Photo: Kaiir Elam; Credit: Zach Goodall, AllGators.com
The 2021 NFL season is over 24 hours away from kicking off at the time this story was posted, but mock draft season has already begun.
Following an eventful first week of college football, draftniks and analysts have already started looking forward to the 2022 NFL Draft. Bleacher Report joined in on the fun by releasing a full first-round mock on Wednesday, compiled by its team of four scouts with the draft order determined by current Super Bowl odds.
The Florida Gators were represented in the exercise, as expected as cornerback Kaiir Elam is widely regarded to be the first-round talent. BR's team of scouts took things a step further, though, including Elam in the top ten picks of their first mock of the year and sending his talents to Las Vegas.
7. Las Vegas Raiders: CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
The Las Vegas Raiders desperately need to hit on a top draft pick after multiple years of questionable first-round selections.
Maybe Alex Leatherwood will turn into a standout right tackle, corner Damon Arnette will bounce back after a disappointing rookie campaign and Clelin Ferrell will finally provide more pass-rushing punch.
Another investment in the secondary may be necessary depending on Arnette's development and the fact that Casey Hayward Jr. is scheduled to be a free agent after this season. Florida's Kaiir Elam has the potential to slide in as CB1 in the Raiders secondary.
"Elam is a long corner who attacks the ball in the air," [Bleacher Report scout Cory] Giddings said. "With his ball-hawk tendencies, the 6'2", 196-pound Elam is able to ride receivers off their line and attack the ball at its highest point. With Hayward getting up in age (31), this is the team's chance to add more length opposite Trayvon Mullen Jr."
Elam and Mullen—with Arnette working over the slot and outside of the numbers depending on the coverage, alignment and package—would bring enough upside for a weakness to turn into a potential strength.
Since stepping in as a true freshman while former Gators cornerback and 2020 first-round pick C.J. Henderson dealt with injury, Elam has emerged as one of the most dominant man coverage cornerbacks in America. Tallying five interceptions and 20 pass breakups to go with 53 tackles and a fumble recovery, Elam has allowed only 44.3 percent of his 79 targets in coverage to be caught (per PFF) across his 26 career appearances.
Barring an injury or any setbacks in 2021, Elam should only continue to push his name up draft boards and remain in the argument as the nation's No. 1 cornerback prospect with LSU's Derek Stingley Jr.
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