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The CHGO Sports crew continues Making the Case for prospects the Chicago Bears should consider drafting.
Flexibility is the one thing that all teams would like heading into the draft.
That way, when the team is on the clock, they are not forced into drafting a player solely based on a large hole at the position. Instead, the team feels more secure about it, albeit perhaps only in the short term.
Flexibility can be achieved with smart signings in the free agent market and that’s exactly what Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles accomplished when he signed Tavon Young. The former Baltimore Ravens cornerback provides inside/out versatility at the position.
Now the Bears don’t have to reach for a cornerback in the second round. But if the right one falls into their lap, they shouldn’t hesitate to draft him.
One player that has steadily moved up draft boards is Florida’s Kaiir Elam who has gone from a consensus second-rounder to someone who is consistently being mocked in the first round.
If Elam falls down to Pick 39 when the Bears are on the clock, they shouldn’t overthink it as a long-term answer at corner to pair with Jaylon Johnson would be sitting right in front of them.
Kaiir Elam’s Strengths
Elam looks every bit the part of the prototypical outside cornerback in the NFL with a great blend of size at 6-foot-1 and 191 pounds to pair with impressive length (31-inch arms).
Not only does Elam have the physical traits teams covet, but he also has the speed to keep up with receivers. His 40-time at the NFL was tied for the sixth-fastest of all cornerbacks at the NFL Combine (4.39).
Elam’s speed combined with his athleticism is on full display in coverage where he is able to flip his hips with ease, allowing him to seamlessly stick with his man upfield.
This agility allows Elam to quickly to close on receivers if there’s a throw made nearby.
As evident in the clip above, the former Florida Gator’s game can be defined as physical.
Elam thrives in press coverage where he effectively can jam receivers near the line of scrimmage to disrupt their timing and put himself in position to make plays on the football.
He’s also capable and willing to make big hits on receivers at the catch point.
A problem for the Bears last season was opposing offenses being able to effectively pick on and expose cornerbacks not named Johnson. That problem would be solved with Elam who does not give up yards. According to PFF, Elam gave up the second-fewest yards of all SEC cornerbacks in 2021 (minimum 300 snaps) only giving up 191 yards.
Additionally, as a boundary corner, Elam knows how to utilize the sideline as a weapon.
It’s this type of awareness, along with his physical tools, that should allow Elam to be an instant contributor at the next level.
Kaiir Elam’s Weaknesses
Like most cornerbacks entering the draft, Elam can benefit from improving his tackling technique, especially in run support.
The good news is that Elam was able to get better each with tackling each season in Florida. As long as he can continue to hone this craft, he will be just fine.
He also had some issues last season defending elite speedsters on vertical routes where he was slow to flip and turn upfield. Elam will need to become more consistent here as he has the skillset to play these receivers better. It’s just a matter of timing, trust and execution.
Another potential concern with Elam is the lack of ball production, especially in 2021 where he only had one interception (a career-low) and five pass breakups, which was six less than the prior season. Some of that is quarterbacks not throwing his way as often, but his technique did slip a bit as well.
All of Elam’s weaknesses are easily correctable with good coaching.
Making the Case
Imagine how imposing the Bears’ secondary would be with two physical press cornerbacks with Elam and Johnson. It’s a combination that would make life difficult for opposing offenses.
Gone would be the days where quarterbacks picked on whoever is opposite of Johnson. Perhaps they will hold onto the ball for an extra second, the pass rush hits home more often, and quarterbacks make more mistakes.
Elam has the length, size and athleticism that would fit perfectly in coach Matt Eberflus’ cover-2 scheme.
He is a player that can come in and play immediately, and for the Bears who have limited draft capital, finding players who can be those instant contributors – especially in the second round – is paramount.
By drafting Elam, Chicago’s defense gets better today, and tomorrow as he will only play at higher levels over time.
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