He won’t be the highest-rated 2014 NFL draft prospect at this week’s NFL scouting combine, but former Missouri Tigers defensive end Michael Sam may be the one with the most eyes on him nearly two weeks after he announced he was an openly gay football player.
As the world discussed the ramifications of a gay player in an NFL locker room and whether the league was ready for such a thing, the football ability of Sam should take center stage from the combine in Indianapolis where he has to show he can be an every-down player in the NFL.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock isn’t convinced Sam is after watching him struggle at the Senior Bowl.
“He is a tweener,” Mayock said. “I think that’s why people are having trouble with the evaluation. I saw him on the Missouri tape, then again at the Senior Bowl. What I saw was a guy that’s a natural edge rush guy. He’s much better going forward than he is backward. He’s got a little explosion off the edge, but he doesn’t have the length. So he’s got linebacker size, but he’s got the physical skill set of a defensive end. I think he’s a tough fit.”
At 6-foot-1 5/8 and 260 pounds, Sam is not ideally suited as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 or as a defensive end in a 4-3 which is why Mayock has him pegged as a 3rd-5th round pick.
“What I see is a situational pass rusher,” Mayock said. “Not an every-down player, but a situational pass rusher who also can be a core special teams player. I think he goes somewhere from the third to fifth round. I’m not sure. … He’s really kind of tight-hipped, and I don’t think he can play linebacker.”
NFL teams will hide behind the excuse that they don’t want to draft Sam because he’ll be a “distraction” but the biggest reason he may have to wait until the third day of May’s draft is because what made him a special college player won’t translate to the NFL.