Sam would be the first openly gay player to play in the NFL, which, despite all the praise from NFL circles, has made this an uneasy situation behind the scenes. Numerous anonymous NFL Scouts have been quoted as saying that Sam's draft stock will fall due the announcement. CBS has Sam as the ninth ranked defensive end and 90th player overall before the announcement. Overnight they decided to drop him to the 14th ranked defensive end and 160th player overall.
70 players did not magically become better than Sam overnight.
After a junior season where Sam totaled only three and a half sacks, he announced that he was gay to his teammates during a session where players talked about their background. Sam would go on to become a force on the Missouri defense, teaming up with Kony Ealy to form one of the best defensive lines in the country. He totaled eleven sacks during his senior campaign, en route to becoming SEC Defensive Player of the Year. But a knock on Sam is that he is too undersized to play defensive end in the NFL, and has very little experience at linebacker. However, that did not seem to hurt his draft stock before Sunday, as he was slated to be taken somewhere in the third or fourth round.
While he may not bring excellent size at 6'2", 256 lbs., neither did Robert Mathis, who has gone on to become a six-time Pro Bowler and one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Much like Mathis, Sam brings excellent speed and athleticism to the defensive side of the football. A player as quick and explosive out of his stance as Sam, will be trouble for most offensive tackles despite the fact that he is undersized. He is excellent at using his hands to rip past blockers, which when coupled with his speed and athleticism allows him to make up for his lack of height. Sam also knows how to use his height to his advantage, out leveraging blockers at the point of attack.
New York Giants fans have experience with similar players, as former New York Giant and current Atlanta Falcons defensive end Osi Umenyiora carries a similar build (6'3", 256 pounds) and skill set as Sam.
Like every NFL Draft prospect Sam has his flaws, and those should be the only things that affect his draft stock. His lack of size will hurt him when playing the run at the NFL level. He will likely have trouble shedding blocks when the bigger and stronger offensive tackles are able to square him up, but their will be times where he will get out of his stance too quick for a tackle to get more than a hand on him.
At the end of the day, Michael Sam can play football and plays it very well. There is always the chance Sam never makes a real impact in the NFL, like a good portion of drafted players. If that happens it will be because of football, and not because of his sexual orientation.
But if he does make an impact, Giants co-owner John Mara said on Monday, it will be because he's a damn good football player and that's all that matters.
"Our sport, our game, is the ultimate meritocracy. You earn your way with your ability," Mara said. "As Patrick Burke and Wade Davis constantly remind all of us, regardless of who you are, what your background is and what your personal or sexual orientation is, if you can play, you can play. Michael's announcement will not affect his position on our draft board."
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