2017 NFL Draft: Miami CB Corn Elder inspired by Tyrann ‘Honey Badger’ Mathieu

Miami Hurricanes defensive back Corn Elder (29) intercepts a pass intended for Florida A&M Rattlers wide receiver Montavius Williams (15) at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on September 1, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Miami Hurricanes defensive back Corn Elder intercepts a pass intended for Florida A&M Rattlers wide receiver Montavius Williams at Hard Rock Stadium. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

MOBILE, Ala. — Corn Elder is a Honey Badger.

That may require some deciphering.

Corn is short for Cornelius, like Elder’s Dad.

Honey Badger is the nickname of Tyrann Mathieu, the Arizona Cardinals’ Pro Bowl defensive back.

They’re both small. They’re both nasty. Neither should be overlooked.

Elder, the former University of Miami star, measured and weighed in at 5-feet-10, 180 pounds at the Senior Bowl.

“I know that has been my knock a lot, my size, but it doesn’t really affect me on the field,” Elder said at the Senior Bowl. “I definitely play bigger than I am. And to see the 180? That’s pretty good.”

Elder was more than good as a ‘Cane.

But he’s a polarizing draft prospect. Perhaps no cornerback in the 2017 NFL Draft tackles as well as Elder.

And he breaks well on the ball. And he has quick feet. And quick hands.

Did we mention how well he tackles?

One of the Daily Dolphins’ favorite college football video clips of 2016 features Elder exploding into, and through, North Carolina wide receiver Ryan Switzer.

Elder has outstanding tackling technique and brings a more powerful punch than seems possible.

Just like a man he tries to model his game after — Mathieu, the former LSU star.

“He makes a lot of plays,” Elder said. “He’s always around the ball. He’s just a dog. You watch him play and you see that passion in him. That’s something that I try to bring to the field. A lot of passion. A lot of swag. Just have fun.”

Elder brings the scrappy mentality of a junkyard dog.

Mathieu, mostly due to off-field concerns, was taken at the top of the third round, 69th overall, by the Cardinals in 2013.

Elder could be drafted in a similar position.

Mathieu is 5-feet-9, 186 pounds, and scouts viewed the Heisman finalist as an enigma.

Was he an outside corner? A slot corner? A safety?

The Cardinals didn’t care. They viewed him as an aggressive, ball-hawking playmaker. They’ve even used him on the field in a position typically occupied by a linebacker.

Elder chased the ACC’s top wide receivers around the field in 2016. He enjoys playing press man. Though in the NFL, his likely destination is slot corner, basically now an every-down position.

“Me versus you and best man wins,” Elder said with a grin. “That’s my favorite thing to do.”

Here’s some of NFL.com’s evaluation of Elder:

“Doesn’t realize he’s undersized. Plays physically and with good confidence. Patient from press with footwork and body control for extended mirroring of release. Gets into receivers and can take their route off-schedule. Sinks into receivers on outside release constricting the vertical throwing window. Plays variety of coverages and squeezes routes in all. Former high school basketball star with point guard quickness and little hesitation in his transitions. Twitchy click-and-close to the ball. Plus instincts and ready to pounce on throws from zone. Aggressive in run support striking through his target and running his feet through completion.”

Last season, the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter outlined why Elder was Miami’s most valuable player.

Porter, who authors the popular Canes Watch blog, cited Elder’s durability, versatility and production.

But both NFL.com and USA Today project Elder as an early- to mid-third round pick. And ESPN’s Mel Kiper suggests Elder may be a Day 3 pick, meaning Round 4 or later.

It would be a mistake to overlook Elder, one of the most aggressive, tough, instinctive, tenacious, hard-hitting defensive backs in the next NFL Draft. For the Dolphins to take a slot cornerback in the first three rounds may be a luxury they can’t afford.

But wherever Elder lands, the payoff should be great.

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