With the 2023 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, fantasy football managers — particularly those in dynasty leagues — are trying to size up rookie values. And few rookie wide receivers could make a bigger Year 1 impact than the Baltimore Ravens‘ Zay Flowers. What might dynasty managers expect from him?
Zay Flowers’ Dynasty Outlook and Value
The Ravens’ wideout corps has undergone a significant upheaval in the last 12 months. Entering the 2022 NFL Draft, their unit was led by 24-year-old Marquise Brown, who was coming off his first 1,000-yard campaign. Rashod Bateman looked like a future impact player in his just-completed rookie year. And 2020 third-rounder Devin Duvernay was making strides as a future No. 3 WR.
But then the franchise endured what amounted to a massive shakeup — partly of their own choosing, and partly due to bad luck. They unloaded Brown to secure a first-round selection, which they used to upgrade their offensive line. And that next season, Demarcus Robinson led all Baltimore WRs in receptions and receiving yards.
Just like the Ravens planned.
Lamar Jackson missed five games. Bateman missed 11. Duvernay missed three. The aerial attack was so depleted that, with all due respect to DeSean Jackson, Baltimore signed DeSean Jackson.
That was the backdrop for the Ravens’ decision-making during the 2023 NFL Draft — a situation screaming for an instant-impact wideout. Baltimore’s WRs averaged only 89.2 receiving yards per game last year, which was less than what three other NFL WRs did on their own.
This franchise’s solution was to select Flowers with their first pick, which happened to be their only selection in the first 85 picks. Their one shot at an immediate star, and they went with Flowers.
It reflects just how good the incoming rookie is, as well as the Ravens’ desperation to give Lamar Jackson an all-important tool alongside Bateman and Mark Andrews.
That part of the first round was actually fascinating. It was a rare WR run in the opening frame, as the first four wideouts came off the board in succession: Jaxon Smith-Njigba (No. 20), Quentin Johnson (No. 21), Flowers (No. 22), and Jordan Addison (No. 23).
Just as interestingly, Smith-Njigba (Seahawks) and Johnson (Chargers) might be their teams’ No. 3 WRs in the near term, as both will play alongside fantastic duos. Meanwhile, Addison will take a backseat to Justin Jefferson.
But Flowers is in a unique spot in Baltimore. Despite the presence of the dominant Andrews, and despite the clear talent of Bateman, we shouldn’t be surprised if Flowers becomes the alpha receiver in Year 1. Although he has a slight frame and might end up manning the slot, he’s also a jack-of-all-trades, is a bit speedier than Bateman, and has proven abilities as a rusher.
We could see Flowers in a Deebo Samuel-lite role, as the team makes sure they get the ball in his hands.
On the flip side, he was impacted more than usual by drops, and we don’t know how he’ll adjust to bigger defenders. At 5’9″ and 182 pounds, he’s going to be one of the smaller receivers on the field. That said, Antonio Brown was 5’10” and 185 pounds and was also a hair slower than Flowers is.
It’s doable. It’s just that Flowers has more of an uphill climb to win contested balls and stay on his feet on first contact.
On many other teams, Flowers might have needed a year or two to become a top-two option. Yet the Ravens have no choice but to prop him up immediately. Even if he struggles early, this franchise will be all in on their first-round pick, whom they hope will help elevate and deepen their passing attack.
Zay Flowers’ Fantasy Ranking
PFN’s Tommy Garrett ranks Flowers No. 9 in his rookie dynasty mock draft, sandwiched between the previously mentioned Jordan Addison (No. 8) and Saints RB Kendre Miller (No. 10). As we know, rankings are largely subjective because they hinge not only on objective truths about players but also perceptions of how they’ll be utilized, as well as personal fantasy preferences.
For example, you might be the kind of manager who loads up on 1B running backs (“complementary” RBs like Dillon) and RB handcuffs, knowing that you can get massive upside at relatively little expense.
Or you might be a best-in-class manager who targets elite positional-skill players whenever possible, followed by filling positional gaps. Why take a running back who gets you 6-8 points when you can snag a wide receiver who averages 8-10?
I fall into the former camp, which means I’m biased against guys like Flowers, especially on such a run-friendly team. If he were vying for the No. 1 WR role in Kansas City, for example, then I’d target him earlier for higher yardage and TD potential.
But even if Flowers leads the Ravens in catches and receiving yards, how much will that help your dynasty team? Baltimore hasn’t had a top-20 fantasy WR since 2014. The last time one of their WRs cracked the top 14 was in 2007. And top 12? I have no idea, but based on my research so far, it was more than 20 years ago.
This offense can realistically feed two receivers per game from a fantasy perspective. Andrews should be fairly locked in. Bateman and Flowers will push for 900+ yards each. You can see where I’m going with this.
Last year, the Jets’ Garrett Wilson enjoyed a cool 83-1,103-4 receiving line. That was good enough to be the No. 21 fantasy WR. That would be a lofty ceiling for Flowers for each of the next three years. More realistically, until/unless he gets a pass-heavy QB down the road, the incoming rookie has a near-term ceiling closer to Drake London’s recent 72-866-4 line, which made him the No. 31 fantasy WR.
Burning a first-round dynasty rookie pick on a WR 3/4 would be too bullish for me. I see Flowers as more of a mid-to-late second-round rookie pick, with the understanding that Baltimore’s offense will run through Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, Andrews, Bateman, and Flowers. If everyone stays healthy, Flowers could outperform Bateman, and perhaps even Andrews if things break perfectly for him. But that should keep him outside the top 30 WRs for the foreseeable future.
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