Fill the vacancy left by the retiring Ray Lewis or help reload in the secondary after losing Ed Reed? Those were the choices facing the Ravens at the end of the first round of the NFL Draft. Given the chance to take Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Te’o with the 32nd and final pick, Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome goes with a player rated higher on his draft board, Florida Safety Matt Elam.
Te’o openly talked about his admiration for Lewis and desire to play in Baltimore. He may still get that opportunity since he was not selected in Thursday Night’s first round. Elam’s talent for hard hits and play making earns him the selection before the first night of the draft ends.
Elam had 76 tackles, four interceptions and two sacks in his junior season for the Gators. Opting to forego his senior season, Elam was considered by most draft pundits as the second best safety in the draft behind the University of Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro, who went 15th overall to the New Orleans Saints.
Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, played 11 seasons for the Ravens before signing as a free agent with the Houston Texans this offseason. The Ravens also released Bernard Pollard, leaving the reigning Super Bowl champions without their two starting safeties from last season.