Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why Openly Gay Michael Sam Will Go Undrafted

Michael Sam, the Missouri defensive end who recently came out of the closet, is projected to be pro football's first openly gay player. Supposedly he's going to be picked somewhere between the third and fifth rounds in the upcoming NFL draft.

It's politically correct to be supportive of gays and optimistic about this historic situation, but let's be real. Most likely Sam is not going to be drafted at all. The problem? He's just not good enough. He's simply not worth all the trouble he'll cause.

What's wrong is that he's not in a class with top ten picks like Jadeveon Clowney or Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel. If these guys suddenly came out of the closet, they are so talented that their draft status would be hurt very little--if at all.. The way South Carolina's Clowney rushes the passer, do you think some pro team would give a damn if he were gay? How about Texas A&M QB Manziel? He has the potential to turn a franchise around, to lead it to the promised land. Do you think teams would ignore him if he turned out to be gay?

Pro football is a business. Signing super-talented players, even if they come with baggage, is good business. But investing in modestly talented players loaded with back-breaking baggage is bad business. It simply makes no sense to sign Sam, who'll probably be just a backup player. However he has a huge downside--attracting distracting media hordes and creating locker room turmoil.

My sources checked Sam out closely, just like NFL teams will do, concluding he's far from a great talent. Two SEC position coaches, who had to prepare to play Missouri, offered valuable opinions but only talked to my sources off the record. Seems that nobody wants to be quoted talking negatively about Sam.

First of all, Sam's gaudy SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year title, based largely on his 11.5-sack total, is misleading. Look closely and you'll see he piled up sacks against bad teams, like Arkansas State and Florida, and didn't fare so well against good teams. He was strongest against the early, weaker part of the schedule and not so dominant against the tough conference teams later in the season. He doesn't have the dazzling speed (just a decent 4.7 forty) or the array of moves a premier pass-rusher needs. Nor, report the coaches, does he play the run particularly well. The consensus is that Sam, who's 6-1 1/2, 260 pounds, isn't quite skilled enough to play defensive end in the NFL or quick or savvy enough to be a dependable linebacker. Nor does he have the kind of athleticism coaches prefer in special teams players. Sam isn't even the best pro prospect on the Missouri defense. That honor belongs to the other starting end, Kony Ealy, who'll be picked early in the first round.

There's really no compelling reason to draft Sam. He lacks the speed and talent to become a great player. A hard worker, he might, with the right coaching, turn into an admirable second-stringer. According to the two SEC coaches, Sam isn't a potential NFL starter.
The league is full of players on Sam's level. But they won't disrupt the locker room and the media doesn't care about them. Given a choice of signing one of these guys or Sam, with all his baggage, teams will take the easy way out.

You can't really blame them. It's just business.