Football season starts early for the NFL’s rookies. The month of May brings along with it the opening of the National Football League’s rookie mini-camps around the league.
Shariff Floyd and Matt Elam, the only two first-round picks out of the University of Florida in the 2013 NFL Draft, joined their fellow rookies in the opening of their team’s mini-camps last weekend.
Elam, drafted 32nd overall by the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, has already changed his jersey number from 31 to 26 since last weekend’s mini-camp. With Ed Reed in Houston and Bernard Pollard cut from the team, Elam may be able to change his number as much as he wants in the future.
James Ihedigbo, Christian Thompson and Brynden Trawick are the only other safeties currently listed on the Ravens roster. If Elam can translate his ball-hawking abilities to Baltimore, he has a great chance to start this season.
“The way he played on tape is the way you have to play in the AFC North,” said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.
Early returns are good, as reports from mini-camp said that he showed good instincts and a quick first step while playing from many different areas on the field. BaltimoreRavens.com staff writer Garrett Downing described Elam as “just as advertised.”
So, just to recount, Elam is going from an elite SEC college football program to the defending Super Bowl champions in the span of less than a few weeks. And he has a good chance to start and make an impact. I’d say life is pretty good for Elam right now.
CHANCES TO START: 75%
Floyd, on the other hand, looks more like he’ll be a Padawan this year, despite how little his former coach Will Muschamp may know about the subject. Kevin Williams is probably locked in on the interior of the defensive line right now for the Vikings, who drafted Floyd 23rd overall as a potential replacement for 32-year-old Williams.
Vikings team reports claim that Williams is a high-character player who will be a great mentor and role model for Floyd. Floyd can undoubtedly learn from Williams, who has been consistent enough that he is entering his 11th season with Minnesota.
Floyd has a strong interior rush defense game that stabilized one of the strongest defenses in the country last fall in Gainesville. He’s certainly unpolished, but after a year or two behind Williams, Floyd may be able to bring his brute strength and ability to the core of an NFL defense.
“I think he has the flexibility to play inside at nose,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said, “But I think his true position is the three-technique just because of his natural quickness and athletic skill set. He can play the run; he can rush the passer.
He played some end his junior year, and when they moved him back inside to his natural position, he really flourished and showed what he can be as a defensive tackle.”
The Ravens clearly have high hopes for Floyd, but don’t expect him to light the world on fire this year.
CHANCES TO START: 10%