Archive for the ‘Safety’ Category

Florida strong safety Matt Elam takes Louisville running back Jeremy Wright in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 2, 2013. The #21 Cardinals upset the #3 Gators, 33-23.

Florida strong safety Matt Elam knocks Louisville running back Jeremy Wright’s helmet off of his head during the Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans Jan. 2, 2013. The #21 Cardinals upset the #3 Gators, 33-23.

Matt Elam (5′ 10″, 202 lbs.) is one of the top safeties going into April’s draft. Elam was know for his highlight-reel hits during his time at Florida. He was a spark plug on their defense who kept the team excited and helped make Will Muschamp’s defense one of the best in the country this past fall. Elam was someone that even from just watching his tape, was easily found on the field from his excited and passionate play. He truly cares about his team and wants to do whatever it takes to help them succeed.

Here are his stats from Florida:

Career: 176 total tackles, 124 unassisted, 52 assisted, 23.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 13 passes defended, 6 interceptions.

2012: 76 total tackles, 58 unassisted, 18 assisted, 11 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 5 passes defended, 4 interceptions

Now that Elam (who will participate in drills at the Combine this morning) has declared for the NFL Draft, I will evaluate him. My evaluation will be based on these categories: Agility, Run Defense, Blitz, Range, Coverage, Tackle, Ball Skills, Speed, Completion Percentage and Health.

AGILITY: 

Matt Elam has pretty dang good agility. He is insanely quick as a runner, tackler and coverage man. He is balanced, he can keep up with any move that a receiver or running back tries to put on him, and he can change direction on a dime. Long story short, Elam possesses top of the line agility. 9.0/10.0

RUN DEFENSE:

Elam can attack the line and the ball carrier with the best of them. He takes on blocks head on and throws them with quick jukes and strong throws, but he sucks (and I am not using that word lightly) at bringing down the ball carrier. I’ll get to this more in the tackle section, but all he does is go for the big hit. This is NOT going to work in the NFL. I don’t know what it is going to take, but someone needs to teach Elam how to bring down a ball carrier correctly. I maybe saw him wrap up a ball carrier correctly five times in his tape. It infuriated me, and I would second guess drafting him in the first or second round because of it. 8.0/10.0

BLITZ: 

When asked to blitz and bring down the quarterback, Elam does fairly well. He is usually asked to blitz on the outside and beat the tackle around the edge, and when he does, he tries to put a huge hit on the QB. But this is where that whole tackle thing comes into play. Sometimes he puts a huge hit on the QB and other times the QB squats, lowers his shoulder, and bounces away from Elam. There are other times (and all of this happens in his run defense too) where the QB will break Elam’s tackle. Most of these times he strings the QB to the edge and Florida’s defense would swarm the ball carrier, which helped him out, but he still needs to get better at bringing down the ball carrier. 8.0/10.0

RANGE:

Since Elam is pretty dang fast (pre-Combine 40 time: 4.53) he moves pretty damn well in space. He can read where the QB is throwing the ball and closes in on it very fast, and when he sees a fumble he is usually one of the first defenders to get there because he takes great angles. Elam has very impressive range. 9.0/10.0

COVERAGE: 

Elam is a much better zone coverage man that a man to man coverage man. In coverage he can read the throw and the QB’s eyes and see where it is going and react much quicker. In man, he doesn’t have that opportunity and has to keep up with a receiver, who is usually at full sprint when Elam meets him down the field. He is pretty good at both, but he is much better when he combines with a corner in man coverage. QB’s like to take shots at receivers that Elam is covering, but few of them get completed. I wish I knew the actual statistic, but I’ll keep it at this. Elam is a pretty damn good coverage guy. 8.5/10.0

TACKLE: 

Here’s the section I’ve already mentioned twice and have been waiting to get to. And I’m going to put this bluntly. Matt Elam cannot tackle. I don’t know what it is. I’m wondering if he ever even learned how to tackle when he was younger. I was taught how to tackle almost every single year I played football, so I have no idea how Elam is so bad. All I saw in Elam’s tape is him trying to make big hits on guys and receivers, running backs and quarterbacks all just bouncing off of him and getting first downs or huge gains. I said this earlier, but I’m going to say it again. This absolutely infuriated me. These plays can work in high school where he was probably one of the best defensive players in his league, but it sure as hell didn’t work in college and it’s not going to work in the pros. Elam

needs to be taken aside and taught how to wrap up on a ball carrier. Going for big hits may work once a game, but a defensive player has to be able to WRAP UP! Honestly, if I were a GM in the NFL, I would pass on Elam because of this in the first few rounds. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t take him until rounds four or five. That’s how big of an issue this is. There’s plenty of teams that could use a good safety, but I’m not sure that Elam can do that unless he learns how to tackle. 5.0/10.0

BALL SKILLS: 

matt elam 2When Elam has the opportunity to create a turnover, whether that be an interception or fumble, he relishes the opportunity. He, like any defender, loves to create turnovers and give the ball and some momentum to his offense. He is also a pretty good defender on balls in the air. He’s not afraid to jump to hit a ball out of the air or dive to knock a ball that’s in front of him down. I like Elam’s ball skills. 8.25/10.00

SPEED: 

With a pre-combine time of 4.53, Elam is up with the some of the best safeties in the draft when it comes to speed. He has a great burst when he is blitzing and his acceleration is top of the line. Elam can catch up to just about anyone on the field and NFL teams will love that. 8.75/10.00

COMPLETION PERCENTAGE:

QB’s like to take shots at receivers that Elam is covering, but few of them get completed. I wish I knew the actual statistic, but I’ll keep it at this. When it comes to completion percentage, Elam’s is pretty low for a safety. 8.5/10.0

HEALTH:

No injury problems here. 10.0/10.0

OVERALL: 

Overall, Elam gets an 8.3/10.0 from me, but I just cannot get past his tackling ability. It’s just missing. I understand that as as player, one would want to make big hits because it gets them on SportsCenter and it gets them noticed by scouts, but when scouts dive into the players tape and see like I have that he can’t tackle, I can’t see scouts recommending that their team draft Elam in the first few rounds in April. I went into this thinking that Elam, from what I had seen this past season, was one of the top safeties in college football. He’s fast, he has good ball skills and he can read and react with the best of them. But he just can’t tackle. If it were me, I wouldn’t draft Elam until the 5th round, but I know that he’ll be gone by the end of the 2nd. Good Luck to whichever team drafts him. You have a project on your hands and I wish you luck. Maybe you’ll come out on top and make a great pick. Maybe he’ll be a bust. Just don’t pay him too much.

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Let me know what you think in the comments below and follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook! @J_Vinton52 @OnTheClockNFL 

Next, I will be previewing Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU!

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NFL teams are always looking to add a little bit of playmaking ability to their defense. They look for someone who has a nose for the ball, and the tendency to make big plays in big situations. Despite off-field issues, which I believe are really overblown, there may not be a bigger playmaker in this year’s draft class than Tyrann Mathieu. Being a “playmaker” is an extremely intangible thing and can’t be determined through combine drills, but when you watch his tape it becomes clear that the Honey Badger is a difference maker when used properly.

Mathieu is not a big player, standing at just about 5’9”. He doesn’t have blazing speed. He really doesn’t even world-class cover skills. But in two years playing for the LSU Tigers, the Honey Badger earned his nickname through his fearlessness on the field. He gave 110% on every snap that I watched; he never got down on himself and always seemed prepared for the next play. He also had a tremendous knack for forcing fumbles. In his two seasons as a Tiger, Mathieu forced 11 fumbles, the most by any player in the SEC since 2000. A player with a natural ability to rip the ball loose like Tyann does is a very intriguing prospect to an NFL team.

Tyrann played a little bit of everything in his short time at LSU. Outside corner, slot corner in nickel situations and free safety were all positions you could expect to see Mathieu in on any given play. As a pure cornerback, Tyrann is not all that impressive. He often got pushed around by bigger receivers and didn’t cover all that well whether it was on the outside or in the slot. That being said I do think Mathieu is a smart football player. He’s a good tackler, reads offenses as well as anyone, and reacts to the ball faster than anyone you will see. That combination may make him a more likely fit at the free safety position in the NFL.

The Honey Badger was also a very explosive punt returner for the Tigers. In his one and only season as a punt returner, Mathieu averaged 17.2 yards per return, the highest average in the SEC since 2000, with 2 touchdowns, which was second in the SEC that season. Tyrann did make some questionable decisions on punts though, if he gets a shot to be a punt returner in the NFL he needs to learn when to just let the ball bounce in to the endzone, or be aware of when he’s actually crossed the goal line.

Just to talk a little bit about the elephant in the room of his off field issues, I think they were drastically overblown. There have been countless players who had issues in college with marijuana who went on to have successful NFL careers despite dropping on draft day. One recent player that comes to mind is Patriot’s tight end Aaron Hernandez who dropped to the 4th round after failing multiple drug tests while at Florida. Not only is Hernandez now a successful player in the NFL, he is also a model citizen and just got a big contract from the Patriots. I see absolutely no reason why Tyrann Mathieu can’t do the same thing.

I honestly feel the risk with Mathieu is very small. You’re not going to have to spend more than a 4th round pick on him and with that you’re going to get a very good player. At the very worst you’re going to get a solid special teams contributor with a high motor who could inspire the rest of his teammates.

Tyrann Mathieu is going to be a very hungry player after missing out on a year of football. I expect him to do very well in the combine, which starts tomorrow, but probably not enough to raise his stock much. In a recent interview with ESPN, Mathieu said he thinks he can be a good leader both on and off the field in the NFL, in his words “like a Ray Lewis.” Mathieu won’t be going before the 4th round, and honestly even if he didn’t have problems with weed I’m not sure if he is a first or even second round talent. What Mathieu is is a great football player, and that’s all scouts are going to care about. The Honey Badger has the potential to make a huge splash in the NFL if he gets put in the right situation with a coaching staff that will use him in the right ways.

Follow me on Twitter: @bill_slane

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