Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
Nobody is safe from Matt Elam. Not opposing quarterbacks, wide receivers, or even his own teammates.
I love William Moore, if only for his ability to remain ready unto infinity. He has also been one of the better safeties Atlanta has fielded in recent memories, along with Thomas DeCoud. The two make up a fearsome tandem.
But Moore is, of course, a free agent. It would be great to see the big two-five back in red and black next season, but naturally that is a decision over which I have no control. We already know that Moore will at least test the waters of the open market, if only to assess his relative value as a safety in the NFL.
(Update: After learning of the recent roster cuts, I have no doubt the Falcons will have the available funds to re-sign Moore.)
And something tells me he'll want more than the five-year, $17.5M deal DeCoud signed last offseason (though probably less than the four-year, $36.5M contract Troy Polamalu signed two years ago).
Chris Hope is an impending free agent as well, and sixth-round draft pick Charles Mitchell would be an incredible stretch to start next season. Who better to replace William Moore than Matt Elam, a player that is quite possibly the best overall value at safety in this draft?
Stats (2012): 76 total tackles (58 solo), 11 TFL, 4 INT, 5 pass deflections, 2.0 sacks, 1 FF
Why He'll Work: The first thing you notice about Elam is how fluid he looks on the field. He is naturally agile, his change of direction is smooth and he really flows from sideline to sideline.
His straight-line speed is great - he posted one of the best 40 times for a safety in this year's class - and when he hits the ball-carrier, he hits hard. Elam's highlight reel is simply littered with clips of the former Gator laying the wood on his opponents.
But the most impressive part of Elam's game has to be his pure play-making ability. He possesses great natural instincts in the secondary, getting his hands up to deflect an incoming pass out of the receiver's hands or diagnosing the play and jumping the route for an interception. Has great hands.
Elam also takes good angles when making plays (again, this is where that lateral agility comes into play), and at the college level he even displayed enough raw speed to catch opponents from behind.
Most importantly, he has room to grow. He declared for the draft as a junior and is only 21 years old. There exists real potential in Elam that NFL teams could tap into, and he is a player I believe Mike Nolan could utilize incredibly well.
Why He Won't Work: The biggest knock on Elam is his tackling form, or lack thereof.
The guy is crazy, and he shows that by simply launching himself into opposing players rather than going for the safe, wrap-up tackle. His speed also makes him a threat to over-pursue on the play. This is generally a bad thing when you play safety.
As far as his pass coverage goes, Elam is still a bit raw. Deep routes and double moves can sometimes throw him for a loop, and he'll struggle to get his head turned around at times.
He'll need some refinement at the pro level, to be sure. His tackling form especially needs some real work, or else he could end up becoming a liability in the secondary.
There are also questions as to whether Elam shows up playing 100% every game. He certainly showed up for Florida's big games last season, including a stellar performance against LSU, but other games he appeared to lack the high motor he is so well know for. Still...
Verdict: Personally, Elam is one of my favorite players in this draft because of how underrated he has been.
I understand that safety is, currently, not Atlanta's primary need, especially because Moore is far from a lock to leave in free agency. The recent departures of Dunta Robinson and John Abraham obviously changed the team's core needs (as I was in the process of writing this post, the news broke).
But if Moore does walk, I would implore Thomas Dimitroff to consider Elam because I believe teams are sitting on a potential star.
The emotion and intensity he brings to the table at safety is, well, almost frightening:
Football Player's Funny Celebration Fail (via VINNIE MAC)