Sunday night, Sam announced he'll be the first openly gay player to enter himself into the draft. As it relates to the Lions' needs, nothing should have changed after the announcement on Monday morning. Sam still clearly fits Detroit's need for a speedy defensive end or rush outside linebacker, and his courageous announcement should only make him more valuable in the eyes of Detroit's front office, who need to fill their locker room with quality people, above all else.
To make such a decree just months before the biggest job interview of Sam's life takes guts and courage, no matter how accepting society is becoming regarding gay athletes. Take, for example, what happened to Sam immediately after his announcement. Mysteriously, Sam quickly fell 70 spots in CBS Sports' draft projections. Prior to the announcement there were rumbles that Sam was a bit undersized for a defensive end and might be a "tweener" prospect. But 70 spots overnight? That's more than a bit extreme.
Regardless of size, Sam remains a fit in Detroit because the Lions need to find depth at defensive end and outside linebacker. The Lions wouldn't need Sam to be a starter at either position immediately, but rather might be inclined to use Sam in a rushing role on third down or someone who can be nimble enough at linebacker to tackle well in space and play solid in coverage. Teryl Austin has already coached such players on his old defense in Baltimore named Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Both are fairly explosive.
The bottom line? Sam was the co-defensive player of the year in the SEC and put up extraordinary numbers with 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. The Lions have been needy on the edges for a while with regards to depth and speed, two elements Sam could bring immediately to Detroit. In the Lions' attacking system behind an elite defensive line, he could quickly develop into a star.
In addition, for a defense which has had its character called into question over the past few seasons, Sam would bring an upbeat personality along with a courageous "can do" attitude. He's done things the right way on the field and off, and certainly would fit Jim Caldwell's "steel wrapped in velvet" description of the types of personalties he craves on the field and off.
Will the ominous draft projections hold true for Sam? By the time April rolls around, Sam might be selected higher than many people think, but if he falls, he could turn into an exceptional value for Detroit in the middle rounds, a team with a clear need at his position between the lines and in the community.
Sam's announcement is important for humanity, and displayed a courageous, driven individual to the world. As it relates to the Lions, his draft stock should only go up considering he has immense game to pair with an already immense spirit.
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