The Gators’ defense was up and down in 2021, but the scouting report of Florida CB Kaiir Elam didn’t suffer. Even through an injury-riddled campaign, Elam remains an early-round prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. The real question is, could he be selected in Round 1 — and is he worth it? Early on, my stance was that Elam was near the top of a loaded CB class, which remains true today. Here’s why.
Kaiir Elam NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Florida
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’1 1/2″
- Weight: 191 pounds
- Wingspan: 76 1/2″
- Length: 30 7/8″
- Hand: 8 7/8″
Elam’s Combine/pro day results
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.39
- Bench Press: 10
- Vertical Jump: 37.5″
- Three-Cone: 6.98
- Short Shuttle: 4.21
Kaiir Elam Scouting Report
When you think of the top cornerbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft, players like Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. immediately come to mind. There’s also Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr., who’s listed as CB1 for several Draft Analysts at PFN — myself included. Elam isn’t always mentioned in the same breath as these players, but perhaps he should be.
Elam wasn’t quite as productive in 2021 as he was in 2020 — largely due to a nagging injury. But now that he’s fully healthy, he’s shown through testing that he has the athletic talent to lock down the boundary in the NFL. And what about the tape? Well, it speaks for itself. Let’s see what it says.
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 6’1 1/2″, 191 pounds, with near-31″ arms. And yet, he moves extremely well.
Elam possesses high-end explosiveness 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. His recovery athleticism is phenomenal and a central part of his game.
Elam’s short-area quickness translates into several facets of his play. 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 for building 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 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 allows him to convert.
Among other things, Elam is proficient in press, just as he is in zone and off-man coverage. He’s extremely physical but composed at the line of scrimmage, and he doesn’t often bite on receiver fakes. Additionally, the Florida CB has great footwork and rarely gets off-balance after jamming at the line. 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, he doesn’t always play to his 4.39 40 time deep. 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. Elam also takes faulty angles more often than desired.
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 a bit more coordinated with his footwork, especially in off-man. His recovery athleticism and balance help clean up a lot of kinks, but there’s room for refinement.
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’s why he remains a first-round CB prospect.
Kaiir Elam’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
Elam didn’t quite take the leap many anticipated from him in 2021. However, he was playing on a nagging knee injury for much of the year. That impacted his comfort and efficiency of motion at times. All things considered, it’s impressive that Elam was able to put up the performances he did against teams like Alabama, Samford, and Florida State.
Even though he wasn’t always 100%, Elam still showed off the high-level upside more than enough to renew confidence from his 2020 tape. Elam remains a rare athletic specimen, with outrageous hip fluidity, recovery athleticism, and hip sink for his long frame. He also has eye-popping closing acceleration when he closes on plays. He’s dangerous in zone, where he offers great awareness and quick reaction. But his fluidity, targeted physicality, and short-area burst are all traits that translate well in man.
On top of Elam’s pure coverage notes, the Florida CB still flashes excellent ball skills at the catch point as a former receiver. He’s actively disruptive with his length and plays the ball well. And he’s also very impressive in run support. He can read plays quickly, explode into the backfield, pinch tight corners, and wrap up ball carriers for losses.
Injuries may have prevented Elam from taking the next step, but he’s already near the top of the staircase. He has the athletic ability and proactivity to be a scheme-versatile starting cornerback and an impactful playmaker in both phases. He’s very much worth a Round 1 selection.
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.
2021 wasn’t quite as productive for Elam. He only played 10 games and was frequently nagged by a knee injury. Nevertheless, he still managed 29 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, an interception, and 5 deflections. The traits remain enticing from Elam, and he’s comfortably in the conversation as one of the top cornerbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report for Kaiir Elam
Positives: Underrated cornerback with outstanding ball skills. Engages receivers at the line of scrimmage, smoothly transitions off the line, and stays on the opponent’s hip out of breaks. Battles receivers throughout the action, does not back down from a challenge, and stays step for step with opponents all over the field.
Quickly picks up and stays with coverage assignments, plays physical football, and shows an explosive closing burst to the action. Sudden and appears out of nowhere to make plays. Keeps his head on a swivel, shows good recognition, and effectively communicates with teammates in the secondary. Fires upfield to defend the run and wraps up tackling.
Negatives: At times hesitant to react to receivers’ moves off the snap. Had just 1 interception last season and 2 the prior year.
Analysis: Elam is a polished cornerback with terrific ball skills who offers starting potential for the next level. His size, physical nature, and ability to play in a variety of schemes will be very attractive on draft weekend.