Ht – 6’1” Wt – 191lb Class – JR Age – 20
Fluidity – Very fluid and smooth mover. Elam has outstanding functional athleticism and he flips his hips with ease. The physical tools are all there.
Press – This is one of his best traits. He is extremely physical and can wipe receivers out of the play completely with a good press. He also has the quickness and recognition to adjust his press to quick and shifty releases.
Man Coverage – Elam has an outstanding press ability. His mirroring is very good, but he falters often when quicker receivers reach their route stems. He takes unnecessary steps and his reaction time is a millisecond too late, which is years in coverage terms. This leads to him playing catch-up on any in/out routes or double moves.
Zone Coverage – Has an elite sense of the field, and consistently made plays that weren’t part of his task. He spots receivers coming from anywhere, and he knows how to position himself perfectly to make a play. With a phenomenal ability to break on the ball and perfect route recognition, it’s never a good idea to test Elam in zone coverage.
Ball Skills – Great ball skills, but nothing special. For a corner that is plenty good enough, but I would have loved to see him come down with a few more interceptions. To his credit, he wasn’t targeted that often (a testament to his coverage abilities), and he has a great ball tracking ability.
Length & Speed – Remarkable length for the position. It didn’t happen often, but when he needed to reach his hands around receivers, he had no problem doing so. He also possesses unreal long-speed (could test very well at the combine) and an explosive burst when breaking on passes. Unfortunately, that burst didn’t show up when breaking on route stems.
Physicality – Arguably the most physical corner in this draft. This is one of the things that make him so good at press. However, he got away with a lot of extra arm checks and roughness. He was also a bit handsy at times.
Tackling – This area will need improvement. He isn’t as poor a tackler as Sauce Gardner, but he consistently lost leverage when closing in, and he got turned around often. Even when he got close, he didn’t wrap up very well.
Combine – Elam had a solid Combine. He ran a 4.39 40, which is outstanding speed. On the other hand, his arms measured in at 30 7/8″, and while that’s average, we expected his arms to be above average. Overall, he did himself favors, but he wasn’t a massive Combine winner.
Kaiir Elam is a unique corner. He isn’t polished or well-rounded, and I expect him to struggle to cover fast slot receivers. On the other hand, there are few I think will be as good as he will be against bigger possession receivers.
His physicality and his size are rare for corners, and he will be impossible to box out.
Elam became a starter as early as his freshman season, which is a true testament to his football IQ and his natural abilities and instincts. This likely also comes from his family history – his father, Abram Elam, played safety for Notre Dame and Kent State, before embarking on a seven-year NFL career. His uncle, Matt Elam, was a standout safety for Florida before being selected in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens.
Kaiir Elam is a natural football talent, and while he isn’t a lock-down corner who can shut down any number one receiver (he will struggle with the small, fast, and quick ones), his ability to match up against the dominant possession receivers will be a big part of his NFL success.
See Kaiir Elam’s overall ranking among other players on my Big Board.