When Ravens director of college scouting David Blackburn went to see wide receiver Zay Flowers at the East-West Shrine Bowl practices in January, nothing in particular stood out about the Boston College wide receiver. Because, well, “everything” stood out.

“Just a fun evaluation,” Blackburn said Saturday, as the Ravens wrapped up a draft that had started with a first-round selection of Flowers. “He’s electric. ... Explosive, fast, sudden, dangerous. He can hurt you on all three levels. He can get deep. He’s great after the catch. He’s a tough tackle. He’s physical. He can play through contact. He can make more contested catches than most guys his size can make. He’s very productive, and he doesn’t shy away from the moment.”

Flowers was the Ravens’ top-rated wide receiver prospect, according to coach John Harbaugh, who called it a “blessing” to have him still available at No. 22 overall last week. It wasn’t hard to imagine just how he would fit in first-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s system, because Flowers could fit in just about anywhere, team officials said, and do just about everything. “A playmaker,” general manager Eric DeCosta called him.

As the Ravens incorporate Flowers into their offense, starting with this weekend’s rookie minicamp, his record-breaking career at Boston College offers some clues about his potential role in Baltimore. So does Monken’s tenure at Georgia. With the help of Sports Info Solutions data — including expected points added, a measure of efficiency that accounts for situational factors such as down, distance and field position — here are six ways Flowers could help quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ overhauled attack.

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End-arounds, jet sweeps and reverses

Over Flowers’ four years at Boston College, his role became more vertical than horizontal. More deep shots from predictable alignments, fewer quick hitters with a little window dressing. More Greg Roman, less Kyle Shanahan.

In Flowers’ final three seasons with the Eagles, he averaged just one easy touch per game on perimeter-attacking plays — jet sweep touch passes, jet sweep handoffs, end-arounds and reverses. He wasn’t overly productive in those 35 games — just 5.4 yards per catch on his 14 catches and 3.6 yards per carry on his 21 runs.

A change of scenery, and coordinator, could make all the difference. Georgia was not flush with dynamic talent at wide receiver last season, but the persistent threat of the Bulldogs’ inside running game, and Monken’s play-calling wrinkles, set up the offense for layup after layup out wide.

Georgia averaged 10.4 yards per jet sweep pass last season, with a wide receiver (Ladd McConkey), a tight end (Brock Bowers) and three running backs (draft pick Kenny McIntosh, Daijun Edwards and Cash Jones) combining for nine catches total. McConkey averaged a ridiculous 19.1 yards per carry on jet sweep handoffs, end-arounds and reverses, scoring twice on his seven attempts.

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In Baltimore, Flowers should not only have a sturdier offensive line than he did at Boston College but also a lot more speed around him. That good company should make those easy touches easier to feast on, however frequently (or infrequently) he gets them.

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Shot plays

Of course, the Ravens won’t mind taking their time on big-play opportunities for Flowers, either. Over his final three seasons at Boston College, he emerged as one of college football’s elite downfield threats, with 31 catches and 14 touchdowns on passes of at least 20 yards downfield.

In a 2020 win against Pittsburgh, Flowers had six catches for 163 yards and three touchdowns, all of the scores coming on deep shots, all of them different. There was this post route:

This deep-post route:

And this “cop” route, a corner-post combination:

Flowers’ speed and ball-tracking ability were so rare that he could win against Atlantic Coast Conference defenses designed to eliminate him. In a win over Louisville last season, he beat a “bracket” coverage for a 57-yard jump-ball touchdown.

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Maybe Flowers’ most important contribution on downfield shots was the margin of error he afforded Boston College’s inconsistent quarterbacks. When he turned around opposing defensive backs, the distance he created at times was almost comical. That’s good news for Jackson, whose struggles with deep passes continued last season (11-for-40 for 353 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions).

‘Cover 4′ beaters

While Jackson took a step forward in 2022 against certain looks — most notably, heavy-pressure blitz schemes — he uncharacteristically struggled with others.

One such weakness: “Cover 4,” a defense with four defenders in deep zones and three underneath that looks to deter downfield passes while helping the run defense with safeties aligned closer to the line of scrimmage.

For the second straight year, Jackson’s effectiveness against Cover 4 looks tumbled. He finished last season 36-for-63 (57.1%) for 410 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions while taking seven sacks on 80 drop-backs. His passer rating was just 67.6, and his EPA per attempt was minus-0.14. Only three quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts against Cover 4 finished with a worse efficiency.

Flowers can’t fix Jackson’s Cover 4 struggles himself. But his speed will help. In a win over North Carolina State last season, Flowers had an easy completion against the coverage, which typically has the outside cornerbacks line up well off the line of scrimmage. After running a quick out to the sideline, he caught the ball in space and turned upfield, the opposing cornerback too far away to bother him at the catch point.

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Because Cover 4 typically has outside cornerbacks lined up with an outside shade, funneling receivers inside, Flowers could be an option downfield on play-action looks, especially on deep routes breaking toward the middle of the field. With the Ravens’ ground game, all Flowers would need is a run fake to freeze the safeties, leaving only an overleveraged cornerback to beat.

Screens

Flowers was far from a screen pass maestro at Boston College. His most productive year was his last, when he had 14 catches on 18 screen targets for just 67 yards, six first downs and two touchdowns.

But every so often, Eagles coaches showed how Flowers’ skill set could be used to stress defenses before the snap and then hurt them after it.

Monken won’t hesitate to arrange a convoy of blockers for Flowers. In 2022, McConkey and star tight end Brock Bowers, Georgia’s two most gifted receivers after the catch, combined for 33 catches on screen passes for 244 yards. In 2021, they went for 29 catches and 320 yards.

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Drag routes

When Boston College wasn’t having Flowers buzz downfield, the Eagles would sometimes hide him, sending him horizontally on drag routes that presented mismatches in the open field. He had nine such catches for 114 yards last season, the most in the country on drag routes, and forced six missed tackles.

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Every catch Flowers made on a drag route turned into a positive play. He had seven first downs and two touchdowns, including this blitz-beating catch-and-run score against N.C. State:

In Baltimore, tight ends were the most common targets on drag routes last year. Josh Oliver and Mark Andrews combined for 10 catches for 94 yards and three touchdowns. No Ravens wide receiver had more than one catch on a drag route.

Whip routes

Another statistical quirk for Flowers: He had six catches on whip routes in 2022, tied for the most in the country. A whip route — an underneath pattern where an inside receiver breaks across the middle of the field, only to pivot and cut back toward the sideline — set up this 7-yard score in a loss to Syracuse last season, breaking Boston College’s single-season record for receiving touchdowns.

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Monken can’t build a passing offense out of whip routes, but defenses can’t ignore the threat, either. The Ravens struggled in the red zone last year, finishing 30th in touchdown rate. Flowers’ unique abilities should give them a boost near the goal line.

And a lot of other places, too.

jonas.shaffer@thebaltimorebanner.com

Jonas Shaffer is a Ravens beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun. Shaffer graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Silver Spring.

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