Matt Elam Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for Florida S

Ryan Lownes@@ryanlownesFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2013

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 08:  Deangelo Peterson #19 of the Louisiana State University Tigers is tackled by Matt Elam #22 of the Florida Gators at Tiger Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Matt Elam

Baltimore Ravens

First Round, 32nd Pick

After being named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press, highly decorated Florida safety Matt Elam chose to declare for the NFL draft.

Though lacking the size or exceptional athletic traits that many teams desire, he will enter the NFL as one of the most well-rounded defensive backs in this class.

Can his versatility, toughness and recognition skills make Elam a reliable contributor at the next level? Or will physical limitations prevent him from achieving the same success he did for the Gators?

Strengths Weaknesses
+ Versatile, played several roles for the Gators - Lack of height, at a shade under 5'10", could hurt him
+ Excellent stopping force, packs a punch - Not a playmaker in coverage
+ Strong intangibles, a leader with a good football IQ - Technique, footwork in man coverage must improve
+ Good motor, a high intensity player - Misses too many tackles going for the big hit


At a shade under 5’10”, Elam lacks ideal height for the position. He is powerfully built however, at 208 pounds, and frequently plays bigger than his size would indicate.

His athleticism also will not set him apart from others in this class. Elam possesses average speed, running a solid 4.54 40-yard-dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. He is not overly fluid or explosive changing directions, but should be adequate for the next level if he cleans up his technique.


An intelligent, competitive defender, Elam possesses the intangibles that NFL teams value. He demonstrated good leadership skills on the field, motivating teammates with his energy. In 2012, as a junior, he was voted a team captain.


While at Florida, Elam lined up all over the place in the team’s ever-shifting formations. He appeared to have a tremendous amount of responsibility on the Gators defense and was very active before the snap, helping move teammates into the right positions.

During his time in Gainesville, he was tasked with playing zone in deep and shallow areas. Likewise, he also lined up in man coverage at the core of the formation, in the slot and outside.

Elam enters the NFL as one of the most diversely used, well-rounded safeties in this class.


Playing the Ball

Limited slightly in terms of size and speed, Elam is a not a ball-hawking center fielder and rarely makes big plays in coverage.

At Florida, he was not the playmaker some made him out to be, with only 13 career passes defended and six interceptions, most of which were gift-wrapped as a result of an overthrow. One issue may be that his hands are not very natural, as I noticed several drops and missed opportunities.

Nonetheless, Elam does contest passes in the air with good timing when he is in position. He shows the ability to read receivers’ eyes or body language when his back is to the ball.


Against the Run

An aggressive run supporter, Elam flows to the ball quickly and initiates contact. While that aggression sometimes hurts him when he takes poor pursuit angles, he is a finisher who played a key role in the Gators’ run defense.

At Florida, he was a very effective blitzer, doing a nice job of disguising his intentions. Elam creeps to the line, anticipates the snap count and excels at making stops in the backfield, unaccounted for by blockers. In the last two seasons, he has recorded 22 tackles for loss.

He demonstrates the toughness to take blockers head-on, but struggles to disengage and is easily engulfed at the point of attack due to size.

Man Coverage

Elam has experience in both press and off-man coverage all over the field. Though it is not a strong suit of his, he is not exactly a liability either.

He shows the ability to plant and drive, but occasionally struggles when he is forced to open his hips and run downfield. Though he stays low and is reasonably quick in his backpedal, flaws in his footwork show up at times.

A lack of height shows up when Elam is forced to cover larger tight ends. I worry that he may not have the closing speed, fluidity or size to make up for technical flaws.

Zone Coverage

Generally speaking, Elam seems to be a responsible and reliable player. Though he will second-guess himself on occasion, he appears to have a very strong understanding of concepts and scheme. Instincts and route anticipation are very evident on tape as he visualizes things before they happen.

He may lack the speed and range to be a ball-hawking free safety, but he does not let many receivers get behind him when playing deep-zone coverage.

Elam is at his best defending shallow zones where he can quickly break off to defend the run or short pass. He patrols the field in front of him with great energy and aggressiveness.


Elam is a punishing hitter who strikes with great force when he is able to get his whole body into the tackle. Though size limitations may show up in other areas of his game, he relishes the physical side of the game and has excellent stopping power.

He usually does a nice job of aiming low and driving ball-carriers into the ground. Sometimes, however, Elam will sell out for the big hit and miss tackles. He occasionally drops his head and lunges instead of wrapping up. His tendency to lead with his head at times could result in personal foul penalties or injury at the next level.

While he certainly has his moments, NFL coaches will likely wish to see more reliability from the big hitter.


Future Role/Scheme Versatility

Considering his lack of size and range in coverage, Elam projects best as a strong safety in the NFL. His strengths lie more “in the box” than in deep-zone coverage where he would be relied on to cover large areas.

Though I mention his limitations, he possesses the versatility that teams value at the safety position. Not only is he a disruptive blitzing safety, he has experience lining up in press and off-man coverage all over the formation. This ability to occupy several roles could help Elam see the field quickly in the NFL.

Also worth noting, he played and excelled on special teams coverage units for the Gators.

Draft Projection: Second-Third Round


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