The Baltimore Ravens rounded out the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft by drafting Florida safety Matt Elam on Thursday night.
While Elam fills the void left by Bernard Pollard at strong safety, the pick is a head-scratcher, to say the least.
With Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien available, who is a much better all-around talent than Elam, it’s hard to buy into this pick.
Along with Cyprien, Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown was still available when the Ravens picked. Brown is my top defensive player in the draft and second overall player, so clearly he should’ve been the pick in my opinion.
While Elam is a heavy-hitting in-the-box safety, there was plenty of talent still on the board for Ravens. Cyprien, Brown, California wide receiver Keenan Allen and Notre Dame inside linebacker Manti Te’o.
The list is endless.
Elam possesses a rare talent to impose fear in an opposing offense with his ability to cover the whole field and deliver bone-crushing hits. But regardless of his ability in run support and in the middle of the field, he doesn’t possess ideal cover skills.
He’s essentially a younger, more athletic Bernard Pollard. However, that’s not really saying much.
Elam is a good for a “wow” play or two in coverage each game, mainly with his ability to break up passes. However, for every great play, there are three or four less-than-ideal plays for a safety.
Cyprien would’ve been a much better option for the Ravens, as he has the same heavy-hitting mentality that Elam possesses; however, he is much better in coverage. It’s not even close.
Rounds two and three will be crucial for the Ravens to say the least, as they passed on elite talent in Cyprien, Brown and Allen to take a player in Elam who was exceptional in college but will just be an average player at best in the NFL.
His game-changing plays, such as a forced fumble or bone-crushing hit, will make him appear to be a much better player than he actually is. However, his slowness in coverage and lack of height (5’10”) will lead to trouble in the NFL.
He won’t change the Ravens secondary like a first-round pick should. Instead, he’ll just step in and produce to the same extent as Pollard, with the skill and athleticism to be slightly better.
Bottom line, Brown or Cyprien should have been the pick for the Ravens on Thursday night. While Elam could turn out to be a solid safety in the NFL, Brown and Cyprien have the All-Pro potential that Elam doesn’t possess at this point.
While Ravens fans will rejoice if Elam turns out to be a star in Baltimore’s defense, don’t expect that to happen any time soon.