Justin Flowe has been one of the biggest “what if?” stories over the last two years. Due to COVID and injuries, he has played in all of two games since enrolling at Oregon in 2020. While his 2023 NFL Draft scouting report is largely incomplete, what can we expect from Flowe this season, and does he have the untapped potential to be a highly-drafted prospect?
Justin Flowe NFL draft profile
Turn back the clock two years, and Flowe’s highlight tape is running ablaze as a five-star on the recruiting trail. He’s blowing up running backs five yards in the backfield and suplexing unsuspecting ball carriers into oblivion. Two years later, he’s the All-American linebacker he was destined to be … right? Not quite.
After playing two snaps as a true freshman, Flowe tore his meniscus, ending his season just after it began. But he took the punch on the chin, rehabbed, and worked his way back for a much-anticipated 2021 campaign.
Well, Flowe’s trials weren’t over. He suffered a foot injury in the first game of the season, holding him out until this spring. Imagine the mental — let alone physical — turmoil Flowe has gone through since landing in Eugene, Ore.
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He had college programs speaking with him since his early teens. Following a recruiting process that saw nearly every school battling for his signature, he found a new home. Then, he endured a season-ending injury. But Flowe didn’t let that get in the way of his dreams. It was simply a roadblock to get past. So, he rehabbed and worked his tail off to get his body back to full strength, only for it to fail him once again.
The mental fortitude needed to prepare yourself for yet another grueling, multi-month-long rehab is immense. But Flowe never let his unrelenting spirit deteriorate. In April, head coach Dan Lanning stated, “He’s just eager — he’s eager to get to work. He has an infectious personality and enthusiasm in the way he approaches every day.”
- Position: Linebacker
- School: Oregon
- Current Year: Redshirt Sophomore
- Height/Weight: 6’2″, 236 pounds
Justin Flowe scouting report
In his lone full game of action, Flowe registered 14 tackles, a tackle for loss, and a forced fumble against Fresno State, earning Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors. I don’t anticipate similar Week 1 production in 2022 because Flowe will take some time to be 100% — both physically and mentally.
While this is purely speculation, it’s easy to see how an athlete who has suffered two season-ending lower-body injuries could be tentative upon returning. Oregon will also likely have him on some sort of snap count, ensuring they don’t rush him back and incur even more damage.
With that said, what can we expect from Flowe in 2022, and will he declare for the 2023 NFL Draft?
Where Flowe wins
It’s important to note there isn’t much collegiate film to go off of for Flowe. There’s only the 2021 Fresno State game and some practice tape, so for this preliminary scouting report, we will also study his high school production and discuss his most translatable traits. Flowe started on varsity midway through his freshman campaign, quickly receiving the respect of players on the team.
The first thing you see when watching Flowe is his violence, physicality, and speed coming downhill. He routinely blew up plays in high school, logging 48 tackles for loss and 24 sacks in his four seasons. He was also a heat-seeking missile, averaging over 11 total tackles per game. Flowe sports a rock-solid frame at 6’2″ and 230+ pounds with a powerful lower half that allows him to stop ball carriers in their tracks. He also flashed a natural feel for rushing the passer, whether off the edge or as a blitzer.
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His speed is more straight-line than lateral, but he can track down runs from the opposite side and come downhill all the same. The high school linemen he faced aren’t the ones he will see in 2022, but he was able to shed blocks and disengage when necessary. What separates Flowe from most linebackers are his instincts at the second level. He times snaps well, sees the design of the offensive play early, and sniffs out the ball with ease.
Flowe’s “see ball, get ball” mentality and tireless motor are infectious and visibly rallied the team. He wallops opponents over the middle and lays the boom on unsuspecting pass catchers. His pursuit and closing speed are impressive, as is his ability to tackle on the move. Flowe is a natural playmaker, punching out balls and getting up to make tackles even when initially knocked down.
Flowe’s areas for improvement
We must take Flowe’s tape study with a grain of salt, as it was mostly against high school competition — though much of these traits were discernible in the Fresno State game. However, it wasn’t all spectacular for the Oregon LB. His lateral mobility leaves a bit to be desired in the open field and along the line of scrimmage.
Moreover, his coverage prowess was never his strong suit, and it showed against the Bulldogs. In that contest, he allowed several passes into his coverage. He has a solid feel in zone — though he’s prone to receivers slipping behind him — but, at least right now, his man coverage ability is a bit suspect.
Furthermore, Flowe lacks the overwhelming strength to anchor against looming linemen and can get engulfed out of the play. He was also a bit reckless at the high school level, leaving his gap/zone early because he could make up for it with his sheer size/speed combination. He will have to be more disciplined this season, though coaches will always want a player they have to rein in rather than push to be aggressive.
Current draft projection for Oregon LB Justin Flowe
Most “way too early” big boards and mock drafts project Flowe to be selected between the late first round and the back end of the second. And honestly, neither is wrong. I will be surprised if Flowe declares, even if he has a full, stellar season. One year of tape is simply not enough, especially for a player with a concerning injury history. The Day 2 realm seems like a safe bet if he does declare, but that’s assuming he’s 100% in 2022 and plays well.
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Regardless if Flowe leaves Oregon next offseason, NFL teams have already seen his resiliency and intangibles. If he can produce to the level many expected coming out of high school and stay on the field, he will not have to wait too long to hear his name called in the NFL draft — whether in 2023 or later.