by Dave Syvertsen, Ourlads’ Draft Analyst
Fans may fail to realize, or fail to admit, that the NFL is a business before it is a game. Whether you agree or disagree is a subject for another time. The reason I bring this up is the recent “Breaking News” that Missouri DE/OLB prospect Michael Sam has let the public know he is in fact gay. No matter the political/religious views regarding this declaration, this is a story that whichever NFL team drafts him will have to deal with from a PR perspective.
Sam had a breakout year in 2013, earning All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors following his 19 TFL/11.5 sack season. At 6’2/260, the fifth year senior projects to be a prospect that both 4-3 and 3-4 defensive schemes will be after. He mostly played with his hand in the dirt at Missouri but he has a game similar to Steelers’ outside linebacker Lamarr Woodley. He doesn’t have the elite get off and won’t run by a lot of tackles, but his combination of short area quickness and agility along with his playing strength makes him a tough matchup. He will likely finish in the top 100 overall on most NFL boards when it comes to his ability and potential. However that is not where the evaluation ends.
Sam, whether you think it is fair or not, will be discussed by some teams as a possible distraction. Personally, his ability and upside are more than enough for me to consider him for a draft pick in round 3 if I am looking for a pass rusher. With that said, there is a strong possibility the back-story will be too strong for some teams. Can Miami handle another media-frenzy? Do the Jets want more off-the-field headlines? Will the political agendas of any owners get in the way? Every year there are prospects that get completely crossed off boards as a result of issues that have nothing to do with gameday production. While unfortunate, it is a fact. Sam deserves to be a day two pick and I still believe he will be. It would be shame for this piece of news to change that.