The Baltimore Ravens failed to advance to the Super Bowl after falling 17-10 to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship at home on Sunday. They received significant contributions from their first-round pick while other members of his draft class saw the majority of their action on special teams.
The Ravens had just three of their six 2023 draft selections and none of their undrafted first-year pros dressed. Their first overall selection shined bright in the passing game but also played a big part in their defeat while their two middle-round picks played exclusively on special teams.
The only healthy rookie not in uniform was sixth-rounder Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, who was inactive after dressing as a backup earlier for the regular season finale. Seventh-round offensive guard Andrew Vorhees missed his entire rookie year and remains on the Non-Football Injury list. Undrafted rookie outside linebacker Malik Hamm reverted to season-ending injured reserve after not being activated to the 53-man roster in late December.
How did the rookies who took the field fare in their last taste of NFL action of the season?
WR Zay Flowers
The first-round pick out of Boston College made some of his best and worst plays in this game. He had the most productive outing of his rookie year by leading the team with five receptions on eight targets for a season-high 115 receiving yards and his first touchdown in the playoffs on a 30-yard reception from quarterback Lamar Jackson on a scramble drill.
TOUCHDOWN ZAY FLOWERS!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/vvOzEjxA5u— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 28, 2024
That score marked his first reception of the game and he picked up a first down on two of his next four. He would’ve had six receptions and a second touchdown had he not gotten the ball knocked out of his grasp at the Kansas City one-yard line by Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed on the first play of the fourth quarter. Had he crossed the goal line, the Ravens would’ve brought the game within a field goal but instead, it remained a 10-point deficit with just under 15 minutes left to play.
Later in the quarter, Flowers got the better of Sneed on a 54-yard catch-and-run for the longest play by either team in the game. It wouldn’t set the Ravens’ offense up at the Kansas City 10-yard line but in a moment of excitement and immaturity, the electric rookie was flagged for taunting after standing over Sneed and spinning the ball on the ground next to him.
While Sneed and the Chiefs—with some help from the official—got the last laugh and ultimately the win in the end, the Ravens appear to have finally struck at wide receiver with Flowers in terms of homegrown talent. He finished as the Ravens 2023 leader in targets (108), receptions (77), and receiving yards (858) to go along with five receiving touchdowns and one rushing. He is the owner of the franchise’s records for most receptions and receiving yards ever by a Ravens rookie pass catcher. In his first career postseason, he recorded nine receptions on 13 targets 156 receiving yards, and a touchdown in two games.
“We’ll just try to come back next year and get it done,” Flowers said. “[We’ll] come back together as a team. This is a tough one, so we have to work towards next year.”
ILB Trenton Simpson
The third-round rookie out of Clemson played exclusively on special teams with 21 snaps which was 91 percent of the team’s total in the final game of his first season. That didn’t stop him from making his presence felt on covering punts and kicks where he recorded an assisted tackle alongside wide receiver Dan Chisena to limit a punt return in the late second quarter to just 10 yards. Simpson finished the 2023 regular season with 13 total tackles including 10 solos, two tackles for a loss, a sack, a fumble recovery, and a quarterback hit in 15 games.
EDGE Tavius Robinson
The fourth-round rookie out of Ole Miss also played exclusively on special teams with 14 snaps which was 61 percent of the team total and he didn’t record a solo or assisted tackle in this game. Prior to seeing his role and snaps on defense diminish down the stretch, Robinson saw the field early and often on a rotation and recorded 26 total tackles including 13 solos, two tackles for loss, a sack, and a quarterback hit in 17 regular games and recorded one assisted tackle in the playoff which came last week.