The Ravens have selected Florida safety Matt Elam with their 2013 first-round pick.
Baltimore had linebacker Manti Te’o and wideout Robert Woods available to them at No. 32, but opted to go with a safety.
Update: The 5-foot-10 Elam comes to the Ravens after spending three years with the Gators. He played in 39 games at Florida, starting his last 26 at strong safety. Noted as a big hitter, he finished his career with 176 tackles (124 solo), five sacks and 24 tackles for loss. He made six interceptions and forced two fumbles.
Elam, 21, has the NFL in his blood, as his older brother Abram is entering his eighth season in the league.
Assistant general manager Eric DeCosta, director of college scouting Joe Hortiz and coach John Harbaugh exchanged smiles and handshakes as they left the press conference to discuss their newest addition. It was clear they got the guy they wanted.
“Even though it was a position of need, whether you all believe it or not, he was the highest-rated player on our board,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “The thing that I think we all like about Matt is his speed. He’s probably one of the better tacklers that we’ve seen play the position and the other thing that we looked at too, he enjoys practicing. He enjoys playing the game of football.
“He will come in. I still don’t know if he’ll get into the starting lineup (right away). That’ll be up to John. But he’s a guy with the type of speed and the way he plays the game, he’ll be a presence on special teams right away.
“Matt Elam is our guy. I think if you would ask any of the four of us what one player we would like to have had today, I think each one of us would have written down on a sheet of paper, we would’ve said Matt Elam.”
Harbaugh echoed those sentiments, saying his wife asked who he’d like to see the Ravens draft in the first round. His response: Matt Elam.
Elam has connections with the Ravens through defensive backs coach Teryl Austin, who served as his defensive coordinator at Florida for one season, and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, who has a longtime connection to Elam’s brother.
“I’m just very excited. He’s the player that we saw quite a bit of tape on and had a good connection to the Florida coaching staff,” DeCosta said. “He’s just an infectious kid on the playing field - talk, aggressive, good cover skills, can play in the slot, he’s a great special teams guy.”
Said Hortiz: “He’s a versatile kid, as tough as they come and will add a lot. He fits our profile for a player and plays like a Raven, so we’re excited.”
The Ravens also had a positional need at inside linebacker. And while many pundits projected Te’o to go before Baltimore picked in the first round, the Ravens let him slide into the second round.
Newsome said the reason the team went with Elam was simple.
“Matt was the higher-rated player between the two of those guys,” Newsome said.
The Ravens were unconcerned with Elam’s height, and Harbaugh said he’ll have an opportunity to start immediately.
“He definitely has a chance to do that. He’ll have to earn it,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got one veteran safety in there and some of our young guys will be competing for it as well. We always play the best guy and we’ll have to see who’s playing the best. But I think Matt Elam will be right in the middle of that fight and we expect him to be.”