At Florida, Matt Elam has been one of the best players on one of the best defenses in the country this season. Elam and the Gators defense will get the chance to show off on January 2 in the Sugar Bowl against Louisville. Here's my scouting breakdown on Elam for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Height/Weight: 5'10"/202 lbs
NFL Comparison: Donte Whitner
Elam played at William T. Dwyer High School, where he excelled on both sides of the ball. On top of playing safety, Elam rushed for 1,883 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior. He was also named to the All-SEC First Team this season.
Elam is good, but not great in coverage. He is a bit raw with his footwork, although his instincts are generally solid. When he has the right angle, he can be an absolute ballhawk. He has great explosiveness and really attacks the ball in the air.
He occasionally will fail to locate the ball quickly, and can get caught on deep routes when he doesn't turn his head to find the ball. When he does take a good angle and get square on the ball, he is a threat to pick it off, as he possesses solid hands and appears to have good jumping ability.
At this point, Elam is more of a hitter than a tackler. He is aggressive and always attacks, but sometimes can over-pursue and be caught out of position.
When he makes contact, Elam can deliver some huge hits. But oftentimes he relies on his hitting ability and fails to make the right play. He failed to make a clean tackle on multiple occasions, either showing poor form or going for a hit instead of wrapping up.
Elam will have to work on both his tackling form and general mentality or he will get burned in the NFL. The instincts are there, but the execution needs to be more consistent.
Elam's biggest asset is his athleticism. His combination of strength, speed and quickness allows him to line up all over the field. Over the four games I scouted, I saw him line up against the slot receiver, as an outside linebacker for blitzes and as the lone safety deep in coverage.
He blitzes well, crashing the outside and taking on any blockers who pick him up. He is seemingly all over the field, getting involved in a ton of plays and constantly trying to make something happen.
Elam seems to be extremely competitive and really shows up for big games. He played extremely well in the game I scouted against LSU this year.
His intensity is commendable, but he would do well to channel it a bit and not let himself get carried away. There were a few instances where he took stupid penalties or missed an easy play because he was out of control.
His health isn't of concern, as the only major reported injury was a groin injury in 2011 that required surgery in the offseason. There are also no major red flags in terms of Elam's character.
With an outstanding combine, Elam could slip into the end of the first round, but I think more realistically he'll go in the top 10 of the second round.