In advance of attending the NFL Combine in Indianapolis later this month, ESPNBoston.com has identified 10 prospects it wants to learn more about. Along those lines, Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. is helping provide background and insight from his time studying tape and attending all-star games such as the Senior Bowl.
Player: Matt Elam
Height/weight: 5-foot-10, 207 pounds
Why he's on the radar: The safety position has been a trouble spot for the Patriots in recent years. With the chance to potentially solidify one of the spots for the long term and add an element of physicality and toughness on the back end, the Patriots could address it early in the draft.
Projection: Early rounds
Muench's take: "Elam projects as a second-round pick and his LSU tape is an example of what makes him the second-ranked safety on our board. While he is on the shorter side for a safety prospect, his compact 207-pound frame and above-average closing speed translate into power as a tackler. He flies around with no fear and makes the most of it. Early in that LSU game he fills from the high slot and thumps 223-pound RB Spencer Ware, holding him to a 1-yard gain. His effort and passion for the game also stand out on that tape. He covers punts with great energy and his ripping the ball out of WR Odell Beckham’s hands 56 yards downfield is the kind of play that would make any defensive coach proud. It’s also worth noting that character is a word that comes up a lot during the draft process and understandably so; character issues have derailed plenty of talented players. Elam had two alcohol-related incidents at Florida and he can do a better job of controlling his emotions on the field at times. Even so, character appears to be one of his strengths at this point in the process. A 2012 team captain, he’s reportedly matured. He’s had to overcome several family tragedies along the way, and most importantly, he loves the game. If you are wondering why he doesn’t project as a first-round pick, the biggest reason may be his cover skills. While he is a playmaker, he’s not as fluid as Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro and he’s going to have a tough time matching up with quicker slot receivers."