There should not be any doubt that the Philadelphia Eagles need help in the secondary. Whether they spend big bucks on a free agent stud or take a prospect early in the NFL Draft, improvement is needed. Yesterday, we looked at a veteran safety (George Wilson) to add to the the Eagles defensive backfield, but today we are going new school and turning our attention to a guy who has been spoken about frequently on the message boards as a rookie prospect, University of Florida's Matt Elam.
A lot of Bleeding Green Nation members have an affinity for the young, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida native. He was one of the most dynamic and popular defensive players in all of college football last year and has quite the following in media circles. Elam's big hits and emotional, outgoing personality have made him a fixture for NFL fans searching for an answer at safety.
Elam is an athletic player who was highly recruited out of high school. His first year at UF, he played mostly special teams, but has been a full-time starter the last two years. Since becoming a starter, he has shown the ability to be a playmaker (6 INTs) and has flashed a strong presence as an in-the-box safety. Both CBS Sports and NFL.com agree that he is an extremely physical guy who can bully smaller offensive players in pass protection. Both also agree, he has great closing speed and has a knack for special teams play as a gunner.
Elam isn't all candy-canes and lollipops though. CBS questions his ability to angle for tackles and says he "tends to lead with his shoulder and will leave his feet to make the lights-out hit, resulting in some ugly lunges and misses." NFL.com also says his over-eagerness to make a big hit leaves him vulnerable, explaining that he "tries to make the big hit far too often, lunges, leads with shoulder, or leaves his feet rather than just wrapping up." He also lacks ideal size for the league's current trend of safety at 5'10," 202 lbs (for perspective, Nate Allen is 6'1," 210 lbs and Brian Dawkins played at 6'0" and 210 lbs), which leads to him being overpowered and out-dueled by taller tight ends and wide receivers at times.
CBS compares Elam to Carolina Panthers safety, Charles Godrey, while NFL.com compares him to our old friend, Quintin Mikell. NFL analyst and former Eagles scout, Daniel Jeremiah, projects Elam as a 2nd round pick. He was a team captain in 2012.
I have watched all of the tape I could find on Matt Elam. I live in South Florida was well aware of him as a high school prospect and am very familiar with his brother, Abram, who plays in the league (currently for the Kansas City Chiefs). Anyway, I think Matt is an interesting prospect. He is very athletic and uses his hands extremely well in coverage. Elam is very vocal before the snap (which is good for a young guy) and seems to thrive as an in-the-box safety. He is also an effective blitzer with scary closing speed and is one of the best hitters in the college game.
The biggest issue with Elam, is that he is the type of guy who is always in the right spot but has a frustrating ability to whiff on tackles far too often (think Nate Allen). Here is a quote from my scouting report, "Elam has great instincts and burst, but it is almost like he sees a target and wonders to himself, 'How hard can I hit this guy?' He then goes as fast and as hard as he can and whiffs. His nickname should be 'I SEE SQUIRRELS!!!' because his tackling approach is similar to my Jack Russell terrier's technique at chasing rodents."
Elam has great ball skills and coverage ability, but his lack of elite speed and size make me wonder how his coverage skills will relate to the NFL game. He is frequently bullied by larger offensive players and is easy to catch on when plays are going vertical. I see him as a solid second round pick, but prefer the likes of Kenny Vaccaro, Johnathan Cyprien and Eric Reid over him.
If you are interested in checking out Elam for yourself, take a look at these videos below:
Now that you know more about Elam, would you take him in the 2nd round or trade up into the 1st for him? Still in love with the guy?