I’ve attended 15 NFL Drafts in person. It’s sort of a “hobby.” Yet my wife still keeps me around, incredibly.
Upfront: What Sam did here is courageous, and took guts. I’m, rooting for him — big time.
Let’s cut to the chase.
Sam projects as a 3-4 OLB or 4-3 DE. He has problems at both spots.
As a 3-4 OLB, he’s not great in space - yet.
We’ll see how he tests out at the Indy Scouting Combine. But he’s never going to be a drop and cover 3-4 OLB. He’s not Wilbur Marshall, or Derrick Brooks, OK?
If you play a 3-4 (about 20 NFL teams of 32 do), this is your pass rush OLB — you need to bring Sam forward, downhill, and let him do what he does best: Rush the passer. In other words: He’s James Harrison at best (a famously short, super productive OLB) not HOFer Derrick Brooks (an ace in all phases including coverage).
As a 4-3 DE, he is limited by his 6-2 height. Now again, Dwight Freeney was 6-1, annd he’s headed to the HOF. It can be done. And Russell Wilson just showed you don’t have to be tall to be a champ.
But as a 6-2, 260 pound end, Sam is a weakside rusher in the NFL - period. He has to show he can get to the QB against 6-6, 320 pound, elite athlete left tackles. The measurement of his arm length — honest — is going to matter a lot for Sam.
If Sam can rush the passer against elite opposition, he’ll play for years in the NFL and make a ton of dough. If he can’t, this becomes a problem.
Here’s what I like about Sam as a prospect:
+ Mental toughness: Could you do what he just did?
+ Productivity: He was co-Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC, the #1 conference in America.
+ Relentless Motor: Sam makes so many hustle plays when you watch Mizzou tape. The guy reminds me a little of Aaron Schobel on Buffalo (my team) a few years back; he’s absolutely relentless, and gets every ounce out of his talent.
+ He’s mature: He knows exactly who he is. He wants that spotlight. And he’s EXTRA motivated not to fail.
Could Sam be Tebow-ed? Denied a chance because of the media circus that will accompany him to the NFL? Absolutely.
Could Sam be, pardon the expression, Moon-ed? Denied a chance to play in the NFL because of prejudice (as Warren Moon was as a great “black quarterback” and Rose Bowl MVP in 1979)? Absolutely.
On paper, he’s a third-rounder… at worst.
You want to blather on and tell me the reigning SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year lacks “the essentials” to play in the NFL… and is “a tweener” with no position, have at it.
I’d draft Michael Sam in the third round (top 100 players overall). He does the single most important thing an edge player can do in the NFL — he can rush the passer, and he’s very good at this.
Is he a first or second round guy?
Right now, no.
But if Sam shocks the world and blows up the Indy Combine by running say, 4.6 and repping out 32 times at 225, he’s get into that second round discussion quickly. Right now, he looks like a 4.85 guy, with slightly above average athleticism; he’s not a freak like Jadaveon Clowney or Anthony Barr (and freak, in this context, is a compliment).
One final note.
You know what would really, really help Michael Sam?
If a few other active gay players in the NFL came out before the season. So he wasn’t crushed by the spotlight.
If anyone believes no active gay players exist in the NFL’s 1600+ player universe… well, what can I say.
Some day, we won’t care.
May that day come tomorrow.
If the Bills (my team) takes Sam in the third round, I would be elated.
I wish him massive success. Good luck.
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