Every year, defensive backs who are able to cover the field sideline to sideline in today’s NFL passing game are becoming a commodity more and more each draft. Players like Tyrann Mathieu, Reggie Nelson, and Earl Thomas are at a high demand because of their ability to play anywhere along the back end but secure the deep third.
A lot of these players tend to be on the smaller end if the measuring stick but all have the same characteristics: Great tacklers,rangy guys, and outstanding ball skills. Sometimes these traits can get overlooked by others because of their size but that shouldn’t hold any player back.
Ole Miss safety Trae Elston is one of the guys that get overlooked by evaluators A LOT.
Draft Grade: 6.2 out 10.
Coming in with the maybe the most talented class in school history (2012), Elston made a strong reputation in the SEC for being a feisty safety and even better competitor. In 2015 alone, Elston recorded 70 tackles, four interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), five tackles for loss, and 14 passes defended (first in the SEC).
When it comes to disrupting the ball there aren’t many that can compete with Elston. He has a great break and hand placement when defending passes downfield. At times, he may give too much cushion in coverage but he makes up for it with his understanding of field position and knowing when take make a play.
Tackling for safeties is a needed requirement. If they can’t do it then they will be exposed for it. As someone labeled as the “Llast defense” they have to be able to make the secure tackles especially in space. Luckily for Elston, tackling isn’t is weak point. Being physical is something that you’ll see in alot in the many Ole Miss prospects.
When in the open field, Elston does a great job in collecting himself and making the needed tackle instead a bone-crushing attempt. At 5’11 190lbs, has enough size to come and compete for a backup role and even see time in a nickel safety situation.
If you’re looking for a fluid, technique oriented player then this is not your guy. Elston has a natural field awareness but his backpedal and lateral movement is below par. If there’s a big knock on his game would be his footwork. At times he can get caught looking in the backfield. When teams run the play-actions correctly against him, Elston gets caught in the backfield and lose his man by at least seven to nine yards.
First and foremost, he’s a football player more than athlete. He could test out in all of the workout drills but he shines best when judge as football player and not more of an athlete. One of the nagging issues that he deals with giving receivers too much of a cushion and loses trace of them. He has high-class confident in himself but his athletic abilities don’t match with it.
Draft Projection: 5th – 6th rounder