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Gators CB Kaiir Elam Earns First-Round NFL Draft Nods From McShay, Kiper

The Florida Gators will still be represented in the 2022 NFL Draft next year, and Kaiir Elam will likely be the highest selected.

While the Florida Gators' post-season aspirations seem to have already been deflated, for many on the team, the end of the year will mark the end of their career at the university.

For junior cornerback Kaiir Elam, he could be among the few who declare early, entering the 2022 NFL Draft in hopes to complete their aspirations of making a living playing the game they love.

Elam is expected to be one of the top players selected this year, and has been given a vote of approval by ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay placed on both of the analysts' top-25 NFL Draft Big Boards early in the process.

For Kiper, Elam was listed as the No. 24 player after being unranked on his previous big board for the 2022 NFL Draft.

"Elam sprained his knee earlier this season and missed a few games, but he has been good when he has played," Kiper wrote.

"His 2020 tape is inconsistent -- he got beat for a couple long touchdowns -- but in five games in 2021 he has allowed just 42 receiving yards as the closest defender in coverage. That's an average of 3.5 yards per attempt in his direction. Elam has long arms and good instincts; he has six career picks. He can play press coverage and lock up wideouts."

As for ESPN's Todd McShay, the NFL Draft analyst is much more bullish on Elam, grading him as the No. 11 player in the country that's eligible for this year's draft.

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"Elam is instinctive and aggressive. He has loads of top-end speed (he ran track in high school), great closing burst and excellent awareness in coverage, and he is able to play in press, zone or off-man," McShay wrote.

"Elam follows the ball well when it's in the air, and his on-ball production is solid. He has an interception and three passes broken up this season, and his 13 pass breakups in 2020 tied for the fourth-most in the country."

For Elam, he's playing his best football, but as Kiper and McShay both note. But, the young cornerback has been primed for a high draft status since last season after becoming the team's No. 1 cornerback following the departure of CJ Henderson to the NFL in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The Gators have had a player selected in the first round in back-to-back years (tight end Kyle Pitts, 2021, Henderson, 2020) after an off-year in 2019. Prior to that, Florida has had a player selected in the first round every season since 2013.

Elam's ascension has been one of the major storylines to follow this season as the team works toward the end of the year. Though, the junior cornerback noted yesterday that his sights are locked on Georgia, this week's opponent for Florida, not the NFL Draft.

"I'm not really focused on the business decision right now," Elam said on Tuesday. "I’m focused on helping this team win.”

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