Matt Elam Scouting Report
Matt Elam, 5-10/208
By Charlie Campbell
Fast, flies around the field
Can separate the ball from the receiver
Very good in pass coverage in the deep part of the field
Reads a quarterbacks' eyes
Good hands for a defensive back
Covers a lot of ground in pass defense
Can execute strong and free safety responsibilities
Can play zone or man schemes
Athletic enough to cover tight ends and running backs in man coverage
Reliable as the last line of defense
Keeps plays in front of him
Stud on special teams
Should be able to play quickly
Experienced & successful against good college talent
A little short
Too often goes for knock out blow rather than wrapping up
Should improve tackling fundamentals
Overly aggressive, penalties
Elam was the most consistent performer on the Gators defense over the past couple of seasons, and that is saying something considering defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd is projected to be a top-five pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Elam was all over the field for Florida contributing to the Gators having one of the toughest defenses in the nation in 2012. Even more than the stats illustrate, Elam made a lot of splash plays for Florida.
The junior amassed 76 tackles, four interceptions, two sacks, nine tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and five passes broken up this year. He opened the season with a pass broken up in the end zone to help Florida preserve a three-point road win over Texas A&M.
Elam was an absolute force against LSU and was dishing out punishing hits all game. He forced a key fumble on a long pass downfield that completely changed the game. Elam picked up his second interception of the seasaon against Georgia, returning it 31 yards. He returned a pick 42 yards against Missouri the next week. Elam closed out the regular season with a big game against Florida State, making seven tackles and an interception. To close out his career, he totaled 11 tackles with a sack against Louisville.
While some highly touted young Gators were quiet in 2011, Elam played extremely well. The sophomore had 78 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, two interceptions, seven passes broken up and two forced fumbles. Elam saw his first playing time as a true freshman in 2010, and he began to earn more playing time as the year progressed. Elam started replacing disappointing junior Will Hill. Elam recorded 22 tackles that season along with a sack and a pass broken up. Coming out of high school, he was the No.1 rated player in the state of Florida.
Elam is a heat-seeking missile flying around the field. He is a physical force who delivers devastating hits on wide receivers and running backs. Elam punishes offensive players with sheer violence. Sometimes it backfires on him as he fails to wrap up players. Elam also will need to be cognizant of the rules to avoid penalties in the flag-happy NFL.
Aside from his hitting ability, Elam is very good in pass coverage. He is fast and covers a lot of ground in the deep part of the field. The Gators cornerbacks were able to play aggressively since they had Elam's ability to help them over the top. Elam has the speed and athletic ability to matchup in man coverage on tight ends, running backs and slot receivers. He isn't flawless, but he can function in man coverage.
Elam has the size and aggressiveness to function as the eighth man in the box. He needs to work on his tackling fundamentals, but once he improves them he should be a good run-defender in the NFL.
Elam has good instincts, so his NFL team should allow him to rove around the field and make plays. On passes downfield, he has good ball skills to go with his hitting ability. Elam could be a ball hawk in the right scheme. He was also a special teams stud for Florida on coverage units. He should be an asset as a gunner in the NFL.
Elam is on the bubble between the first and second round for the 2013 NFL Draft. Texas' Kenny Vaccaro will be selected first, but it wouldn't be surprising if Elam becomes the best safety out of this draft class. He has big upside with a ton of talent from a rare combination of speed, strength and instincts.
Player Comparison: Donte Whitner.
There are lot of similarities between Elam and Whitner. They are identical in terms of size (5-10, 208) and both are extremely physical. Whitner is one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the NFL and Elam should join him in that club immediately. Whitner is solid in pass coverage, but Elam should be better in pass defense than Whitner is. Whitner was the eighth-overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. Elam has a shot at the first round, but won't go as high as Whitner.
Pittsburgh, Green Bay, San Francisco, Baltimore, Detroit, Carolina, Tennessee, Washington
There are a number of teams that could consider Elam in the early rounds. The Steelers need a safety to pair with Troy Polamalu, and Elam would be a good fit Pittsburgh's defense.
The Packers would be another fit for Elam. Some around Green Bay believe the team is targeting a safety in the first round, and Elam would bring a lot to the defense. The Packers prefer defensive backs who create turnovers; Elam does that and would also provide them with a physical presence in the back end.
The 49ers look poised to lose Dashon Goldson in free agency and Elam could be an option for San Francisco at pick No. 31 or No. 34. The Ravens may not bring back Ed Reed so Baltimore could also consider Elam.
If Elam falls past the Super Bowl participants, he could go to Detroit early in the second round. The Lions badly need to improve their defensive backs. If Elam slides lower in the second round, he would be an immediate upgrade for Carolina or Washington.
Sources have told WalterFootball.com that the Titans like Elam and he could be a target for their second-round pick.
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