Just admit it. Y'all have been pulling my leg this entire time, right? Going on and on about how the top draft need for the Rams this year is EDGE rusher. Or interior offensive line. No, left tackle. Outside cornerback. Safety. Linebacker. Backup QB. Running back. Nose tackle. Kicker. Long snapper. It's all just a funny joke, right? Offseason clowning around? I see through the smoke. You're bluffing. We all know the truth. Rams fans really want Les Snead to draft a small, slot WR.
You might pretend otherwise, but I can hear your "draft stomach" growling, begging for another Baby Ruth miniature candy bar. So, let's take a look at a player who I'm confident TST would universally embrace and celebrate as the 2nd round pick for the Rams, the diminutive Boston College WR, Zay Flowers.
Name: Xavien "Zay" Flowers. Turns 23 years old in September. True Senior.
School: Boston College. Studied communications.
Combine measurements: 5'9'' tall, 182 pounds, 29 1/2'' arms, 9 1/4'' hands, 72 1/4'' wingspan.
4.42 second (40 time), 1.53 second split, 35.5'' vert jump, 10'7'' broad jump.
Shrine Bowl measurements: 5'9 1/4'' tall, 182 pounds, 29 1/4'' arms, 9 1/8'' hands, 72 3/4'' wingspan.
Listed by team at 178 pounds in 2020 and 177 in 2021, 172 pounds in 2022. Reportedly added about 13 pounds during draft training. I was floored when he said in an interview that prior to the meal plan that helped him bulk up, he had never regularly eaten vegetables. If you are an aspiring NFL athlete, why wouldn't you be super detailed and conscientious about what you are putting into your body and making sure you are eating healthy?
3 star recruit from Florida. The 4th youngest of 14 children (9 brothers and 4 sisters), this is why he wears the number 4 jersey on the field. His mother died when he was 5 years old. Had an older brother who was shot and killed in 2017. Going to BC gives him opportunity to be the first person in his family to graduate from college. Has approximately 20 nieces and nephews. Was a WR and DB in HS.
BC was the only committable scholarship offer he had from a Power 5 school. He went to BC initially to play CB.
2019 (13 games, 2 starts) 22-341-3 receiving; 27-195-1 rushing
2020 (11 starts) 56-892-9 receiving; 11-41-1 rushing
2021 (12 games) 44-746-5 receiving; 7-69 rushing
2022 (12 games) 78-1,077-12 receiving; 12-40 rushing
Had 7 punt return attempts for 43 yards (long of 16) in 2022.
One of 7 team captains in 2022.
Reportedly turned down multiple lucrative NIL offers to transfer to other schools in 2022, including one for $600,000. Flowers didn't play for "free" for BC, he got a new NIL deal to stay and the package included a new BMW car, with an estimated value of $90,000. His HC praised him for his unselfishness and loyalty in turning down the bigger money to remain at BC. HC (Jeff Hafley, who was Jordan Fuller's position coach at Ohio St.) said Flowers was an outstanding practice player and in meaningless games late in the 2022 season was still giving tremendous effort as a run blocker. BC was 3-9 in 2022 and Hafley said some NFL prospects might have opted out and left the team to prepare for the draft or eased up and not gone as hard, afraid of getting hurt, but Flowers stuck it out and set a great example for the rest of the team.
Injuries to other BC players substantially impacted Flowers's statistical production. QB Phil Jurkovec had a long list of injuries in 2020, 2021 and 2022. He played through injury in 2020, missed much of the 2021 season due to a hand injury, then missed games in the 2022 season due to a knee injury.
BC was decimated by OL injuries in 2022. The biggest blow was losing Christian Mahogany, who was ranked by Mel Kiper as the 2nd best guard prospect for the 2023 draft, but he had a knee injury in the summer of 2022 and was out the entire year.
Very early in the 2021 season, Flowers had some type of leg injury, but he played in all of the games that year. In another 2021 game, it looked like he hurt his hamstring.
At the Combine, Flowers ran the 40 smoothly, but there wasn't an extra gear in the 2nd half of the run. He ran the gauntlet straight both times and caught the ball confidently, only one drop, the very last pass on a ball that was thrown low. He also appeared to bobble a catch on a speed out. On over the shoulder catches he looked very comfortable.
In interviews, Flowers is very self confident, good natured, respectful, and when asked questions by the media that are only about him, he'll sometimes respond with an answer that praises his teammates, without being prompted.
Daniel Jeremiah 24th overall
Lance Zierlein 16th overall
ESPN 4th WR, 26th overall
CBSSports 3rd WR, 20th overall
Drafttek 27th overall
PFN (Industry) 6th WR, 39th overall
Shane Hallam 33rd overall
Brian Bosarge 33rd overall
PFF 24th overall
NFLDB 5th WR, 34th overall
TDN 4th WR, 25th overall
PFN draft simulator 33rd overall
Chad Reuter recent 4 round mock draft 39th overall (Carolina Panthers) and in this mock the Rams trade down to the 38th overall slot, in this particular mock the Rams could trade down and still get Flowers.
Ryan Wilson recent 3 round mock draft 40th overall. In this mock, the Rams trade up to 18 to draft QB, Will Levis, from Kentucky. The Rams still have their 3rd round pick and take Calijah Kancey. Jalin Hyatt, a WR sometimes mocked very high in the 1st round, is only the 87th pick in this mock.
PFN recent mock draft 21st overall.
Fanspeak draft simulator boards: CBSSports 35th; Rigdon 31st; Shoup 38th; Broncos 36th; Bills 42nd; Diamonds 30th; Draftplex 18th; Packers 27th; Bears 24th.
Daniel Jeremiah: Undersized with outstanding quickness, ball skills and production. Extremely quick in release and at top of routes. No wasted steps or movement, everything at full speed. Very good feel working zones. Strong hands, tracks ball with ease. Outstanding on jet sweeps. TY Hilton comp. DJ also multiple times has compared Flowers to Tyler Lockett.
Lance Zierlein: 6.45 draft grade (good starter within 2 years), Travis Benjamin comp [Benjamin was a 4th round pick in 2012 by the Browns]. Slot WR, unbridled energy and immense confidence. Sudden feet to slip press. Stair steps man coverage out of leverage. Fast routes, maintains momentum through turns. Tight breaks. Average hands. Tracks deep balls, works back to throw. Slippery in open field. Short arms, small hands. In too much of a hurry, needs better detail in routes. Needs to do better job finding holes in zone. Lacks strength for contested catches. Drops passes.
Mel Kiper: The quickest and fastest play speed of any WR in the draft. Questions whether Flowers really has an issue with dropped passes, saying that he didn't see many drops on tape.
NFLDB: Extremely dangerous in open field, vision and creativity to run through entire defense. Elite balance, can tight rope sideline, get in and out of breaks, start and stop ability. Makes defenders miss. Extremely competitive. Violent runner. Excellent ball tracking. Good outside the numbers. Rare suddenness. Lightning footwork to create in tight areas. Shifty. Very good hands for the most part. Makes catches in traffic. Played majority of snaps as outside WR. Undersized. Had 9 drops in 2022, way too many. Small catch radius. No real ability as run blocker. Not patient or instinctive to find holes vs zone. A mid to late 2nd round prospect.
TDN: Had 50% success rate on contested catches in 2022 [this is a good mark. For example, in 2018, Allen Robinson was 4th best in the NFL with a 58% contested catch success rate and 52% ranked 10th best in the NFL, per PFF.] Outstanding at attacking CB's leverage. Explosive and dynamic threat once ball is in hands. Limited catch radius. 24 career dropped passes, 11% drop rate. Could be a slot only WR in NFL. A 3 level threat. Inconsistent hands. Lacks functional strength as run blocker. Tyler Lockett comp. 2nd round grade.
B/R: Excellent acceleration. Can be primary deep threat on team. Great route running skills. Very good YAC threat. Small frame, can get jammed. Below average play strength. Can struggle to fight for ball in traffic. Not a useful blocker. Average ball skills. Natural vision in open field. Very threatening top speed. 2nd round grade. Emmanuel Sanders comp.
Steelers Depot (Alex Kozora): Strong route runner, separates at top of route. Good stair step on over and crossing routes. Tracks ball well. Plays bigger than size, feisty and aggressive. Mixes it up as blocker. Able to make contested grabs. Versatile, lined up inside and outside. Diverse route tree, all 3 levels. Good YAC threat. Runs tougher and bigger than size, fights for extra yardage. Quickness makes defenders miss in open field. Came up big late in games an vs top opponents. Good football character, held back by subpar QB play. Small frame and short. Lacks elite top end speed. has trouble consistently catching outside of frame, limited catch radius. Struggled vs press coverage. Had 9 drops in 2022. Needs to get open better on scramble drills. Size limitations as blocker. Upright in stance. Older than typical prospect, maxed out. Doesn't have return value. 3rd round grade. Projected early day 2 pick. Darnell Mooney comp [Darnell Mooney was a 5th round pick. I discussed him at length when explaining why I felt the Rams drafted Tutu Atwell way too early.]
Supremely confident on the field. Plays with swagger and alpha dog mentality.
Outstanding acceleration off LOS. Excellent route tempo. Clears out space underneath for other receivers.
Very good understanding for how to gain leverage on routes and manipulate defenders to create space for throws. Crafts the route very well to win great leverage. At times, CBs get completely lost and he's as open as if it had been a blown coverage assignment.
Precise footwork as route runner. Crafty fakes and subtle moves. Gets CBs on their heels in press, creating leverage right off of the LOS. Wins with double moves that aren't even technically double moves. Sharp jerks in stem manipulate CBs on a string. Changes speeds appropriately to find the open space and present the QB with an inviting target. Very good on comeback routes. Fights back towards the ball to protect the catch point from the CB. Smooth speed out.
Explosive pivot route so dangerous that I doubt many NFL defenders, even elite CBs, will be able to stop it in man coverage.
Precise footwork to set up WR screens. Sells hard upfield drive, hits landmarks and proper angle on screens.
Dynamic on jet sweeps. Uses blockers well, sets up defenders so that he can angle off of his blocker.
Sudden and twitchy athlete. Very springy legs, light on his feet. Fantastic change of direction.
Unique talent in terms of acceleration. He's Tavon Austin, but in a bigger frame. Can instantly change speed and suddenly is in warp mode, like he transported himself to the other side of the defender, whether to get by them to cut upfield or burst towards the sideline to get around them and turn the corner. Very instinctive ability to dodge and weave by defenders, making them miss tackles. Seems to be able to see the field as he's catching the ball, allowing him to make an immediate move to elude closest defender before he even takes a full step after the catch. Very slippery and elusive immediately after the catch.
Step backs, cutbacks, jump cuts, can hop out of diving tackle attempts. Attacks defenders with downhill momentum with instant bursts of speed. Not a passive dancer in open field, takes direct and aggressive angles to attack the defense and get upfield in a hurry.
Loose hips, pulls off insane moves in tight quarters to beat defenders, turning basic short throws into potential big plays. Elite ability to create in small spaces.
Very aggressive and physical. Not a finesse, small player afraid of contact, will take on defenders both as a runner and as a blocker as if he were 6 feet tall and 200 pounds.
Elite ball tracking skills and body control to adjust to off target passes. Can dig out low passes below his waist. Jumps to high point passes that are above his head. Comfortable going to ground, sliding or sitting down to make catches on low passes.
Catches the ball well with hands away from his frame. Made an unbelievable one handed catch, arm fully extended to side, on pass to flat that was well wide of the target. Maintains good concentration on the ball even when defender is right next to him or his view is partially obstructed.
Quiet hands catching the ball over his shoulder.
Excellent adjustment to off target throws, can adjust how fast he is running, his angle, twist his body and get his hands into position to make the catch. Spins around to make catches on balls behind him. Can catch balls over his head while on the move. While he's not big, can beat the CB by having superior hand eye coordination and making a better adjustment to the pass than the defender.
Footwork to drag his toes near the sideline to get both feet down inbounds.
Very versatile in alignment. Lined up as outside WR, Z position, slot, tight split, bunch sets, both left and right side.
If he anticipates contact, will cover the ball up tightly with both arms. Can catch the ball with his hands high, then immediately tuck it away into his chest as he comes down to the ground.
Displays outstanding potential as a punt returner, could become an elite NFL return specialist.
Physical and aggressive as a blocker. Extremely feisty as a blocker, 100% effort trying to sustain, like a dog refusing to let go of a bone. Blocks to and sometimes beyond the whistle. Great range and effort mirroring fast CBs as they try to run around block. Will sprint downfield at full speed to try to block for RB or WR with the ball. Sound hand placements blocking. Sprints hard to get to proper landmarks to make 2nd level blocks. Finds and defends proper blocking angles. Put as much effort into crafty fake to get to blocking angle as he put into release moves to get open on his route as a receiver. Not a diva WR who isn't interested in blocking and only plays hard when the ball goes to him, he is a willing blocker and tries to help out his teammates.
Emotional competitor on the field.
Held back by being on a bad team, a struggling offense and with unreliable QB play.
Head coach says that he has outstanding stamina.
Receptive to coaching, motivated to improve.
I'm not aware of any major injuries with this prospect.
With more coaching and more regimented training, I feel that Flowers can get even better as a pro. I don't think he's hit his ceiling yet.
I feel that his skill set and versatility is a perfect match for the Rams offense.
The timing of his hands closing can occasionally be off, resulting in the ball going right through his hands. That being said, not all of his drops were entirely his fault, sometimes a poor pass by the QB made the catch unnecessarily awkward, contributing to why he didn't catch the ball.
Not tall or long enough to go up and over DBs in contested catch situations. Can't use physicality or size to create separation at top of route or late separation. Average effective catch radius.
Lacks bulk and run power.
Just an average vertical jump relative to his size. Sterling Shepard at 194 pounds had a 41'' vertical jump at the Combine. Travis Benjamin had a 38 inch vertical jump at the Combine.
Had the 9th best 40 time among WRs at the Combine, but was only 20th fastest in the 10 yard split.
Right hand dominant, frequently carries ball in right hand going to left side of the field.
In their scheme, wasn't required to block too often.
Lacks length, size and bulk for blocking duties. Can get rag dolled when bigger defenders grab him and throw him to the side, disengaging from the block. Not big enough to block inside the box. He's like Tavon Austin blocking, not like a WR who can replace a TE.
Can get knocked or pushed down to the ground by the defender while running a route.
Doesn't have extra gear in open field to stack the CB on deep routes. Relies on route running and release to get over the top of CBs, can't just run by them with pure speed. Extremely fast CBs with great recovery speed might be able to reacquire him and get back into phase.
Draft Grade and Pro Comp
Top 10 overall prospect (Antonio Brown, 6th round 2010, Steelers, Central Michigan)
Flowers has trained with Antonio Brown, studies his tape and admires him. Flowers cites Steve Smith and AB as his 2 biggest influences. In terms of physical size and testing scores, Zay Flowers is almost exactly the same as Steve Smith when Smith was a 3rd round pick out of Utah in 2001.
Brown was 5'10 1/8'' tall, 186 pounds, 31'' arms, 9'' hands, 4.56 sec (40 time), 1.56 sec split, 33.5'' vert, 8'9'' broad jump.
Steve Smith was primarily a PR and KR as a rookie, he had very little impact as a WR that year. Expected to breakout in 2002, he struggled for most of the season. Not only was his play on the field a disappointment, but he attacked a teammate during a film session, resulting in him being arrested and charged with assault. Carolina suspended him. Smith is probably lucky he didn't get cut from the team.
Smith firmly established himself as a start in the NFL in a magical 2003 season, as the Panthers nearly won the Super Bowl against the Patriots. Against the Rams in the divisional round, Carolina faced a 3rd&14 in double overtime, when Smith sliced open the Rams secondary with an explosive burst after the catch, scoring a walk off 69 yard TD. That play essentially was the end of that contending era for the Rams and the window wouldn't open again until the Sean McVay era.
The Steelers had no immediate need for Antonio Brown when they drafted him in 2010. When AB was a rookie, Bruce Arians reportedly wanted to waive Brown, with the intention of getting him to the PS. The Steelers drafted Emmanuel Sanders in the 3rd round that year. They had other veteran WRs ahead of that duo, plus a good special teams WR, so Brown was essentially the 5th or 6th string WR at that time. Like Smith in Carolina, Brown had very little impact as a WR as a rookie. Brown's role increased in year 2, and he also served as the PR and KR for the team. AB eventually became one of the best WRs in the NFL.
I consider Zay Flowers to be one of the top prospects in the 2023 draft. Not a single expert or draft board that I listed above has this player inside the top 15. Some experts see him as only a late 2nd to 3rd round pick, which is a very reasonable projection, because if his pro comp is Tyler Lockett, that is the area where Lockett was drafted (he was 69th overall, early in the 3rd round. Cooper Kupp was taken at the exact same slot as Lockett. Experts all feel that Flowers is too small. Why are draft experts and NFL teams so fixated on size? In AB's draft, the 39th overall pick was Arrelious Benn, who was 6'2'' tall and 228 pounds. Zay Flowers and Brandin Cooks are almost exactly the same size.
The Rams hit a huge jackpot once with CK. Could lightning strike twice?