Ever since Darren Woodson retired after the 2004 season, the Cowboys have struggled mightily in finding the next great Cowboys safety. Trying players such as Roy Williams, Ken Hamlin and many others, but none of them were able to make a big enough impact and stick.
The Cowboys currently have six safeties on their roster, Barry Church, Gerald Sensabaugh. Eric Frampton, Matt Johnson, Danny McCray, and Charlie Peprah. Do the Cowboys hold out and hope Matt Johnson is able to progress and Church is able to recover from his Achilles injury he suffered early in the season against Tampa Bay or does Dallas keep all options open and possibly take a safety early in the draft?
Bio: Matt Elam from Florida at 5'10 and 205 lbs is one of the best safeties (my number 1 ranked safety) in the 2013 draft and is definitely the most physical of all the safeties. Elam was part of a defense that led Florida to an 11-2 record and a Sugar Bowl birth. Elam had another outstanding year for the Gators, collecting 76 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 5 batted passes, and 4 interceptions, while playing all over the field. Elam was named a 1st Team All-American in 2012.
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Skills: Looking at Elam on film this past season, he was the best safety in the country. He was fantastic in all phases, asked to do it all and delivering. He rarely got beat, his deep coverage, his ability to cover ground quickly are the reasons he was able to collect 4 interceptions this past season and his physical play style is what allowed him to lead the Gators in tackles this year.
Elam and his physical style allowed him to stick with big tight ends in coverage and did not allow their size to bully him around. Elam also plays with a quick twitch and finesse to cover wide recovers down the field and is rarely ever seen out of position in coverage. Florida coaches felt comfortable putting him back in single deep coverage and he was great playing far back.
Elam is even better when he is allowed to come down into the box and play around the line of scrimmage. Always extremely physical, plays with great pad level and great power. Elam has amazing instincts and quick hips allowing him to quickly make plays in the run game, never fooled on misdirection runs and play-action. Elam is often seen trying to go for the ball, trying to rip it out or using his physical tackling to force the fumble.
Elam has very few flaws, one of the best safeties I have watch in quite some time. If you have to complain about one thing, you could say that his smallish size may or may not be a slight problem at the next level. I believe he will be able to add more weight and will be able to hold up in the NFL.
How he fits in Dallas: Right now you can't say you feel comfortable at safety. Our safeties are no sure thing, and I am not sure any of them are "playmakers". If drafted by Dallas, Elam would be an instant starter, probably starting at strong safety, with Sensabaugh at free safety but is good enough to play both spots. He would bring a physical presence to the Dallas secondary and would make receivers think twice about coming over the middle.
Draft: Elam decided to forgo his senior season and enter the draft early. This is a very strong draft at the safety position. We still have a long draft process ahead of us, but after is all said and done, I believe Elam will be the first safety off the board and could possibly go as high as 16 to the Rams. The safety position is also devalued a bit in the NFL and that could allow Elam to drop a bit in the draft.
Elam could also possibly be the best player available at 18 and I would have no problem taking him there. Dallas would be fixing a major hole that Dallas has suffered for years at and it would be done with a player who was the best player available.