Michael Sam led the Southeastern Conference in sacks, won first-team All-American honors, and earned the Associated Press’s nod as the “best defensive player” in the nation’s best conference. So, casual fans assume that Sam, who announced his homosexuality to ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and the New York Times on Sunday, will be a sure-fire NFL star. But his road to an NFL roster may be rocky due to reasons beyond his celebrated announcement.
Breitbart Sports checked in with Chris Landry, whose business is literally scouting, to get a bead on where Sam hears his name called in the draft, who he plays for in the NFL, and in what position he showcases his talents.
Will the media attention surrounding the NFL’s first openly gay player scare off some suitors? Superscout Landry concedes that teams fearing a Tim Tebow- or Manti Te’o-like media circus by selecting Michael Sam may hesitate. An established organization and the veteran presence enjoyed by certain franchises may make for a better landing spot for Sam. Landry points to “teams with strong leadership and locker room like the Patriots” as the type of franchise that would make more sense as a match.
Sam measuring in at a generous six-feet-two gives pause to NFL teams. Pass rushers who excel in the NFL at what Sam excelled at in college generally possess more length. So will Sam line up as a down lineman as he did at Missouri or standing as an outside linebacker as he did in the Senior Bowl? His “best fit appears to be a nickel rusher in a 40 front,” Landry held. Sam remains “up in air as an [outside linebacker] in [the] 30 front,” the former Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns scout assessed, adding that he “struggled at that in Senior Bowl practices.”
Sam’s ambiguous status as a “tweener”–body says outside linebacker, performance says defensive end–downgrades his draft stock, particularly since his skills lend themselves better to the 4-3 defense in which about half of all NFL teams normally line up. But scouts express less concern with where he plays than how he plays. The fact that he compiled most of his sack totals against inferior competition–9 of his 11.5 sacks came at the expense of Arkansas, Vanderbilt, and Florida–makes talent evaluators question whether his SEC success will carry over into the NFL. Landry sees Michael Sam as a mid- to late-round prospect who “could go anywhere from 4th round on.”
Still, Michael Sam led the most NFL-like college conference in sacks and made nineteen tackles in his opponents’ backfields. The ability to force plays for negative yardage upon high-powered NFL offenses remains highly desirable in draft-day prospects. Chances are that Michael Sam hears his name called on May 9 or 10 (but not on May 8), and becomes the NFL’s first openly gay player.