Though it was a small jump, the Buffalo Bills traded up in the 2022 NFL Draft to land corner Kaiir Elam. The Florida alum will be gunning for the CB2 spot, and may find himself there sooner rather than later. Dane Jackson played well for the Bills last season, and the team may be in no hurry to rush Tre’Davious White back. Let’s dive into some film, but first a paragraph of kudos and disclaimers!
As a reminder, I don’t follow college ball (time constraints). So first and foremost, a huge shout out/than you to Dan Lavoie who has provided me with easy film to review for several years now. That said, there are some cons to my notes. I usually won’t have a good handle on the quality of competition our draft picks are facing. There are some pros too. I’m not comparing them to their peers, I’m comparing them to the NFL guys I watch quite a bit of. Let’s dive in!
A couple quick notes before we truly begin. I focused on the Alabama game as even I’m aware that Alabama makes a pretty decent level of competition. Also, clips shown are all from 2021 as I’m big on recent work. With that said...
There’s a good deal of buzz on Kaiir Elam having the size and strength to play press coverage and I think there’s evidence to suggest that for sure. I do think Elam will need some work learning when/how to disengage. There were a good deal of similar plays where he was handled by a blocker this way. His head suggests he sees the play in time but can’t escape quite fast enough. Mandatory yearly reminder: His overall level of competition is about to increase.
I don’t think anyone’s shocked by my early revelation that Elam could benefit from adjusting to the NFL and to be clear that’s what I’m getting at above. Also here, as he’s a little off on the tackle. Some clean up there should be expected once he gets to work at OBD. Let’s start talking positives. He’s trailing his man crossing over the middle and sees the play quickly enough to be the first one to make a hit. He closes a lot of distance to do it too.
I know, I said let’s talk positives so I’ll leave some of this play alone. What I want to focus on is the early part of the clip where he’s waving to his teammates seemingly asking them to make sure they’re helping out toward the bottom of the screen. Where the play actually comes. Defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier and head coach Sean McDermott love football intelligence and Elam seems to fit their mold. In the games reviewed, Elam was a constant communicator, trying to get everyone into position.
Here’s a different look at his play-recognition skills and closing speed. Looking at his head, he’s watching who might come into his zone until someone reaches it. From there he starts watching the QB, anticipates the target, and breaks up the pass.
I can’t do a CB2 look without a Levi Wallace comparison can I? This is little more than a footrace for this clip. Kaiir Elam does well. This looked fast to me, and the body mechanics for both Elam and the receiver suggest they’re not holding back much. After a full 30 seconds of research I confirmed what my eyes were telling me: He’s chasing John Metchie III.
What am I showing here? Elam celebrating? Yes, exactly. Never rule out culture/personality fit. Every single positive play from the defense gets this reaction from Elam.
For our last play, one more look at the closing speed Elam displays.
Fans who have been clamoring for a more athletic CB2 for a while now definitely have their wish. Levi Wallace thrived due to excellent read-and-react skills, on-field intelligence, and work ethic. A quick look at Kaiir Elam suggests he’ll bring a lot of the same traits with him, and hopefully equal to that of Wallace. Expect some hiccups, like any rookie, but it’s hard not to be excited about the potential here.