www.baltimoresun.com/sports/ravens/ravens-insider/bal-mike-preston-with-versatility-matt-elam-appears-to-fit-for-the-ravens-20130426,0,5682209.story

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Mike Preston: With versatility, Matt Elam appears to fit for the Ravens

By Mike Preston

The Baltimore Sun

9:25 AM EDT, April 26, 2013

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Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is known for his coolness and he seldom gushes about a draft pick.

He got a little excited when the team made UCLA offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden the franchise's first draft pick in 1996, but there wasn't much jubilation when the team selected Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs or Chris McAlister.

And then came Thursday night.

As members of the Ravens' front-office staff walked to the podium at The Castle to talk about first-round pick Matt Elam, the safety out of Florida, Newsome appeared ecstatic, at least for Newsome.

"As you probably have been watching, with the 32nd pick, we took Matt Elam, safety out of the University of Florida," Newsome said. "Even though it was a position of need, whether you all believe it or not, he was the highest-rated player on our board. And the thing that I think we all like about Matt is his speed. He's probably one of the better tacklers that we've seen play the position, and the other thing we look to is he enjoys practicing, he enjoys playing the game of football.

"He'll come in, I assume he'll get into the starting lineup -- that'll be on John [Harbaugh] -- but he's a guy with the type of speed and the way he plays the game, he can be a presence on special teams right away for us. But Matt Elam is our guy. I think if you would have asked any of the four of us what one player we would have liked to have had today, I think each one of us if we would've wrote a name down on a sheet of paper, we would've said Matt Elam."

So if Newsome is that pumped, that giddy, then everyone should look forward to seeing the kid play.

Elam was a smart selection by the Ravens. There might have been one or two other safeties rated higher depending on whose draft board you looked at, but once Texas' Kenny Vaccaro and Louisiana State's Eric Reid were selected earlier, Elam was a good choice.

The Ravens had come into this draft wanting to get better and younger on defense, and they definitely filled a need. All great defenses are strong up the middle, and the Ravens have started to improve their core.

They added defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears earlier in the offseason, and recently signed former Oakland inside linebacker Rolando McClain, who can be a big plus if he stays out of trouble.

Now, they've added Elam.

Elam appears to be a hybrid safety, a combination of both Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed. Elam (5 feet 9, 208 pounds) isn't as big or as tall as Pollard (6-1, 224), but he is a vicious tackler. He can be a run stuffer by hanging around the line of scrimmage on first and second downs. Few ball carriers break his tackles.

But he can also cover. He has 4.54 speed in the 40-yard dash and should be able to match up with a No. 3 receiver in the slot. Can he cover ground like Reed? No, but few have played centerfield like Reed in the history of the NFL.

When you watch Elam play, he does play with a passion. If there was one thing Newsome learned from former Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda, it was that a player had to love the game or play with some kind of chip on his shoulder.

Ray Lewis had an edge because some scouts thought he was too small. Peter Boulware had an edge because some questioned if he could make the transition from end to outside linebacker. And if you look back at some of the Ravens other defensive players taken in the first round, like Terrell Suggs, most of them have played with great energy.

You could feel the energy in the room Thursday night when the Ravens drafted Elam. The Ravens were buzzing. A lot of times, teams manufacture the hype because they are stuck with a player they really didn't value that high in the first round.

But that wasn't the case with the Ravens. The usually cool Newsome was elated.