2013 NFL Draft Grades: Evaluating Each First Round Team
There is a certain level of unpredictability with every NFL draft, and through the first round of the 2013, there was no exception to that assertion.
Eric Fisher went to the Kansas City Chiefs as the No. 1 overall pick, and with the second pick, the Jacksonville Jaguars took Luke Joeckel. After the Philadelphia Eagles selected Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson at No. 4, there were three offensive tackles in the first four picks.
EJ Manuel was the only quarterback selected in the first round, going to the Buffalo Bills at No. 16 overall. A lot of pass-rushers came off the board throughout, along with more teams fortifying their offensive lines.
Several teams traded to gain multiple top 32 picks, but two in particular nailed all of theirs. Let's take a look at each franchise, and evaluate each based on letter grades.
Note: All trade information courtesy of ESPN.
Kansas City Chiefs
1. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Analysis: The new Chiefs regime couldn't really go wrong with Fisher or Luke Joeckel here, but they chose the superior athlete with a slightly higher ceiling.
Fisher figures to be a franchise cornerstone in Kansas City for years to come, and he projects better as a right tackle than Joeckel does at the next level. That will be key if franchised LT Branden Albert remains on the team.
After playing against lesser competition in the MAC, the former Chippewa stood out at the Senior Bowl and held his own against several future NFL defensive ends in pass protection.
Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN referenced the "mean streak" that Fisher possesses on the network's telecast of the action from Radio City Music Hall. That should serve Fisher well, as he'll not only fortify protection for QB Alex Smith but also help set the edge for electric running back Jamaal Charles.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport spoke with Fisher briefly, and the top pick isn't shying away from the hype:
And it's Eric Fisher for the #Chiefs at No. 1. His goal was to be No. 1 pick. I asked next goal: "Pro Bowl as a rookie." OK then— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 26, 2013
This appears to be a player who will flourish in his maiden NFL campaign, and Fisher is flashing the mentality of a player deserving to be selected here.
2. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Analysis: It's a bit of a strange fit for the Jaguars. Even with defensive-minded head coach Gus Bradley now in the fold, the front office decided to bolster the offensive line.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. With unproven commodities in Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert vying for the starting quarterback spot, the Joeckel pick makes sense.
Even with Eugene Monroe already at the starting left tackle position, this is a choice that can't be too heavily criticized. Going with the "best player on the board" philosophy, it would be hard to argue against Joeckel.
There is still the possibility of Jacksonville taking a quarterback on Day 2, where value at that position becomes much better. Joeckel is a solid choice no matter what the team does moving forward.
3. Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon (from Oakland Raiders)
Analysis: GM Jeff Ireland and Co. traded the Nos. 12 and 42 overall picks to move up and select Jordan, who was widely considered the pass-rusher with the most upside in the draft.
Expending a valuable asset to get Jordan proves that Miami got the player it wanted, but it came at a rather steep cost. Time will tell if Jordan was worth the bold move, but Miami still has another second-round pick to expend this year.
Considering how raw Jordan is, he may have a difficult time adjusting to the pros initially. However, he figures to fill in at the defensive end position in the Dolphins' 4-3 defense—opposite dynamic Pro Bowler Cameron Wake.
This has been an aggressive, active offseason for the Dolphins, who are definitely putting the pieces in place to contend in the AFC East with the dominant New England Patriots.
4. Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Analysis: New head coach Chip Kelly needed to add athleticism to the offensive line, and there's no guarantee All-Pro Jason Peters will be himself coming off an Achilles injury that sidelined him all of last season.
CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman provided some humorous commentary about the choosing of Johnson, in the context of recent NFL draft history:
Lane Johnson is the 3rd fmr TX HS QB from '08 recruiting class (Luck, RG3) to become a Top 5 pick..course he did it as 300-lb OT— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) April 26, 2013
Johnson is incredibly quick, and as a former signal-caller, possesses a high football IQ and is in ideal shape to thrive in Kelly's up-tempo offense. The quarterback position is very much up in the air in Philadelphia, with Michael Vick and Nick Foles figuring to compete for the starting job.
Whomever is back there will experience an immediate upgrade in protection, though. The presence of Johnson also helps RB LeSean McCoy and the receiver duo of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
The ex-Sooner standout can get to the next level and help block downfield on bubble screens and other very short passes that Kelly figures to run, helping the Eagles' playmakers gain yards after the catch.
5. Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU
Analysis: This is arguably the player with the most upside in Round 1, and the Lions weren't about to let him slip out of the top five. Head coach Jim Schwartz hasn't had a very strong defense in any of his seasons in Detroit, and that has essentially held the team back from far more success.
Ansah began playing football in 2010, so the fact that he was able to ascend to this point in the draft speaks to how rapid his development has been.
Having said that, this is a boom-or-bust selection for the Lions. NFL Network's Mike Mayock says that Ansah will either be an All-Pro or on the street within three years.
This is an ideal for Ansah, though, because he has talented teammates along the defensive front. Prior first-round picks Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley occupy the interior, which will free up Ansah on the outside.
Polish needs to be added, and Ansah must generate some go-to moves when pinning his ears back. Should he harness that enviable explosiveness, this could be a truly franchise-changing selection for Detroit.
6. Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
Analysis: Upgrading the pass rush has been the primary focus of the Browns' new front office, and that didn't change on Thursday evening.
The Browns already signed Paul Kruger and Quintin Groves in free agency, and even added DT Desmond Bryant to push the pocket from the inside to help in that regard.
Mingo registered just 4.5 sacks in his final year for the Tigers, which is somewhat of a red flag. However, there is reason to believe that he can be a force as an edge rusher in Cleveland.
Ray Horton's attacking 3-4 scheme is ideal for a havoc inducing athlete like Mingo, who won't have immense pressure to succeed immediately due to the presence of Kruger, Groves and converting DE Jabaal Sheard all capable of pressuring the opposing quarterback.
This is a bit of a risky pick since Mingo wasn't as productive as expected in his junior season in Baton Rouge. If he does wind up being a hit and makes an impact as a rookie, the Browns have a chance to make some serious noise in 2013.
7. Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
Analysis: New quarterback Carson Palmer definitely needs help up front if he's meant to succeed in the desert, and Cooper injects some necessary life into the trenches.
Cooper is a supreme athlete who is extraordinarily quick for his size, and specializes in pass protection. That should open up downfield opportunities for Palmer to hit superstar WR Larry Fitzgerald and the other Cardinals playmakers.
Arizona also struggled to run the ball in 2012, finishing dead last in the league with 78.2 yards per contest. The presence of powerful RB Rashard Mendenhall should help, as will Cooper's ability to get to the second level.
This wasn't the most exciting pick for the Cards, but Bruce Arians' vertical, pass-heavy offense requires prolonged blocking. The perfect combination of need and player were matched up at No. 7 overall, and Palmer and the Cardinals have to be thrilled to welcome Cooper to the fold.
St. Louis Rams
8. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (from Buffalo Bills)
30. Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
Overall Grade: A
Analysis: The Rams made the first big splash of the first round by trading up from the No. 16 slot, replacing the Buffalo Bills in order to select Austin.
It's telling that Austin went so high in the draft and his college quarterback, Geno Smith, was not chosen in the top 32. Austin had over 100 catches in each of his last two seasons in Morgantown, and is simply electric with the ball in his hands.
In addition to being dynamic out of the slot, the 5'8", 174-pound Austin can effectively run the ball out of the backfield and be an instant threat as a returner. This gives QB Sam Bradford a vital weapon to help keep up in the difficult NFC West division.
The best part about this move was that the Rams held onto their second first-rounder, and even traded back from No. 22 to No. 30 to grab Ogletree.
Off-field concerns follow the ex-Bulldogs star, but head coach Jeff Fisher has never been shy about taking chances on talented players with apparent character red flags.
Ogletree missed four games in his final year of college ball, but still led a talented Georgia defense in tackles (h/t Sports-Reference.com). Since he started his career in Athens as a safety, he can also be dependable when dropping into coverage.
New York Jets
9. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
13. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Overall Grade: C+
Analysis: It's a bit perplexing that new GM John Idzik didn't utilize one of his two picks to address offense in any way. The Jets still had a stout defense even without CB Darrelle Revis last season, and his replacement, Dee Milliner, isn't quite the same player.
Milliner figures to be a lockdown corner, but that position wasn't necessarily the biggest need in the Big Apple.
If QB Mark Sanchez is expected to succeed, the Jets had better focus on that side of the ball moving forward.
Richardson was a confusing option as well. He takes wonderful pursuit angles, has a strong motor and will likely translate as a 5-technique defensive end at the next level. That means the Jets have spent three of the past four first-round picks to solidify their three-man front.
Again, not the seemingly logical strategy when offense is a much more pressing need. Trading back from No. 13 and acquiring more assets may have been the better option, and Idzik had to feel the heat from fans booing the pick in New York City.
10. Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Analysis: Another top-flight guard goes in the top 10, and the Titans suddenly have a formidable tandem with the mauling Warmack and free-agent acquisition Andy Levitre on the inside.
That means there will be no excuses for QB Jake Locker, entering his third season in the pros as the unquestioned man under center. The impact Warmack will have has to help speedy RB Chris Johnson in running between the tackles, too.
Offensive line was a big reason why the Titans struggled so much in 2012. Part of it was due to injury, but part of it was lackluster personnel.
Warmack stood out on a Crimson Tide offensive line that consistently featured top-tier NFL talent, which is saying something. The big man is ready to fill in as a starter in Week 1, and to give Tennessee 10-plus years of productive play.
San Diego Chargers
11. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Analysis: Mike Mayock of NFL Network commented on how much of a disaster the Chargers' offensive line was until Fluker was selected at No. 11.
While Fluker promises to help in the running game, San Diego still needs to protect Philip Rivers' blindside in order to improve. Fluker likely can't play left tackle in the pros, and that should have been the focus for the Chargers here.
The innovative offensive mind of new head coach Mike McCoy will be going to waste if San Diego doesn't add more pieces.
Fluker is definitely a good start in upgrading the unit that is the Chargers' glaring weakness, yet the new regime likely would have served itself better by trading back. That could have either filled another need or allowed the team to nab a surefire left tackle.
12. D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston
Analysis: This was a bit of a surprise, but there are few better individual draft stories in recent memory than Hayden.
In a routine collision in practice, the Cougar star tore a vein near his heart and had a 95 percent chance of dying.
After six days in the hospital and an extremely delicate surgery, Hayden worked his way back into good enough shape to take the gridiron again. As a senior—prior to the improbable injury—he snagged four interceptions and returned two for touchdowns (h/t Sports-Reference.com).
Suddenly, Hayden finds himself as a top 12 pick in the 2013 NFL draft. What a rise, and the Raiders hope he can come in and be a lockdown CB immediately.
Hayden has an uncanny ability to recover, exceptional ball skills and quick hips that are ideal for a future star. The Raiders project to have nine new starters on defense, per OurLads.com, and Hayden will be the key to substantially improving the secondary.
14. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Analysis: With Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson occupying the defensive end positions as sack specialists, the Panthers clearly needed a disruptive force on the inside. That is exactly what Lotulelei provides, and he was the No. 3 overall prospect on Scouts Inc.'s big board (h/t ESPN).
Lotulelei was an absolute steal at this spot, and was thought to be a possibility as the No. 1 overall choice before a heart condition at the NFL Scouting Combine was revealed.
Even after being medically cleared, the way the draft shook out caused Lotulelei to dip a bit. Carolina will be ecstatic to plug him in.
With the heart issue behind him and a whopping 38 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at his pro day, Lotulelei has the strength and arsenal of moves to slip through the gaps and get to opposing running backs effectively.
NFL Around the League's Twitter page documented just how much of a no-brainer this was for the Panthers' brass:
Panthers with the most decisive pick of the night. Card was in w/i 30 seconds. #NFLDraft— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) April 26, 2013
This is a downright scary defensive line in Carolina now, much to the delight of head coach Ron Rivera.
New Orleans Saints
15. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Analysis: Vaccaro has long been labeled as the top safety in the draft—and for good reason. Although the Longhorns didn't have a solid defense this past year, there is no question that Vaccaro has a ton of potential to succeed in the NFL.
The Saints were gashed with so many big plays in 2012, and the new 3-4 scheme deployed by defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will require fortification on the back end. That made Vaccaro an obvious choice to enhance the defensive backfield.
Stepping up in run support is no problem for Vaccaro, and neither is pass coverage. In fact, that is such a strong suit for the safety, that he can even come in during substitution packages as an extra cornerback.
Ryan likes to bring the blitz frequently, and he scheme suffered in Dallas from shaky safety play. Wherever Vaccaro lines up—likely on the strong side—he figures to help New Orleans improve in 2013.
16. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State (from St. Louis Rams)
Analysis: I'm not nearly as low on Manuel as some, but this was the clear shocker of the first round. The mutual Syracuse connection between head coach Doug Marrone and QB Ryan Nassib made the Orange's most recent signal-caller a logical option once the Bills traded back.
Instead, the Bills strayed from a QB with familiarity in Marrone's system to take the raw but tantalizingly athletic Manuel.
Manuel did lead the Seminoles to a dominant Orange Bowl victory in his final college start, and was the Most Outstanding Player in the Senior Bowl. Apparently that was enough to elevate his stock to the point where he was the first quarterback off the board.
CBS Sports' Dane Bugler points to the biggest flaw in Manuel's game, which may result in him being an underwhelming pro:
If the mental part ever catches up to the physical part, then EJ Manuel can be as good as he wants...tough to project that though #Bills— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) April 26, 2013
The zone-read option craze that has taken the NFL by storm lately helps justify Manuel at this spot, but Marrone and Co. must take advantage of that athleticism. Otherwise, when Manuel has to look to his third and fourth reads, he could be in trouble.
17. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Analysis: A disappointing pro day predictably dropped Jones this low, but he goes to a wonderful organization whose defense will accentuate his strengths.
As far as collegiate production is concerned, there aren't many better first-round choices than Jones. Setting aside the poor 40-yard dash time and the other concerns that came from a few drills, the plays that Jones made prove that he is an elite prospect.
ESPN's Scott Van Pelt referenced Jones' game against Florida from the 2012 season, which the Bulldogs won 17-9, and didn't care about the linebacker's straight-line speed on that fateful pro day in Athens:
Saw Georgia beat Florida & never once wondered how fast 29 could run the 40.Because...who cares? Jarvis Jones + Pittsburgh feels perfect— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) April 26, 2013
Per Sports-Reference.com, Jones had 13 total tackles (4.5 for loss), three sacks and two forced fumbles in that SEC clash.
Now Jones gets to plug into Dick LeBeau's 3-4 outfit, and has a chance to start at outside linebacker immediately on the other side of stud Lamarr Woodley.
There are plenty of veterans on the Steelers that will serve as a valuable mentor as Jones adjusts to the pro game, and he couldn't have asked for a much better situation.
San Francisco 49ers
18. Eric Reid, FS, LSU (from Dallas Cowboys)
Analysis: Armed with 13 picks, GM Trent Baalke had plenty of flexibility to move up from No. 31 in case there would be a player that the Niners particularly desired.
As it turns out, Reid was that man, and San Francisco wasn't going to risk losing out on him. Other safeties were almost universally rated higher, but it's hard to dismiss Reid as a successful future pro or question Baalke's judgment.
Getting his chops in the SEC and under the tutelage of LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis certainly has Reid well-prepared to make the NFL leap. The Niners wouldn't have taken him if they didn't think he was special.
It's a huge compliment to Reid, because he will fill the void at free safety left by All-Pro Dashon Goldson, who bolted for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.
Saying that Reid will be that big of a star with any kind of conviction is difficult. This is a wait-and-see selection, but by no means is a poor one.
New York Giants
19. Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse
Analysis: There isn't a position that Pugh didn't play for the Orange, which gives the Giants flexibility. Right tackle may be the spot for the long-term, though, since David Diehl will be a free agent at the end of the year.
Pugh has the potential to start from the jump at that position as it is, especially since Diehl took a substantial pay cut.
Hailing from a pro-style, multifaceted offense at Syracuse only helps Pugh as he prepares to tackle the stress that inevitably accompanies first-year players diving into their first NFL playbooks.
The Star-Ledger's Jenny Vrentas talked to Giants GM Jerry Reese about the decision to take Pugh, and Reese highlighted the character of his new offensive lineman as a big strength:
Reese said Pugh is a "clean player" who doesn't have any warts on him. #nyg— Jenny Vrentas (@JennyVrentas) April 26, 2013
Run-blocking is an obvious skill that Pugh brings to the table, especially if he's meant to start on the right side. That will help spring home run-hitting RB David Wilson in his second season as a pro, and create a cleaner pocket for Eli Manning due to his experience protecting the blindside as a college senior.
20. Kyle Long, OG/OT, Oregon
Analysis: With a playmaker like Tyler Eifert on the board and plenty of opportunities to upgrade the defense, this was a confusing choice by GM Phil Emery.
Although protecting franchise QB Jay Cutler is vital—especially with the pummeling he's consistently taken in his time with the Bears—there were other more pressing needs.
The great thing about Long is that he has versatility, and can play virtually anywhere on the offensive line. Having an athlete like Long will certainly help as Chicago transitions to the West Coast offense under Marc Trestman.
This grade isn't as much of a bash against the type of player Long is—because he's really good, it's more of a criticism on the Bears' drafting priorities.
21. Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Analysis: The rest of the AFC North—and the entire league for that matter—should be very, very afraid. Andy Dalton needed another weapon to truly thrive, and the Bengals gave it to him.
Eiffert is the best pass-catching tight end—and well, the best at his position overall—in this class. Now Cincinnati has Jermaine Gresham and Eifert lining up in two tight end sets, which will be nearly impossible to account for with A.J. Green on the outside.
What's also wonderful about Eifert is that he can split out wide and play receiver at times, which can create huge mismatches in the red zone against smaller cornerbacks.
Soft hands, hard-nosed blocking and sound fundamentals give Eifert the opportunity to be a game-breaker for the Bengals from Day 1.
22. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington (from St. Louis Rams)
Analysis: GM Thomas Dimitroff parted with a third- and seventh-rounder to move up eight spots and get Trufant, which was a smart move.
Trufant is able to effectively mirror receivers and has wonderful natural instincts, which allows him to not only recover better than most corners can but to also locate the football with surprising effectiveness.
The departure of Brent Grimes in free agency and the aging Asante Samuel as the only proven commodity at corner made Trufant an easy choice. Atlanta had him rated higher than Florida State CB Xavier Rhodes, and got the man it wanted.
At 6'0" and 190 pounds, the former Husky has pro-ready size and the top-flight speed to get physical and aggressive at the line of scrimmage without getting burned too often.
23. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
25. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
29. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Overall Grade: A
Analysis: All three of these were slam dunks. Floyd was projected as high as No. 3 overall, Rhodes was the second-rated corner by many experts and Patterson has to be the most outstanding open-field playmaker other than Tavon Austin.
This is a masterful job by GM Rick Spielman, and CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora explained why Floyd couldn't possibly fall past Minnesota:
Vikings took Sharrif Floyd. His drop is over. Too much value to pass— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) April 26, 2013
Rhodes is a press coverage expert that gives the Vikings a critical cornerstone in the secondary, which should continue to improve the team's defense.
Although Patterson is considered very raw and may struggle to pick up a pro offense, his vision with the ball in his hands is something special to watch. He has the size to play on the outside and the quickness to be effective underneath.
At the very least, Patterson will be a lethal return man in his first season, with the upside to be a bigger and stronger Percy Harvin. There's a reason Spielman traded second-, third- fourth- and seventh-round choices to get him.
24. Bjoern Werner, DE/OLB, Florida State
Analysis: Werner batted down eight passes and had 13 sacks in his final season at Florida State (h/t Sports-Reference.com). The concern is that four of those sacks came against Murray State in the season-opener.
Far be it from me to question a decision made by reigning NFL Executive of the Year Ryan Grigson. This Colts defense should experience a significant improvement in 2013, and Werner has the athleticism to be an edge-rushing force as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
It may not be the ideal schematic fit, and Werner has to go through a developmental process. However, don't be surprised if his phenomenal strength and array of effective inside moves make him a nightmare flying in on blitzes.
There is perennial Pro Bowl upside here, and the Colts didn't have much to lose by taking another pass-rusher in a class filled with them. Depth at the position was crucial—especially with Dwight Freeney gone and Robert Mathis not getting any younger.
Green Bay Packers
26. Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Analysis: An instant starter in Dom Capers' 3-4 defense, Jones has a relentless way about him and can play all three downs. Although he's effective in attacking the quarterback, his 283-pound frame will make him strong against the run.
Jones is quick off the snap, and should line up on the same side as stud linebacker Clay Matthews.
Even with a suspect Green Bay secondary, such a combination has the shot to instantly improve a defense that has struggled mightily over the past two years.
The Packers needed to prioritize this side of the ball in order to legitimately contend for a Super Bowl again. There is little doubt that Jones can be an immediate impact player, and he could easily emerge as one of the top defensive rookies in the league.
27. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Analysis: This was Hopkins' only season in which he truly focused on football, as he used to take the hardwood for the Tigers. The results were wonderful: 82 catches, 1405 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Even with that type of production and how he manages to outshine teammate Sammy Watkins, this was a bit of a strange choice for Houston. Others such as Tennessee's duo of Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter were still on the board, along with a plethora of more developed receivers.
Hopkins isn't quite as sure of a thing to be the Texans' long sought-after No. 2 option to go across from Andre Johnson, but head coach Gary Kubiak is an offensive guru who seems to know what he's doing.
That should maximize Hopkins' production, but it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure of being counted to play such a key role in the Texans' offense so early on.
28. Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Analysis: Unlike a lot of defensive tackles in this draft, Williams can effectively get to the quarterback. He had six sacks for the Tar Heels this past season, and displayed unique burst for his size at 314 pounds.
There is a reason he fell this low. Williams is a former junior college player, and only played one year in Chapel Hill against top college football competition.
Denver has to be jumping for joy, though, because Williams is an absolute steal at this stage.
It was unfortunate that longtime star Elvis Dumervil had to leave, and it left a void that the Broncos had to replace. Williams' ability to generate pressure from the inside should help free up the rest of the Denver defense, and take pressure off the defensive backfield.
31. Travis Frederick, OL, Wisconsin (from San Francisco 49ers)
Analysis: Frederick played center for the Badgers in his final season, although he can line up and be effective anywhere up front. That's great news for the Cowboys, and Frederick can hopefully provide more balance to the offense by opening up more running lanes.
A smart football player who called out protections in a pro-style offense, Frederick could definitely play the same role at the next level for America's Team.
There is reason to be at least somewhat alarmed about this choice. Mike Mayock of NFL Network only gave Frederick a third-round grade, and considered him a bit of a reach at No. 31.
If the Cowboys were looking for a value pick in trading back, this didn't seem to be the proper play. It is possible that Frederick was overlooked, however, buried underneath the immense hype surrounding other offensive linemen.
Dallas is hoping that's the case, as it can't really afford to miss on a first-round pick having missed the postseason three years running.
32. Matt Elam, S, Florida
Analysis: It looked as though the Ravens were losing so much this offseason, but GM Ozzie Newsome has once again done a masterful job of filling in the holes on Baltimore's consistently brilliant defense.
Elam is a physical presence that can hit as hard as any defensive back, and should start at strong safety while Michael Huff plays centerfield. Don't discount Elam's ability to cover, though, because he's brilliant in that regard as well.
ESPN's Skip Bayless, typically a personality with which many disagree with on sports opinions, corroborates that assessment:
So Ravens WEREN'T sitting on Manti. Must admit, love Matt Elam. Safety mentality with corner skills. Ozzie strikes again.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) April 26, 2013
It may be beating a monotonous drum at this point, but facing the very best competition college football has to offer in the SEC can't possibly hurt Elam as he gets set to join the defending Super Bowl champions.