A few months ago Michael Sam, coming out of the closet and leaving Missouri to try and become the first openly gay player in the NFL, was the biggest thing in sports. On the eve of the 2014 NFL Draft, it seems like the buzz around him doesn’t exist, which means it won’t be too much of a surprise to see him go through all seven rounds without getting picked.
From teams being homophobic, to media attention being a distraction, or simply not being a good enough player: It’s not hard to find a reason not to draft Sam. Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel suggests, based on a poll of unnamed scouts, that Sam may not be picked at all.
Yes, the SEC’s 2013 defensive player of the year might not be good enough for the NFL, or at least to warrant a draft pick. Can it be? It’s impossible to say. Teams and GMs might all say that there’s nothing but footballing issues on their minds, but it’s hard to believe there isn’t some sort of effect, for better and worse, of Sam’s status in terms of sexuality and the attention that it brings.
Some might consider it a blessing and hope to use it as financial leverage. Others keep thinking about their dressing room in terms of trying to keep the media out of it. Having Sam, who’ll be a phenomenon no matter how much or little he plays, just like Tim Tebow once he joined the New York Jets, might be considered by some to be less than beneficial.
In terms of football, Sam is considered by scouts to be a tweener in terms of his pass rushing, and not really fitting in with either the 3-4 or the 4-3 systems. The fact that he did pretty well during his senior season to say the least in a league that is as close as it gets to a AAA or D-League for the NFL should mean that he’s a guaranteed pick. Maybe not a high one, but someone who shouldn’t fall beyond the 7th round.
However, this world isn’t just about ability and the things we see in front of us. It’s about uglier staff and also trying to predict the future, and it won’t be surprising to see no team willing to bind theirs and Sam’s on draft night.