With only a month away from the 2013 NFL Draft, the Enquirer's Joe Reedy decided to take some time to edit his mock draft for the first time since he originally projected safety Kenny Vaccaro going to the Bengals with the No. 21 overall pick.
Reedy still believes the Bengals will be targeting a safety as their first pick of the draft, but he's shifted his focus from Vaccaro, who is widely believed to be drafted well before the Bengals make their pick, to Florida safety Matt Elam.
Elam has been projected in multiple mock drafts as an early second rounder or at best (and certainly in Reedy's case) a late first round prospect. Even though Elam is smaller in stature at 5'10", his speed, hard-hitting aggression on the field and sharp instincts make him a top prospect at his position. Elam's ability to punish ball carriers come with a bit of baggage as he has a tendency to miss a textbook tackle, and along with his violent playmaking comes the risk of NFL penalty flags showering the field. Regardless, any team that is able to harness Elam's strength and speed will find themselves with a great strong safety. Elam has historically punished ball carriers in the middle of the field, particularly slot receivers, and the Bengals could use some help in the middle of the field on defense. However, Elam's size begs the question as to whether or not he can take down the behemoth tight ends of today's NFL consistently.
If Elam maintains his "bubble" status between the first and second round of the draft, Reedy's speculation that the Bengals would target him does invite discussion as to whether or not the Bengals should trade down in the first round much like they did just last year when they were targeting offensive guard Kevin Zeitler. If the Bengals are targeting a safety, and Vaccaro is off the board, the Bengals could very well have the opportunity to drop a few spots if another team is willing to deal.