Reports: Michael Sam’s Chances of Being Drafted are Slim
It looks like the National Football League may not be getting its first openly gay player anytime soon.
NFL draft week starts March 8 but according to a new report from the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, Michael Sam, who made headlines in February when he told ESPN he is gay, will be picked late in the draft, if he is picked at all.
Writer Bob McGinn wrote about Sam, a linebacker for Missouri All-American, Monday:
"The reason you don’t hear much about Sam anymore a few days before the draft is this is the time for real players. 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."
The Journal Sentinel "polled 21 scouts with national responsibilities asking what round, if any, they would be comfortable selecting Sam." The newspaper found three scouts said they’d pick Sam in the fifth round, three said sixth round and three said seventh round. Five said they would sign him as a free agent while seven said they would not sign him as a free agent.
"He’s not a linebacker, and he’s really not a defensive end," an NFC personnel director told the newspaper. "I’d certainly take him to camp. You’ve got to admire how hard he plays."
An AFC executive said, "It’s a tough fit when you’re short and slow and a try-hard overachiever. That’s the issue."
The newspaper reports that when the scouts studied the athlete on tape, many didn’t think his skills would translate to the NFL.
"Most of his production was hustle stuff," said an NFC personnel told the Journal Sentinel. "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," he added.
According to Dan Hanzus of the NFL.com, Sam’s problem has to do with his size and speed. Sam is undersized, standing 6-foot-2 and weighing in at 262 pounds. Both Hanzus and McGinn say that Sam was awkward at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"He has trouble in space and struggles changing directions," a scout told the Journal Sentinel. "He has a pretty good heart. I don’t see him as good for a 3-4 defense."
Hanzus writes: "If Sam does come off the board, expect it to happen Saturday when rounds four through seven are selected. It sounds like a very real possibility we don’t hear his name called at all."
If Sam, 24, does get signed to an NFL team, he would be the first openly gay pro-football player.
Some may not be surprised that Sam’s possible fate, as it was reported soon after he came out that eight anonymous NFL executives and coaches told Sports Illustrated that Sam will have a difficult time during draft picks.
"I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet," an NFL player personnel assistant told SI. "In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room."
All eight NFL officials said that Sam’s coming out will hurt him in the draft, even though he was projected between the third and seven rounds prior to his announcement.
"I just know with this going on this is going to drop him down," a veteran NFL scout told SI. "There’s no question about it. It’s human nature. Do you want to be the team to quote-unquote ’break that barrier?’"
Despite the officials’ statements, a new poll created by ESPN.com’s NFL Nation and ESPN the Magazine found that 86 percent of NFL players would accept an out teammate.