Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers is a big fan of soccer stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, which explains his reaction after his second touchdown against the host Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night. After shooting a fake penalty kick past fellow wideout Odell Beckham Jr., he imitated Ronaldo’s “Siuuu” celebration with NBC’s Mike Tirico shouting “Gooooooooooooal!” on the broadcast.

“I’ve been playing FIFA a lot,” Flowers said.


He’s been catching a lot, too. The 22nd overall draft pick’s team-leading 58 receptions are already the most by a rookie in franchise history. He’s just 228 yards away from surpassing Torrey Smith’s mark for the most yards by a first-year Ravens player, and his 613 yards rank fourth in the NFL among rookie receivers this season. Only the Los Angeles Rams’ Puka Nacua (73) has more catches.

Beyond the numbers, what’s been Flowers’ impact?


“I would describe the impact he’s had is right on time,” quarterback Lamar Jackson said. “You notice every time he did something, it was right on time. It was perfect situations where he scored [and] made the touchdown catch on that run, and he just needs to keep doing it. [He needs] to keep getting the ball in his hand, not just him, but all of our receivers — ‘Bate’ [Rashod Bateman] is a great receiver [and] ‘OB’ [Beckham] and ‘Nelly’ [Nelson Agholor], we have to get everybody involved, because those guys catch the ball and make magic.”

No one more so than Flowers, whose two touchdowns against the Chargers came on a 3-yard pass to the back of the end zone after a play-action fake from Jackson, and then on a 37-yard jet sweep handoff to seal a 10-point victory.

The latter was the second-longest touchdown run by a wide receiver in the NFL this season. Flowers also had just a 0.7% chance of scoring on it, according to Next Gen Stats, but was already running at 15.46 mph when he got the handoff.

It was just the latest example of Flowers showing off not just his speed, but his versatility.

In the season opener, Flowers had nine catches — a franchise record for a rookie in his debut — for 78 yards. That included a 28-yard gain on the Ravens’ sixth play of the game, as Flowers cemented his “Joystick” nickname by leaving a trail of defenders in his wake. The 54 yards he gained after the catch against the Houston Texans was the highest percentage (.692) by a rookie in a game over the past two seasons, per Next Gen Stats.

Just over a month later, Flowers became just the second receiver since 1970 to tally at least 50 yards from scrimmage in each of his first seven career games when he hauled in four passes for 75 yards against the Detroit Lions. The next day, Ravens coach John Harbaugh noted that the rookie out of Boston College is diligent, very smart and “not anywhere near where he’s going to be in terms of understanding the offense.”

Fast forward to Week 13 and the Ravens’ bye, and it’s become apparent that Flowers continues to grow exponentially, both in terms of impact and understanding the offense.

He is the best receiver on the roster.


“The kid is a guy that wants to be great, wants to soak up all the information as much as possible,” Ravens wide receivers coach Greg Lewis said. “He talks to [assistant wide receivers] Coach ‘Dub’ [Keith Williams] and I daily about things that he can work on to get himself better. He’s getting out [to practice] early to get stretched out making sure he’s ready to go. He’s just a young guy, [and] to see him do those type of things is pretty impressive on his end as professional as he is as early [as he is] in his career.”

The biggest difference between that Week 1 breakout and now, Williams said, is Flowers’ understanding of not just where he needs to be but the concept of the play design.

“For a young player to come into the NFL in any organization, learn a new offense, learn the verbiage and understand that it’s hard to learn one spot, let alone two or three spots,” Williams said. “He has grown immensely throughout the season as far as understanding the entire schematic of what we’re trying to get accomplished and how he fits into the puzzle and then going out there and letting his talent shine.”

Added right tackle Morgan Moses: “He’s electrifying. Every time he has the ball, he makes somebody miss. And it’s our job as offensive linemen to keep blocking for him. And he’s a guy that you can give the ball to him in a whole bunch of different ways.”

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That should continue to help add a whole lot more wins, too.

Week 14


Rams at Ravens

Sunday, Dec. 10, 1 p.m.

TV: Fox

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Ravens by 7 1/2

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