Kaiir Elam is one of the top cornerback prospects in this upcoming NFL Draft class. He has the size, speed and athletic ability that will catch the eyes of every scouting department, including the Las Vegas Raiders. Below is an in-depth scouting report of what the Gator has shown so far.
CB | Florida | 6’2” 193 lbs | Riviera Beach, FL | 5/5/2001 (20.2)
Kaiir Elam came to Florida as a four-star recruit and earned a starting spot towards the end of his freshman season before becoming a full-time starter as a sophomore. While primarily playing as an outside corner in the Gators’ zone coverage-heavy defense, Elam has racked up 49 total tackles, four interceptions and 15 pass breakups. The Riviera Beach native is an impressive athlete who has the mental processing and ball skills to thrive in zone coverage, but he needs to add some size and strength to be more effective at rerouting receivers.
It’s also worth noting that the Elam family tree has some deep NFL roots. Kaiir’s father, Abe, had a seven-year career with a handful of teams, and his uncle, Matt, was the Raven’s first-round pick in 2013.
- Excellent height and length for an NFL cornerback
- He displays great patience at the line of scrimmage in press coverage to avoid biting on head/shoulder fakes from the receiver
- When using a one-arm jam, he has perfect placement on the wideouts’ armpit to help slow them down a bit, and he keeps his feet moving when shooting his hands (one- or two-arm jam) to help stay in-phase if the receiver swipes his hands away
- Good footwork at the line of scrimmage to get or maintain a leverage advantage, with very fluid hips and impressive acceleration to turn and run quickly
- Against drag routes, he uses his arms to feel the route and help stay on top of receivers and has the speed to stay in-phase
- He has a nice second gear to cover deep routes, which is especially helpful after the break on posts
- Good change of direction and route recognition to cover outs in man coverage, and he does a decent job of dropping his hips against curls and comebacks
- He’s able to stay on balance when bigger receivers use physicality at the top of the route
- In zone coverage, he has excellent peripheral vision to keep his eyes on the quarterback while still being able to recognize and break on routes
- He understands spacing in zone coverage by taking leverage steps to maintain his advantage
- His fluid hips allow him to redirect and effectively switch when playing pattern match
- Excellent click and close with great acceleration and quick route recognition to be able to make plays on the ball or limit yards after the catch
- When facing the quarterback, he has great timing with his hits or hands to break up passes at the catch point
- He’s better at playing with outside leverage where he can see the quarterback and keep wide receivers in front of him
- Displays a comprehensive knowledge of where he fits in when fitting against the run, and his acceleration allows him to fill the alley in a hurry
- The effort is there on outside runs to his side as he’s not afraid to take on blocks or come up and make a tackle slightly past the line of scrimmage
- He can use his speed and athleticism to avoid blocks
- Efficient angles in pursuit with the speed to close on the ball carrier
Areas for improvement:
- Lacks the strength to hold receivers at the line of scrimmage in press coverage or force re-routes when playing the underneath areas in zone coverage
- Can be a little quick to turn and run, which makes it more difficult for him to take away the short to intermediate routes
- Bigger wide receivers or tight ends have no problems getting open on ins against him because he can’t affect them with his hands
- He has the typical taller corner issue when changing direction, longer strides that cause him to take a little longer to get in and out of his cuts, which is most notably an issue against sharp ins.
- When in-phase with his back to the quarterback, he doesn’t turn his head and locate the ball
- He has far from natural hands as he will drop interceptions that he can’t body catch and cradle in
- His lack of strength will cause him to get bullied by medium to larger sized receivers against the run and makes it difficult for him to get off their blocks
- A very inconsistent tackler, he likes to dive at the ball carrier’s feet and will miss tackles, 25 percent missed tackle rate last season, per PFF
Elam is another prospect that is somewhat scheme versatile. While I do think he would thrive most in a zone-heavy system, he has a proven track record of success in man coverage and has the skills to be successful there as well. As far as the draft goes, the Gator is certainly a first-rounder and will likely be selected in the top 20 picks.
What to Watch for in 2021:
Can he add some size and strength and still be as explosive? Whether he plays in a man or zone scheme, Elam’s biggest weakness is his inability to manipulate wide receivers’ routes physically. If he can play at about 205 pounds next season and still be explosive, he should have the strength to erase just about any doubts that general managers and scouts have.
Fit with the Raiders:
Right now, the Raiders’ biggest offseason need is a cornerback. Trayvon Mullen will enter a contract year in 2022 and Casey Heyward, the other projected starter, is only on a one-year deal. Unless Damon Arnette or someone else in the position group emerges as a potential starter, we will be talking about Las Vegas’ corner situation all offseason.
As far as the scheme goes, I think Elam would be perfect in new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s system. The Florida product is great in zone coverage and fits the size profile Bradley seems to covet at the position. For example, Elam is a fraction of an inch shorter and about two pounds lighter than Richard Sherman was coming out of Stanford.
To summarize, there is a legitimate chance Elam dons the Silver and Black next season.
Beautiful rep playing the deep 1/3 here from Kaiir Elam:— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) July 29, 2021
-Smooth turn and run transition and gets his eyes to QB
-Uses peripheral vision to watch the WR and breaks on the rout
-Quick click and close allows him to contact the WR at the catch point and force an incompletion pic.twitter.com/V0blrWe01K
Florida is playing cover one here but Elam‘s responsibility – top of the screen – is pretty similar to a cover three call in Bradley’s defense. Elam is showing press pre-snap, but it’s soft press as he turns and runs right off the snap.
The first things that stand out are his footwork and hip fluidity to make the transition. Then, he immediately gets his eyes to the quarterback and shows some impressive peripheral vision to recognize the route and basically run this slant for the receiver. To cap things off, a quick click and close allows Elam to contact the receiver at the catch point and force an incompletion.
Great timing from Kaiir Elam to bait the throw and converge the catch point for a PBU pic.twitter.com/jMaj4Zg1RK— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) July 29, 2021
On this one, we’re going to see some versatility from the Gator as he’s in the slot, covering South Carolina’s top receiver from last season, Shi Smith. Off the snap, Elam works to get outside leverage and shows great patience to wait until Smith commits to leave the line of scrimmage. He then hits the breaks on the stab route and baits the quarterback by leaving enough room to entice a throw while still being able to make a play on the ball.
As a DB, if you’re gonna play in the box, you gotta be able to play against the run. Elam shows great speed and athleticism to avoid the block, come under control and make the TFL here pic.twitter.com/SwDLQg0aU6— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) July 29, 2021
Here, the Gators are running cover six and Elam is responsible for the deep quarter at the top of the screen. South Carolina is going to throw a wrinkle at him with the double move from the wide receiver, but he does a great job of showing patience, staying deep and not biting on the double move to keep the wideout in front of him. Elam finishes the rep by showing off more of that great timing and ball skills to force an incompletion.
Apologies for the poor editing/trimming on the clip, but I swear this was an incompletion. My video editing team, which is just me, is terrible and should be fired.
Another great example of Elam’s ability to click and close, and his timing to get PBUs pic.twitter.com/0leNlgAxbC— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) July 29, 2021
To wrap things up, we’ll look at one more example of Elam’s ability to click and close. He’s playing in a zone coverage here and once he sees that receiver break towards the flat, the Gator is all over the route. At the catch point, he has great timing and plays the hands to force Texas A&M into a third and long situation.