With safety being a potential priority for the Green Bay Packers in this year's draft, it's time to break down some film on one of the top safeties in the draft. Today's film study subject is Florida's Matt Elam.
Elam is an in the box type safety who seems to specialize in run support and coverage in the slot and can occasionally provide an effective blitz from the outside. Elam is an extremely violent hitter who can have good tackling form but like many other safeties who like to hit sometimes sacrifices it for the sake of laying down a hard hit. Sometimes relies on butting the ball carrier with his shoulder instead of wrapping up. Elam was good at creating turnovers, with an ability to both create interceptions and punch out the football to force fumbles.
Elam is extremely good at providing run support, particularly when he’s lined up closer to the line of scrimmage. When Elam comes up from behind the line of scrimmage, he takes great angles to the ball carrier and is extremely good at knifing through blockers to stop runs for losses or minimal positive gains. Elam is also very good at forcing outside runs to stretch out to the sidelines when he’s locked up and could time his shed very well to deny the runner an inside cut back. Elam was also very good at crashing down when lined up further to the outside and consistently stole yardage from running backs coming through the middle. Elam did occasionally get washed out of plays and sometimes missed tackles by attempting to arm tackle after taking overaggressive angles or trying to use his shoulder to hit instead of wrapping the ball carrier up.
In the Slot
When lined up man to man with slot receivers, Elam was generally adequate but struggled at times. Elam had an inconsistent jam at the line; quick initial moves by the receiver sometimes caused him to whiff on the punch. Elam also showed very good hip movement and was able to turn quickly with receivers off of the jam. Elam tended to use a trail technique when covering receivers but didn’t seem to have the closing speed to make up the distance between him and his opponent all the time. Elam was generally good against tight ends, showing the strength to deny a free release and the speed to move with them off the line. Occasionally, lofted balls could be thrown over Elam and he sometimes struggled when tight ends tried to use their size advantage against him.
When Elam was asked to cover a shallow zone, he was generally good, but presented some flaws. Elam would keep his eyes on the quarterback and position himself in front of or near run lanes but occasionally lost players entering his zone and had to turn his head away to locate them. Due to this, despite being a real threat to pick off the ball, Elam occasionally missed opportunities to intercept the pass while he reacquired players in his zone.
When lined up deep, which wasn’t with tremendous frequency, Elam was generally good and would make big plays but also lacked a bit in coverage. Elam had a good quick backpedal and had quick, loose hips that allowed him to react quickly when receivers cut or changed course. Elam did not commit his hips too early and insofar as I could tell didn’t allow receivers to set him up with their route running, such as fading outside to force him to flip his hips and clearing the middle of the field. Elam was sometimes late to help his corners however and he presented holes in the coverage shell too often. That being said, Elam showed a knack for undercutting poorly thrown balls for interceptions and was generally effective in a center fielder roll. When Elam ended up covering wideouts, he seemed to cover fairly tight but did not turn his head to locate the ball which caused him to give up preventable receptions.
Elam proved an effective blitzer, taking good angles from the outside and using his speed to beat tackles to the edge if they noticed him. Elam moved in a quick yet controlled fashion to the quarterback and would not allow them to side step side step him and escape the pocket. Generally, Elam was good at not telegraphing the blitz, timing the cadence so that he didn’t have to cheat up too early and give away his intensions.
Elam is a very good in-the-box safety despite having occasional difficulty in man coverage in the slot. He also showed the ability to be at least an decent deep safety and showed the ability to make quarterbacks pay for their mistakes. Overall, I see Elam as a late first to early second round selection; however, judging by what the Packers have on their roster, namely Jerron McMillian and Sean Richardson who already show promise in an in-the-box role, I’m not sure he would be the best fit at pick 26.
Other Prospect Film Reviews: DE Datone Jones | DT Jesse Williams, Alabama | DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State | DT Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern | C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin | C Brian Schwenke, California