now when he comes to the facility, he’ll be an NFL peer of Jackson — an unlikely outcome given his light recruiting.
“I did have a chip on my shoulder because of that,” he said. “I still have it, because I feel like I was the underdog. So I just play with a chip, I’m just gonna continue playing like that.”
3. “I got it [my drive] from my dad. I used to see him get up, go to work at four in the morning every day Monday through Friday, then he would get up Saturday and wash our clothes at the washhouse, cook everybody breakfast, and then take us to football games. And the same thing Sunday, then go back to work Monday. So just seeing him do that gave me my drive.”
Flowers came to his Friday presser wearing a golden flower medallion on a chain. In the center was a portrait of his mother, Jackie Walden, who died of a head injury when he was 5 years old. From the center bloomed 14 petals, one for him and each of his 13 siblings.
Flowers is the fourth-youngest sibling in his huge family, and his mother got the boys started in football.
“I feel like I needed her with me last night,” he said, “and have her with me today.”
Flowers hardscrabble upbringing largely by his father, Willie Flowers, profoundly shaped his character, the Ravens felt. DeCosta spoke glowingly of his interview process.
“I haven’t come across many more impressive, just, face-to-face prospects that I’ve ever interviewed at the Combine and then here in Baltimore,” DeCosta said. “His story, his resiliency, his ability to just succeed and handle things was really, really impressive. "
On the field, the 5-foot-10 Flowers has developed a reputation for making tough catches, such as his grab reaching across a Louisville defender’s back last season for a 57-yard touchdown. Part of his physicality was shaped by fraternal competitiveness through games of football, basketball or wrestling.
“Believe it or not, my brothers [are] tall: Some of them are like 6-2, 6-1, but I got the shorter end” he said. “It was just meant to be that way, and it just worked out perfect.”