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Ten thoughts on Ravens’ 2013 draft picks

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Ten thoughts on Ravens’ 2013 draft picks

Posted on 28 April 2013 by Luke Jones

Because I refuse to put a grade on a draft that needs a couple years in order to truly be evaluated, I instead offer a thought on each of the 10 selections the Ravens made in the 2013 NFL Draft this weekend.

Some are serious, others are not, and you can guarantee you won’t find a silly letter grade attached to any of them.

1. Round 1 – S Matt Elam, Florida
Thought: The Ravens are over the moon for Elam, but you do wonder if his propensity for the big hit will draw untimely penalties in the same way Bernard Pollard would.

2. Round 2 – LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
Thought: No one will ever be Ray Lewis, but Brown’s skill set provides the Ravens with a complete linebacker who’s strong in pass coverage, something they were severely lacking.

3. Round 3 – DT Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern State
Thought: It’s great that the 335-pounder can walk on his hands, but that act of athleticism is too reminiscent of Kyle Boller being able to throw a football through the uprights while on a knee at the 50 for me to really care.

4. Round 4 – DE John Simon, Ohio State
Thought: The Jarret Johnson comparisons have already been made, but did Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer mean “John” or “Simon” when he said he’d name his son after the new Ravens outside linebacker?

5. Round 4 – FB Kyle Juszczyk, Harvard
Thought: General manager Ozzie Newsome didn’t dismiss the idea that the Ravens could keep both Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach and Juszczyk on the 53-man roster this year, but it wasn’t a ringing endorsement of the idea either.

6. Round 5 – OL Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin
Thought: The Ravens technically drafted a left tackle on Saturday, but Wagner’s feet aren’t quick enough for the position at the next level, meaning he’ll likely find a home at guard or right tackle with the Ravens.

7. Round 6 – DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame
Thought: Still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the BCS title game, Lewis-Moore is one to watch for 2014 after being a co-captain and four-year starter for the Fighting Irish.

8. Round 6 – C Ryan Jensen, Colorado State-Pueblo
Thought: Raise your hand if you had never even heard of Colorado State-Pueblo — who brought back football in 2008 after a 24-year hiatus — let alone this offensive lineman prior to Saturday afternoon.

9. Round 7 – WR Aaron Mellette, Elon
Thought: You’ll continually be reminded he’s a seventh-round pick from an FCS school, but it’s difficult not to be intrigued with the 6-foot-2, 217-pound frame and eye-popping production (210 catches and 30 touchdowns in the last two seasons).

10. Round 7 – CB Marc Anthony, California
Thought: You have to feel good for Anthony making it to the NFL after putting up with years of jokes about Cleopatra, Jennifer Lopez, and being a Grammy award-winning singer.

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Even with questions, it’s easy to root for new Ravens safety Elam

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Even with questions, it’s easy to root for new Ravens safety Elam

Posted on 26 April 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens appear absolutely thrilled with their first-round selection Matt Elam of Florida.

The 21-year-old safety was a player the Ravens had been targeting all along to add to their defense, but Elam’s addition doesn’t come without questions. His 5-foot-10 height isn’t ideal for matching up with the monstrous tight ends taking over the NFL and his brutally-physical style of play will make some wonder if he’s a young version of Bernard Pollard — complete with the propensity for drawing flags — but a deeper look into his history and motivation for landing where he is today makes him easy to root for.

Dealing with the murder of his 12-year-old sister when he was 8 and then coping with an older brother facing the same fate less than a decade later would have been enough to send just about anyone down the wrong path. Instead, Elam channeled that emotion to work even harder to realize his dream of playing in the NFL.

“It was just me understanding that I’m tired of the frowns and the tears and the funerals and things like that,” said Elam, who grew up in a rough neighborhood in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.. “I was like, ‘I’m going to turn this around. I’m going to do this the right way. I’m going to turn the frowns into smiles. I’m going to make sure my family is happy. I’m going to make sure the happiness overcomes all the tragedy and adversity.”

A decision by his mother to send Elam to another school — he attended William T. Dwyer High in West Palm Beach — to avoid getting in trouble also aided as he eventually enjoyed a standout career with the Gators and was selected with the 32nd overall pick of the NFL Draft on Thursday night. The positive influence of his older brother and current NFL player Abe also kept Elam focused on improving his life and bringing that joy to his family.

It makes his slight stature and questions about his pass coverage seem a little less important as no one really knows how Elam’s skill set in the SEC will translate to Sundays in the NFL. The Ravens seem convinced that it will.

Elam seems to hope you’ll doubt him after he admits having a chip on his shoulder after two safeties — Kenny Vaccaro of Texas and Eric Reid of LSU — were taken before him in the first round. His background makes it easy to see how he might use such perceived slights as motivation.

“A lot of kids my age that have been through the same thing lost siblings and took it negatively and didn’t use it as motivation [or] make it positive,” Elam said. “I used it as positive energy and things like that. I feel like it helped me, growing through that thing helped me.”

His heartfelt story aside, it’s fair to ask questions about Elam’s height as he’ll occasionally be matched up with receivers or tight ends more than a half-foot taller than him. Elam displayed good ball skills in college and appeared competent in coverage when he wasn’t playing in the box to stop the run.

It remains to be seen how the Ravens will use him as defensive coordinator Dean Pees said Elam will be asked to learn both safety positions as well as the nickel spot for certain packages. He could emerge as a Swiss army knife that the Ravens can use all over the field, but it’s clear his physicality stands out, evident by the highlight-reel hits he turned in on a weekly basis in Gainesville.

“The guy can run, the guy can cover, and — most of all — he can hit,” Pees said. “What I like most about him watching him on film is there is a dying art in college football in the secondary, and it’s called tackling. This guy has that heart.”

That description will immediately make Ravens fans think of Pollard, who was popular for his violent collisions but also guilty of infractions with the NFL’s commitment to cracking down on blows to the head of defenseless receivers. Pro football is a changing game and there is at least some question whether Elam’s wild-man approach will sit well with officials and commissioner Roger Goodell.

However, the Ravens don’t seem too concerned and Elam believes he is fundamentally sound with his approach to attacking would-be receivers and ball carriers.

“I feel like I won’t let up a bit. I’ll just rely on my technique,” Elam said. “Like I said, I’ll improve every day in practice, and I feel like it won’t be a problem. I’ll rely on my technique. It won’t slow me down a bit.”

The truth is no one really knows whether Elam will emerge as the next great safety in the Baltimore secondary or simply become a solid defensive back with limitations due to height and a reputation for going overboard in the same way Pollard did. His cover skills looked strong enough in small doses at Florida, but will he be able to hang with tight ends and wide receivers that look like power forwards at the next level?

That remains to be seen, but the simple fact that Elam sat in front of media and answered questions about his NFL career was a victory in and of itself after everything he’s been through.

It would have been easy to take his life in a darker direction, but Elam elected to push past tragedy and attack his goals in the same way he does the opposition. With that in mind, the questions he faces seem quite trivial.

But Elam is taking nothing for granted with his opportunity to join the defending Super Bowl champions.

“Growing up, I had to work through things,” Elam said. “My parents and my brother always made me work at it – made me earn things. Like I said, I don’t want anything given, because if it’s given, it’s not earned.”


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Let’s just call this “Matt Elam Web Junk”

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Let’s just call this “Matt Elam Web Junk”

Posted on 26 April 2013 by Glenn Clark

As we get to know the Baltimore Ravens’ first round pick (#32 overall), Florida S Matt Elam, there’s a lot of fun stuff to be found.

I’d first suggest you click over here for a good compilation of Elam highlights we found on YouTube in order to get a better feel for the former UF strong safety as a player. I would also suggest you read this VERY significant longform story from Fox Sports Florida about the amount of tragedy Elam has had to overcome in his life and why he wore #22 in Gainesville.

Perhaps the best Matt Elam-related image I can share is this GIF of him celebrating teammate Louchiez Purifoy by…well…tackling him?

My next favorite Elam GIF would be this interaction with LSU WR Odell Beckham after a hard hit. Elam thought he hit Beckham with the CM Punk-style “Go To Sleep”, but Beckham hit right back with the John Cena “You Can’t See Me”.

I was a bit stunned that I couldn’t find a GIF of Elam’s HUGE hit on Louisville RB Jeremy Wright in the Gators’ Sugar Bowl loss. So I quickly made one.

Elam showed his fire against Florida State, where apparently there is a good amount of history of bad blood.

Elam is on Twitter (@ElamVsElo). Unfortunately the first Tweet he sent after being picked by the Ravens didn’t tell us anything other than the fact that he is doing some promotional work with Tide. (Elam did hold a conference call with the Baltimore media that you can hear here.)

There is some other gold over at Elam’s Twitter account however. From the world of “more random than Random House” category, Elam had a Draft party scheduled for Friday night in Palm Springs with fellow former Gator Jon Bostic and…former Towson Safety Jordan Dangerfield??? (We’re guessing he might not make the party…he’s scheduled to be introduced to the Charm City media at a 3pm press conference Friday.)

Elam made an appearance on the NFL Network show “NFL AM” ahead of the NFL Draft. While he was there he hung out with teammate-to-be Jacoby Jones and former Ravens CB Deion Sanders…

A Florida fan made an Elam meme that we’re certainly hoping will be true in his NFL career…

Elam is already receiving praise from Brian Billick, a man who knows a thing or two about drafting a good safety.

Ravens fans might also be surprised to see that even ESPN’s Skip Bayless (who many Baltimoreans view as a nemesis) is on board with the Elam pick.

Here’s some REALLY high praise of Elam from CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco.

That’s probably about it for tonight. I’m sure we’ll find more tomorrow. Thanks for playing along and welcome to Charm City, Matt.

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Ravens select Florida safety Elam with 32nd pick of first round

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Ravens select Florida safety Elam with 32nd pick of first round

Posted on 25 April 2013 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Addressing one of their biggest needs with the final pick of the first round, the Ravens chose Florida safety Matt Elam with their first selection the 2013 NFL Draft.

Elam played strong safety as a two-year starter for the Gators but is considered versatile with his ability to play close to the line of scrimmage in run support as well as the necessary agility and speed to match up in pass coverage. General manager Ozzie Newsome said Elam not only addressed a need but was the highest-remaining player on the Ravens’ draft board.

“I think I’m going to bring a lot of competitiveness,” Elam said in a conference call with local media. “I’m going to bring a lot of energy. I know they’re expecting me to do great things. I’m going to work hard.”

Elam says he’s admired the Ravens over the years while following the Hall of Fame career of Ed Reed, who signed with the Houston Texans as a free agent earlier this offseason. However, he admitted he didn’t expect to wind up in Baltimore after the Carolina Panthers and the Cincinnati Bengals showed plenty of interest in the weeks leading up to the draft.

The 21-year-old told reporters he met with the Ravens’ brass at the scouting combine in February but did not have a private workout or visit with Baltimore. The Ravens had extra knowledge of Elam as current secondary coach Teryl Austin served as the Gators’ defensive coordinator during the safety’s freshman year in 2010.

Despite inside linebackers Manti Te’o and Kevin Minter both being available, the Ravens tabbed Elam as their first-round pick shortly before midnight on Thursday evening. Newsome told reporters following the first round that the Ravens had some conversations earlier in the evening about moving up or even trading out of the round, but the phones were silent when they were on the clock and they ultimately stayed put after trading their original first-round pick in two of the previous three drafts.

“The thing that we all like about Matt is the speed,” Newsome said. “He’s probably one of the better tacklers that we’ve seen play the position. The other thing is he enjoys practicing and enjoys playing football.”

He is the second safety to be taken in the team’s first-round history — Reed was selected with the 24th overall pick of the 2002 draft — and both hailed from schools in the state of Florida.

At 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, Elam does not possess great height, but his physicality and instincts caused many draft experts to link him with the Ravens as a good fit. His 4.54-second 40-yard dash time suggests he has enough speed to match up against tight ends and receivers lined up in the slot as well as to play effectively in deep zone coverage.

“I just feel like my size really doesn’t matter, because when you turn on the film, I’m a great competitor,” Elam said. “I am flying around, I am hitting guys, I am hitting guys bigger than me, so I feel like size really doesn’t matter. I feel like [if] you turn on the film, it tells it all. I feel like I competed well, and I will compete well because of the heart I have and how I work.”

In his final two seasons at Florida, Elam collected 154 tackles, including 22 behind the line of scrimmage, and six interceptions. He became only the second safety in school history to be named first-team All-American by the Associated Press in 2012, joining Reggie Nelson (2006). Elam was also a unanimous first-team all-SEC selection as a junior last season.

Elam was regarded by most as a mid-to-late first-round selection with his slight stature being his only clear drawback. He is used to the limelight after being recruited by the Gators as the top high school safety in the country in 2009.

“I talked to my wife this afternoon and she said, ‘Who do you hope to get?’ and [my answer] was Matt Elam,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I couldn’t be more excited about it. He’s just a good guy who loves ball and he just can’t wait to get started.”

Safety became one of the Ravens’ greatest positional needs following the decision to release strong safety Bernard Pollard and the free-agent departure of Reed. Elam is expected be paired with free-agent pickup Michael Huff as the starting safeties for the Baltimore defense.

While the departures of Reed and Pollard were unpopular, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say the Ravens have upgraded their pass coverage in the back end of the secondary, which was considered a priority despite winning the Super Bowl. Elam may not bring an intimidation factor to the same degree as Pollard, but his skills in pass coverage could mean an immediate upgrade with more upside for the long haul.

The story of Elam’s journey to the NFL is heartbreaking but inspiring as the Florida native has overcome the tragic murders of two siblings — his 12-year-old sister when he was only 8 and an older brother in 2008 — as well as the death of his father in 2011. He wore No. 22 at Florida because it was his late sister’s favorite number.

Elam’s older brother Abe has played in the NFL with Dallas, the New York Jets, Cleveland, and Kansas City.



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