Matt Elam – Florida
Age when drafted: 21
Hometown: Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Collegiate Number: 22
Combine notables: 4.54 40 with 1.57 split, 17 bench reps, 35.5” vertical, 9’10” broad jump
Games Viewed: 2012 – Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina, Florida State, Louisville 2011 – Auburn, Florida State, Ohio State
Matt Elam attended William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Elam was a highly recruited prospect that won the Gatorade Player of the Year and Florida Mr. Football as a senior. Elam was rated as the 14th overall prospect in the 2010 recruiting class and joined a vaunted class of prospects for Urban Meyer.
Elam made an immediate impact at Florida as a true freshman in his only season playing under Urban Meyer. Elam finished his freshman season with 22 tackles and a sack, playing in all 13 games for the Gators.
Elam would take over as a full-time starter in 2011. Elam would make his presence felt with his physical style of play as he became one of the most feared hitters in college football as a sophomore. He finished the season with 78 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 interceptions.
Elam’s final season in Gainesville he was voted as a First-Team All American for his 76 tackle, 2 sack, and 4 interception season.
Elam has NFL bloodlines as his brother Abe has played seven seasons in the NFL after going undrafted in 2005.
Elam checked in just under 5-foot-10 at the Combine. His short stature will be worrisome for teams as he will be asked to cover tall, flex TE’s at the next level. Elam did struggle at Florida with taller receivers that could go up and get the ball.
What Elam lacks in height he makes up for with excellent musculature throughout his body. He’s a rocked-up 208 pounds that uses his body to be an enforcer at the line and in the backend. Strong leg drive and powerful tackler.
Elam is an above-average athlete with good straight-line speed. He’s a little tight hipped which could be troublesome covering quick tight ends. Does have great burst and explosion to drive on the ball. Makes up for tightness in the hips with great make up speed.
Elam was used to cover the slot and played the deep half/third. Elam was equally adept at covering in either aspect. Struggled a bit flipping his hips but has enough burst and long speed to not have to worry about him lining up in the slot. Good zone instincts and is best when the ball is in front of him. Doesn’t play the ball as well with his back to the ball. Has a tendency to not locate or locate the ball late, allowing big plays down the field. More upside as a coverage safety than given credit for and I like him as a coverage safety at the next level. I don’t see him making his living as a man coverage safety but could be impactful as a zone safety.
Came away from two years worth of tape scratching my head with Elam’s effort, technique, and instincts as a tackler. He was fairly inconsistent in all three aspects and I would be worried about him as an in-the-box safety. While he excels at flying off the edge and making plays in the backfield, he misses a lot of tackle and at times was negligent in run support at Florida. He makes a ton of splash plays on bone crushing hits but becomes over-aggressive and drops his head, causing him to miss tackles. Will also be a penalty and fine machine at the next level if he can’t control his aggressive style of play.
Alcohol related arrest as a freshman at Florida. Passionate player that can charge up a defense at the drop of a hat.
Matt Elam is a guy that seems to be miscast in the media. He’s a highlight machine but wasn’t great in-the-box at Florida. He will make a few splash plays but stands around and watches the action too often. I see more upside as a coverage safety than as a strong run support safety.
Elam will worry teams with his hitting prowess. He makes a ton of splash plays but durability could become an issue with his lack of size at the next level. Similar playing style and size to Bob Sanders, who’s career was cut short due to injuries.
In the right scheme (heavy zone coverage) Elam could be an effective starter from day one. I think he’s miscast as a box safety and it will be detrimental to the success of his career if he’s used primarily as a run defender.
There’s a ton of upside with Elam but there’s an equal amount of concern, for me. I see him a third-round prospect that probably winds up being taken in the second round.