Kaiir Elam might just be the best cornerback in the 2022 NFL Draft. I know that may sound brash in a class that boasts LSU star Derek Stingley Jr. and Cincinnati clamp machine Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. But the Florida CB is right there with them, and he has the amalgamation of physical and mental traits to take his game to the next level in 2021. So, what does Elam’s scouting report say about where he is and where he can go?
Kaiir Elam NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Florida
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’2″
- Weight: 193 pounds
Kaiir Elam Scouting Report
Last year, the Florida Gators’ defense finished 83rd in the bowl subdivision in yards allowed per game, allowing a whopping 428 yards on average. Only four SEC teams — South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU, and Ole Miss — allowed more.
Florida’s defense wasn’t nearly as illustrious as its offense in 2020, but there were a few bright spots. Perhaps the brightest one was Elam, who put together a strong season despite his unit’s struggles.
The Florida CB was one of the top producers at his position in 2020. But even beyond that, Elam put many quality reps on tape and put himself firmly on the NFL‘s radar.
Elam’s athletic profile
As is always the case with cornerbacks, the first item that demands attention is Elam’s physical profile. He’s a long defender, standing at around 6’2″, 193 pounds, and yet, he moves extremely well.
Elam possesses unreal explosiveness in out-of-direction changes, and he also has incredibly fluid hips. He completes challenging direction changes with ease and quickness, and he can stop and start with impressive suddenness and control.
Elam’s short-area quickness translates into several facets of his game. He has searing explosiveness coming downfield to stop short routes while using his athleticism to make an impact in the backfield.
The Florida CB’s lateral burst and fluidity allow him to correct his positioning easily, and he has more than enough speed and agility to mirror receivers out of breaks. All told, Elam is an elite physical specimen with a rare combination of length, fluidity, explosiveness, and little wasted movement.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Elam’s physical profile provides an excellent foundation on which to build the rest of his game. Of course, NFL cornerbacks can’t rely solely on their physical traits. There has to be a degree of instinct and mental proficiency present. With Elam, that is undoubtedly the case.
One of the most exciting details regarding Elam is that he’s not a purely reactive player. Being purely reactive is a good way to be a step behind at cornerback. On the contrary, Elam is proactive, confident in what he sees, and has very good pre-snap and post-snap instincts. He reads quarterbacks’ eyes well, and he’s exceptional at anticipating routes and breaking early.
From there, Elam has terrific closing burst at the catch point. His precise sense of timing allows him to impact the ball when and where he needs to. He has the length to disrupt, as is evidenced by his ball production in 2020.
Players like Stingley and Andrew Booth are revered for their ball skills, and rightfully so. Nevertheless, Elam isn’t far behind in that regard. As a former receiver, he can rise vertically for passes, and his precise coordination at the catch point is superb.
Among other things, Elam is proficient in press, just as he is in zone and off-man coverage. He’s physical at the line of scrimmage, and he doesn’t often bite on receiver fakes and misdirection. Additionally, the Florida CB rarely gets off-balance after jamming at the line, and he can seamlessly transition from press to downfield tracking. Elam’s physicality also shows up in run support, where he’s both timely and aggressive.
Areas for improvement
Overall, Elam’s NFL Draft scouting report generates plenty of optimism. He’s a physically talented cornerback with the mental traits to supplement his physical foundation adequately. He’s also versatile and reliable across coverages. Nevertheless, there are some areas for improvement to take note of.
While Elam is a terrific athlete with more than enough speed in the short and intermediate ranges, his deep speed may not be elite. Moreover, his size can hinder his ability to get off blocks, and he could become a more consistent tackler. He brings urgency in tackling situations, but he doesn’t wrap up often enough at this point. Taking better angles should help — Elam can sometimes overshoot his targets with his explosive burst.
In coverage, Elam could refine his game a bit. For example, he sometimes second-guesses himself when committing to coverage angles. Furthermore, he can stand to improve his footwork, especially in off-man. This ultimately makes his profile more exciting, however.
As it stands, Elam is already a fairly sticky man coverage cornerback. With further refinement of his footwork, his combination of length, mobility, and ball skills could be a death knell for opposing receivers. It could also eventually earn him the CB1 designation.
Kaiir Elam’s Player Profile
As Elam’s NFL Draft scouting report implies, he’s a top talent, and he has been for some time. He was comfortably a top-100 recruit in his class. ESPN ranked Elam as a four-star recruit and the 59th-best prospect in the 2019 class. He was more than just a cornerback, however. He was designated as an athlete and played receiver in addition to defensive back in high school.
Elam found success as a receiver, amassing 97 catches for 1,490 yards and 15 touchdowns over four years. He also saw time as a return specialist. But early on, it was clear that his future was at defensive back. There, Elam stood out, totaling on 9 interceptions and 3 sacks in his time as a starter. His final season was most productive, as 3 of Elam’s picks and all of his sacks came during that campaign.
By his senior year, Elam was already 6’1″, 182 pounds, and had a 4.51 40-yard dash on record. Teams like Ohio State, Clemson, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and Georgia flocked to secure Elam’s services. But Elam, a product of North Palm Beach, chose to stay in-state and play for Florida, the same school where his uncle, Matt Elam, became a first-round selection.
Elam’s Florida career and NFL Draft ascension
Elam wasted no time working toward his eventual NFL Draft declaration. As a true freshman, he earned consistent playing time across from fellow first-round aspirant C.J. Henderson. Over that span, Elam picked up 2 interceptions and 4 pass deflections in eight games. He earned Freshman All-SEC honors and excitement built for the 2020 season.
Ahead of 2020, the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Henderson, and Elam became the top CB in Florida’s secondary. That promotion came with heightened expectations, but the pressure didn’t faze Elam.
He upped his production in 2020, accumulating 39 tackles, 2 interceptions, 11 pass deflections, 1 tackle for loss, and 2 fumble recoveries. As a result, Elam was given first-team All-SEC recognition, honored as one of the best CBs in the SEC in just his second season.
Now, the Florida CB heads into his first year of draft eligibility, and the expectations are as high as they’ve been. Elam has the skill set and pedigree to pace his position.
But can he continue to build on his success and leave evaluators with his best season yet in 2021? As Elam’s scouting report proves, his talent yields astronomical potential.