Are the Patriots Going to Draft Zay Flowers?

Zay Flowers to the Patriots

We are three days out from round one of the 2023 NFL Draft and the football world is spinning. The Panthers’ supposed favorite quarterback has had his stock tanked, first-round positions are moving via trade, and nobody has a clue just how dramatic night one will be.

If you’ve followed The Slate throughout this draft cycle, or have gotten your hands on our draft guide, you should be feeling pretty confident in a number of things. One of which—a tale as old as the 2023 draft cycle itself—is the fact that Zay Flowers could very well be the first wide receiver selected. The most likely ceiling for this prospect to become reality is at pick No. 14, by the New England Patriots.

Why the Patriots should draft Zay Flowers

There are three legitimate reasons to support the case for Zay Flowers going to the Patriots in the first round of the draft on Thursday: he fits their historical athletic mold, he has a relationship with the coaching staff, and they absolutely fucking need him.

  1. He fits the mold

    The New England Patriots have drafted just 11 wide receivers since 2002, and only one—N’keal Harry—in the first round. The Harry pick indubitably left a sour taste in the organization’s mouth, but that doesn’t mean they’ll never take another shot. Although there is low volume of capital expenses to compare to, we were able to gather enough physical data to justify the Pats taking another dip in the first-round WR pool this year.

    Since 2011—based on average measurable traits—the “stock” wideout drafted by the Patriots is a 6-foot-1, 204 pounder with 32.3″ arms. Generally speaking, that is of the larger variety. However, Flowers’ underwhelming traits—5-foot-9, 182 lbs—can be overlooked by simply remembering how large N’keal Harry is, and how dramatically his measurable traits skew the numbers of such a small field of draft picks.

    As far as athletic abilities go, the “stock” Patriots drafted wideout runs a 4.41 40-yard dash, a 4.30 shuttle, has a 125″ broad jump, and a 36″ vertical leap. Zay Flowers ran a 4.42 40 with a 1.53 10-yard split, and posted a 127″ broad, and a 35.5″ vertical leap. He never ran the shuttle at the combine, but his lateral ability shows up clearly on tape.

    If you can look beyond the fact that he measures in about three inches and 20 pounds shy of the average Pats wide receiver, the athletic promise of Zay Flowers is extremely enthusiastic. It’s also important to remember that the two best WRs that the Patriots ever drafted—Deion Branch and Julian Edelman—were also “undersized” to these standards.

  2. He already knows the staff

    Say what you will about All-Star weekends in college football, and feel free to debate which one you prefer to subscribe to, but no matter your stance, Zay Flowers made a lasting impression at the East West Shrine Bowl. He didn’t play in the game itself, but wowed day after day at practice, and spent plenty of time tied to the coaching staff at the helm of the East squad: the Patriots.

    It’s easy to fall in love with athletes, but it’s the intangible factors that players bring to the table which raise their stock on draft night. Not only did Flowers spend a week working out directly with the Patriots staff, but he’s an East coast kid with who spent his collegiate career down the street from Foxboro. He spent an extended visit in New England with OC Bill O’Brien, “learning the team’s offense,” and every rumor to come out of their interview process with him was of high praise.

    There are zero knocks on Flowers’ character, he has the production and athleticism to warrant the hype, and he’s already friendly with the entire staff. What more could you want in a first round pick?

  3. The Patriots need a top receiver

    Jakobi Meyers was the only pass catcher in New England to eclipse 600 receiving yards in 2022, and he skipped town. The Patriots inked JuJu Smith-Schuster to a three-year deal worth $33M this offseason, but it’s currently up to Kendrick Bourne and Devante Parker to navigate the wide portion of the field. Neither of them offer nearly enough career production to don the title of WR1 for an NFL club.

    Zay Flowers’ 178 receptions, 2,715 yards, and 26 touchdowns since 2020 at Boston College are numbers that would be warmly welcomed in New England. With JuJu in the slot, and bonafide complimentary pass catchers in Bourne, Parker, Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki alongside him, the regular separation and lightning speed that Flowers plays with could lead to his immediate success.

    All that said without even mentioning the most glaring question looming over the team: who is QB1? Regardless of who emerges atop the supposedly open competition for the job, Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe both would benefit greatly from having Zay Flowers in the mix.

If the New England Patriots hope to return to competition for the AFC East title in 2023, they need to add a serious weapon in the draft. Flowers will represent the rebirth of balance in that offense, and taking him with the 14th-overall pick will allow the remaining 10 selections the Pats have to be spent in a more traditionally responsible manner.

Belichick and Co. have five selections in the top 135 this week. Plenty of opportunity to fill holes with more traditionally on-brand picks, boosting their offensive line and secondary.

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