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Patriots draft targets 2023: Zay Flowers is a dynamic playmaker at wide receiver

After already drafting Tyquan Thornton in 2022, adding Flowers would further increase the Patriots’ offensive speed.

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Boston College v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Coming off a rather disappointing 8-9 season, the New England Patriots have plenty of potential for improvement. They already addressed some areas of need so far this offseason, but will now look to add long-term stability and additional playmaking ability through the NFL Draft. With 11 selections in hand, Bill Belichick and company are in a good position to do just that.

How they will ultimately use those picks remains to be seen. However, there are several players who would fit what they are looking for both at positions of need and at other spots all over the roster.

In our Patriots Draft Targets series, we will be taking a close look at some prospects we believe might be falling into that “fit” category. Today, let’s assess a projected early-round wide receiver.

Hard facts

Name: Zay Flowers

Position: Z receiver

School: Boston College

Opening day age: 22

Size: 5’9 1/4”, 182 lbs, 72 1/4” wing span, 29 1/4” arm length, 9 1/4” hand size

Workout numbers: 4.42s 40-yard dash, 35 1/2” vertical jump, 10’7” broad jump, 8.29 Relative Athletic Score


Growing up with 13 siblings, Flowers started playing football at only 4 years old. While always on the smaller side, he became a productive player at University School in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and eventually entered the college level as a three-star recruit. He received multiple Division I offers before deciding to take his talents to Boston College. Originally a defensive back, he moved to wide receiver upon his arrival.

Flowers went on to spend four years with the Eagles. While he was a role and package player for much of his freshman campaign, he started every game he played in over his final three seasons. In total, he is leaving school with 37 starts among his 48 in-game appearances as well as 200 catches for 3,056 yards and 29 touchdowns; he also carried the ball 57 times for 345 yards and two additional scores. Flowers led B.C. in receiving every year between 2020 and 2022, and was named to three All-ACC teams.

Draft profile

Expected round: 1st-2nd (Top 40)

Strengths: Flowers is a “don’t judge a book by its cover” player, who knows how to make up for his lack of prototypical size. He is a dynamic playmaker, who is quick out of his stance and has the lateral agility to make breaks without losing much speed. Speaking of which, he has good acceleration and long speed and is therefore able to threaten every level of a defense. Helping him do that is his ability to track the ball in the air, and outmuscle defenders to haul in deep passes or throws outside his comparatively small frame.

While his profile would suggest he is an inside receiver only, Flowers actually has shown he can be successful even when used in a different fashion. His ability to generate yards with the ball in his hands is elite, and arguably among the best in this year’s class. He combines elusiveness with great spatial awareness and change-of-direction skills, and also has the appropriate toolbox to manipulate defenders using leans and head-fakes. Despite his size, Flowers played 48 of 48 possible games during his college career.

Weaknesses: Flowers’ lack of size is a concern. His height (5’9 1/4”) ranks in the 8-percentile, his weight (182 lbs) and wingspan (72 1/4”) in the 10- and 9- percentile, and his arm length (29 1/4”) just in the 2-percentile for wide receivers. Naturally, he is limited in what he can do: his catch radius is small, while his physicality especially versus press-man coverage will be tested when going up against NFL-level defensive backs. He also needs to show he can hold his own when blocking in the running game.

While he has ability to beat defenders through his route-running, he still has room for growth particularly when it comes to consistently not telegraphing his intentions; his A-grade elusiveness alone might not be enough at the next level. The same is true for drops: Flowers had nine drops in 2022, per Pro Football Focus, for a rate of 9.9 percent.

Patriots fit

What would be his role in 2023? Flowers has the ability to play a multi-faceted role at the next level, but first and foremost he would be a Z receiver with some inside/outside flexibility. As such, he would play a complementary role in a receiving room that also is home to veterans JuJu Smith-Schuster and Kendrick Bourne. Accordingly, the 22-year-old would likely serve as a package receiver for much of Year 1. That does not mean he would not still be productive, though: Flowers’ talent and run-after-the-catch skills make him an immediate-impact player.

What is his growth potential? Even with Smith-Schuster under contract for two more seasons beyond 2023, Flowers would likely grow into a starter-level role by Year 2. As such, he would possibly replace free agent Kendrick Bourne as the No. 3 option in three-receiver sets. Further down the road, he would ideally take over the WR1 spot currently projected to belong to Smith-Schuster.

Does he have positional versatility? Indeed he has, to a degree at least. Flowers may not be suitable as an X-receiver on the line of scrimmage, but he nonetheless offers plenty of positional flexibility. Besides aligning inside and outside of the formation, he also was regularly used on motion plays and as a ball-carrier. He is at his best in the slot, but his elusiveness and abilities as a runner with the ball are quite useful.

What adding him would mean for the depth chart: Flowers will be a lock to make the roster. He would join JuJu Smith-Schuster and Tyquan Thornton in that category, with DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne a notch below. While his presence might not automatically mean much for those players, Bourne’s future — both in the short term and particularly beyond 2023 — would be far less secure. But even if the veteran is kept around this year, adding Flowers to the mix would be bad news for depth interior receivers Tre Nixon and Lynn Bowden Jr.

Why the Patriots make sense as a landing spot: The Patriots have not had a dynamic player quite like Flowers since Julian Edelman’s heyday in the 2010s (in fact, they already had him play an Edelman-like role at the East-West Shrine Bowl). While the two players have different strengths and weaknesses, the youngster would add another dimension and some long-term perspective to the New England wide receiver group.

Patriots contact: East-West Shrine Bowl + Top-30 visit

Verdict: No Boston College wide receiver has heard his name called in the draft in 35 years, and Flowers is all but certain to change this. The question is whether on Day 1 or Day 2. Regardless, the Patriots might be the team to end the Eagles’ streak and bring the young wideout in. After all, his skillset should translate well to their offense and help improve the supporting cast around quarterback Mac Jones. If the team misses out or does not want to invest early in Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Flowers makes sense later in the first or early in the second round.

Would Flowers be a good fit for the Patriots? Where do you think he will be drafted? Please head down to the comment section to discuss!