INDIANAPOLIS -– If one of the Redskins’ top priorities in April’s draft is snagging a starting safety, there’s some good news: talent evaluators suggest there could be a handful available in the early rounds.
One of them is Florida’s Matt Elam, a hard-hitter who told reporters Sunday at the NFL combine that he’s comfortable playing either safety position.
“I’m a great guy on the field but I am off the field also,” he said. “That’s very important.”
Elam, the younger brother of Cardinals safety Abram Elam, is pegged as an early-to-mid second round pick. The Redskins’ first selection is 51st overall.
“I love to strike people,” the younger Elam said, asked to describe his game. “That’s what helps me stand out the most.”
Elam said he overcomes his smallish stature (5 foot 10, 202 pounds) with his athleticism and versatility. He can play both free and strong safety and posted six career interceptions with the Gators. He also excels on special teams.
“I’m not the biggest safety, but I play hard,” he said.
In addition to Elam, other safeties who could be selected in the second-fourth round range include: Eric Reid (LSU), Phillip Thomas (Fresno State), Jonathan Cyprien (Florida International) and Baccari Rambo (Georgia), among others.
“There’s a strong safety class,” Bears General Manager Phil Emery said. “In our minds, there are five or six starters in this class at safety and that’s rare to me.”
The competition doesn’t bother Elam, though. He said he knows he's the best safety available.
“I’m very confident in myself,” he said. “I feel that I can do a lot of things for teams.”
Elam also said he patterns his game after the Ravens’ Ed Reed. Asked if his brother might take exception to his preference, Elam cracked: “I don’t think he’ll mind. He understands.”