NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — To many, Michael Sam is the ultimate feel-good story.
But that doesn’t mean this week is going to play out well for him.
According to various scouts who spoke recently to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Sam, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year who announced back in February that he’s openly gay, may not get picked in the NFL draft until very late, if at all.
If that happens, the questions will be numerous and many will center on whether his decision to come out impacted his value. The scouts who spoke to the newspaper seem to suggest that Sam, who starred at the University of Missouri, simply isn’t that great of a prospect, regardless of his success in the best conference in college football.
“The reason you don’t hear much about Sam anymore a few days before the draft is this is the time for real players,” the Journal-Sentinel’swrote. “Based on discussions over the last month about Sam’s capability as a player with about two dozen NFL executives in personnel, he’s regarded almost as a non-entity.”
McGinn reported that he spoke to 21 scouts, of whom three said Sam is a fifth-round pick. Three scouts said they’d select him in the sixth round and three others said they’d take Sam in the seventh round.
Of the 12 remaining scouts, seven said they would not sign Sam as an undrafted free agent, while five said they would.
The problem appears to be that Sam, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds, is considered an in-betweener — too small to be an NFL defensive end in a 4-3 and not athletic enough to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4. He may not be able to get to the quarterback, or drop back in coverage on tight ends and running backs.
“It’s a tough fit when you’re short and slow and a try-hard overachiever,” one AFC executive told McGinn. “That’s the issue.”
Of course, if Sam isn’t drafted there will be inevitable charges of homophobia, but the scouts who spoke to McGinn insist if teams pass him over they will have adequate ammunition to defend their decisions.
“Most of his production was hustle stuff,” an NFC personnel man told McGinn. “There’s production, but he’s short, he’s not a really good athlete and he doesn’t play good against the run.
“He’s kind of a one-task pass rusher. Just run up the field. And they swallow him up and kind of push him around. It doesn’t fit with being SEC Defensive Player of the Year. But that’s just kind of what he was.”
For the record, back in mid-April the Jets were reported to be one of six teams identified as having serious interest in Sam. The Jets were also one of the teams that seemed to go out of their way to applaud Sam for being open about his sexuality.
Does any of that mean the Jets will draft him? We’ll have to wait and see.
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