Matt Elam may have some loose ties to the Ravens (Dean Pees recruited his brother Abram, and secondary coach Teryl Austin coached him at the University of Florida briefly), but as Thursday’s draft began, he didn’t really think that the Ravens were a team he’d be calling his “family” sometime in the future. Even though he’ll have a shot to make an immediate impact with the Ravens, Elam was heavily courted by the Cincinnati Beganls and Carolina Panthers – clouding his vision to just exactly where he may end up.
“Those teams really got my attention, because they gave me a lot of attention,” Elam said during a post-draft conference call. “They made me fell like that was going to be my pick.”
Instead, Elam joins the most recent Super Bowl Champions at a position where he’ll be looked upon to immediately fill a major void left by one of the best safeties to every play in the NFL.
“Just coming in, after a great player like Ed Reed was back there before, that’s a lot of big shoes to fill,” Elam said. “I feel like I am going to bring a lot of competitiveness, a lot of energy, and I am going to bring a lot of energy to a great defense already. I am just so excited just to have an opportunity.”
Even though Elam had only met with the Ravens during the scouting combine in Indianapolis and never visited with the Ravens prior to the draft, the team saw enough of Elam to make him their highest rated player on the board and invested their first-round pick on him. Knowing how Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome covets draft picks, especially with so much talent still available, Elam really must have sold the Ravens.
In college, he played against some of the best talent in the Southeastern Conference, but his height (5-10) is one factor that led to him being the third safety chosen in the first round.
“I just want to go out and prove it and make people realize why I feel like I was the best college safety coming out,” he said. “I have a big, big chip on my shoulder.” I just feel like my size doesn’t really matter. When you turn on the film, I’m a great competitor, I’m flying around, I’m hitting guys, I’m hitting guys bigger than me.”
Elam admitted that he was a big fan of Reed and knows that the expectations being placed on him will be elevated – especially in Reed’s absence.
“I have a lot of expectations,” Elam said. “I am going to make sure I don’t let my coaches down. I am going to come in and work and just continue to learn and improve and be that great pick for the Ravens.
It’s expected that Elam will make an immediate contribution to the team on special teams and battle with James Ihedigbo for the starting strong safety spot during training camp. The 29-year old Ihedigbo was re-signed this offseason and was a great stop-gap player for the Ravens. Even though he’ll provide depth in the secondary, Elam is clearly the player the Ravens want to pass the secondary torch to for the foreseeable future.
And in five years as his contract expires, the Ravens can have the same issues with Elam as he they did with Reed because Elam also doesn’t have an agent.