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Ravens fill need at safety with hard-hitting Matt Elam from Florida

Thoughts from our Ravens reporters and editors on the Ravens using the No. 32 pick on safety Matt Elam from the University of Florida:

Mike Preston, Ravens columnist: Elam seems to be a good fit for the Ravens because their safety positions have been interchangeable in the past, and he can play either free or strong safety. Elam can crowd near the line of scrimmage to stop the run and be physical at the line of scrimmage like Bernard Pollard. Despite his size, he is a strong tackler and very few ballcarriers get out of his grasp. He can play the pass as well. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.54, and can cover the No. 3 receiver in the slot. In the past, the Ravens haven't drafted a defensive player in the first round who didn't have a great passion for the game. When you listen to Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and assistant GM Eric DeCosta talk about Elam, they have a genuine excitement about the guy. It's not the manufactured hype that you sometimes get with picks taken late in the first round, but a legitimate belief that they were fortunate to have gotten such an outstanding player so late.

Jeff Zrebiec, Ravens reporter: The Ravens selection of Matt Elam shouldn't have surprised anyone and that's not just because the team lost both starting safeties from last year. Every characteristic that you hear about Elam - he is a play maker, he loves to hit, he loves to practice - embodies what the Ravens look for in a player. With guys like Elam, John Cyprien, Manti Te'o, Kevin Minter, Arthur Brown and Tank Carradine still on the board, I thought there was a good chance that the Ravens could move back into the second round. However, general manager Ozzie Newsome said that he got no calls while the Ravens were on the clock so standing pat and selecting Elam made a ton of sense. With all their defensive losses, there's been a lot of talk about whether next year's defense will be better than the previous version. It's still too early to say, but I think you can conclude that it will be far quicker and more athletic.  

Aaron Wilson, Ravens reporter: By drafting University of Florida junior safety Matt Elam, the Super Bowl champion Ravens have injected toughness and tackling ability into their secondary. Elam is undersized in terms of height, but has strong range and has earned a reputation as a punishing hitter. The younger brother of veteran NFL safety Abram Elam, Elam already had connections to the Ravens having played for Baltimore secondary coach Teryl Austin when he was a freshman for the Gators. Elam is expected to immediately compete for a starting position at strong safety opposite veteran free safety Michael Huff. Now, the Ravens have effectively replaced strong safety Bernard Pollard.

Peter Schmuck, columnist: It wasn't the sexy pick, but if the Ravens' track record in the draft holds, Matt Elam will quickly prove that good things come in small packages. He's fast and he's a bundle of pent-up pain for opposing receivers.

Matt Vensel, Ravens blogger/reporter: I like the selection of Florida safety Matt Elam. He is fast, hits hard and -- cliche alert -- plays like a Raven. He should start right away for the Ravens, replacing Bernard Pollard at strong safety. But he is versatile enough to do a lot of different things, including covering slot receivers and tight ends. I also like the selection of Elam because he wasn't a linebacker. No offense to Manti Te'o and Kevin Minter, but to warrant a first-round draft pick in today's NFL an inside linebacker has to be a three-down player. Elam is that kind of player.

Ron Fritz, sports editor: Matt Elam doesn’t have ideal height (a shade under 5-10), but he’s a hitter and a playmaker. Sounds just like a Raven. He’ll hit like Bernard Pollard and hopefully make some plays like Ed Reed. He reminds me of Colts safety Bob Sanders, also undersized at 5-8, and the Ravens liked him a lot coming out of college, too. He turned into a two-time All Pro and defensive player of the year in 2007.

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