Round 1 – No. 32
Matt Elam, S
Height: 5’10” – Weight: 208 lbs.
Age: 21 – Class: Junior
It took longer than expected for the first Florida Gators player to be picked on Thursday during the 2013 NFL Draft, but safety Matt Elam got picked exactly where he was projected – late in the first round – when he was selected No. 32 overall by the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday.
Elam, arguably Florida’s best playmaker in 2012 and one of the top safeties available in the draft, was ranked No. 3 on most boards due to concerns about his height (5’10”). In every other aspect, Elam is a prototypical strong safety who hits hard, tackles well, forces turnovers, makes game-changing plays and can intimidate opposing pass catchers (and their quarterbacks).
“I just feel like my size won’t matter because when you turn on the film I’m a great competitor, I’m flying around, I’m hitting guys bigger than me. Size doesn’t matter,” Elam said. “I’m going to make receivers be scared when they come my way the next time. That’s in my job description.”
His versatility as nickel cornerback who that can blitz from the backfield or at the line of scrimmage made him a must-draft player for Baltimore, which lost both of its starting safeties at the conclusion of the 2012 season. The Ravens see Elam as a replacement for strong safety Bernard Pollard – not free safety Ed Reed – but he is talented enough to alternate between both positions in Baltimore’s defense.
“I’ve never been so excited,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said of Elam. “It was fun watching him play. To watch a player on tape and play after play you say, ‘Oh wow.’ The way he played on tape is the way you have to play in the AFC North.”
“He definitely has a chance to [start at strong safety],” said head coach John Harbaugh. “He’ll have to earn it. We have one veteran safety in there and some young guys that will be competing for it as well. But we always play the best guy, and that’s the guy that’s playing the best. Matt Elam will be right in the middle of that fight.”
A starter with the Gators for two seasons, Elam played extensively as a freshman and was second on Florida in total tackles (76) and tackles for loss (11) during the 2012 season. His four interceptions were a team-high, and his one forced fumble (which occurred against LSU) is arguably one of the best defensive plays in school history.
Elam is the 45th first-round pick in Gators history and the first player selected by the Ravens since Travis Taylor (No. 10, 2000). He joins 2013 undrafted free agent wide receiver Deonte Thompson on Baltimore’s 2013 roster and links up again with defensive backs coach Teryl Austin, who was the Gators’ defensive coordinator in 2010.
“I think they draft well,” said Florida head coach Will Muschamp about the Ravens organization. “I think they do as good as anyone on draft day. They’re going to have good players and obviously they had a void with both safeties that they lost. Matt is a guy that’s very mature, very smart. He’s going to translate very well to the pro level.”
Along with defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, Elam ensured that Florida had multiple first-round picks for the 11th time in school history and the first since the Gators saw three players go off the board in 2010 (Joe Haden – No. 7, Maurkice Pouncey – No. 18, Tim Tebow – No. 25). Floyd was selected No. 23 overall by the Minnesota Vikings.