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Late For Work 4/26: Why Did Ravens Pick Matt Elam Over Manti Te'o?


Why Did Ravens Pick Elam Over Te'o?

Few pundits believed Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o would make it to the Ravens' pick No. 32 at the end of the first round.

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper said earlier this month that there was “no way” he would fall that far because linebacker-needy teams, including the Giants (19), Bears (20) and Vikings (23 and 25), would take him before the Ravens got on the clock.

Well, not only did all three teams pass on Te'o, but the Vikings passed on him not once, not twice, but three times when they traded back up into the first round at No. 29.

"It got worse for Te'o when no team vaulted from Round 2 to the bottom of Round 1 to snatch him away from the Ravens," wrote's Mike Florio. "And that move ultimately would have been a waste of picks, because the Ravens — who Mike Mayock once said would run to the podium if Te'o were there at No. 32 — passed."

Instead of running to the podium, the Ravens calmly and confidently selected hard-hitting safety Matt Elam. They passed on Te'o despite being the highest-rated player left on many pundits' boards at that point in the draft and needing to fill holes after starters Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe departed.

Why didn't the Ravens take Te'o over Elam?


"Matt was the higher-rated player between the two of those guys," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said.

"Y]ou [won’t get much argument with that decision here," wrote's Chris Burke.

The Ravens also passed on other highly-rated players, including Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien, LSU middle linebacker Kevin Minter, Cal wide receiver Keenan Allen, Florida State pass rusher Cornellius "Tank" Carradine and Florida State offensive tackle Menelik Watson.

There was obviously something the Ravens saw in Elam that put him above those other big names.

"Why I think the Ravens went with Elam is his knack for making big plays at crucial moments, which is a trait that has always ranked high with the franchise," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "After selecting Elam, [Newsome] told reporters that Elam was the one player all four decision-makers wanted."

The four decision-makers Hensley is referring to are Newsome, Head Coach John Harbaugh, Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta and Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz.

Sitting in front of them at the press conference after their selection, you could easily feel a genuine excitement to nab Elam at No. 32.

Case in point …

Eye-Popping Highlight Reel

As the Ravens' general manager, Newsome has been watching tape on college prospects for more than a decade.

He experienced something new when he was watching tape on Elam during the scouting process leading up to the draft.

"I've never been so excited," Newsome said.

"It's been a long time since I've watched a player on tape and play after play you just go, 'Wow, oh wow.' The way he played on tape is the way you have to play in the AFC North."

Newsome's comments made me want to find a highlight reel of Elam's game tape. After discovering the one below, I had a similar reaction to Newsome's.

Often times video editors will pause a shot prior to the snap of a play, and dim a majority of the screen while only highlighting a defensive player to draw the viewer's eye to him. That strategy is not needed with Elam's highlight-reel below.

His plays are eye-popping all on their own.

Grades, Analysis

It will take a little more time for analysts to give their opinions on the Ravens' first-round move just before midnight last night.

Here are a few thoughts so far:

  • B : Chris Burke,"Talent-wise, there were not many players on the board that could match Elam. The Ravens might have needed more help at other spots, but this is a solid pick at No. 32."
  • B : Pete Prisco,"The Ravens know how to pick good football players. Elam will take over for Ed Reed -- and be better next year. Watch."
  • ESPN Scouts Inc. pros: "Very good ball skills. Consistently high points the ball and shows ability to elevate and make difficult catch over his head. Very good body control. Natural playmaking instincts. Knows when to attack the ball and when to attack the body. Has a tremendous feel for the game. Prepares hard and tape work translates to the field."
  • ESPN Scouts Inc. cons: "Does not have good length and struggles to get hand on ball if not in good position. Lacks ideal height/bulk to matchup versus some TEs. Will struggle to shadow NFL WRs with good-to-elite quickness and/or vertical speed. Can hold up in deep-half coverage but lacks range to handle deep-third responsibility."
  • Todd McShay breaks down the Ravens' selection of Elam.

Lewis Not Sure Ravens Can Repeat

Ray Lewis isn't optimistic about the Ravens' chances to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

The future Hall of Famer isn't sure the team's strategy to get younger and faster on defense is the right approach as it moves forward.

"It's going to be very hard, after you lose that much chemistry," Lewis told USA Today's Robert Klemko about the Ravens' Super Bowl chances. "But who knows? It's unpredictable, as always. Hopefully, they try to pull enough together, use their youth and try to make a run.

"But it's hard to try that formula. That formula usually doesn't work."

The Ravens know the importance of chemistry, which in part, is the reason why new veteran additions like Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty, Michael Huff and Marcus Spears are already in Baltimore participating in the team's voluntary offseason workouts.

Quick Hits

  • Newsome on Rolando McClain’s legal situation: "We're still working our way through it." [The Baltimore Sun]
  • Linebacker free agent Karlos Dansby, who has been speculatively linked to the Ravens, will keep talking with the Bills after his visit. []
  • @vleach44: To the guys who name will not be called don't get discouraged. This just add fuel to the fire. Don't loss confidence in yourself. Your road will be harder and longer. The end result after making it is even sweeter. Many players have traveled same hard road and made it. [Twitter]
  • @ravensinsider: Matt Elam thought he might go to Cincinnati Bengals or Carolina Panthers instead of the Baltimore Ravens [Twitter]
  • @ravenssalarycap: New Ravens S Matt Elam, drafted #32, will receive a 4-year deal worth approx. $6.8M, with a signing bonus of around $3.3M. [Twitter]
  • "Ray Rice has already secured his legacy in Baltimore by helping the Ravens win the Super Bowl, but his more meaningful impact could be on the lives he changes through his anti-bullying campaign," wrote "Rice's words carry significant weight in the community because of his success on the football field, and he doesn't let that potential go to waste." []
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