The Case For … Michael Sam
By Matthew Postins
Every few days leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft RattleandHumSports.com will profile a player that the Dallas Cowboys could select in the draft.
Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
Measurables: 6-foot-2, 260 pounds
Rankings: CBSSports.com ranked Sam as the No. 110 overall prospect and the No. 11 draft prospect at defensive end.
Draft grade: CBSSports.com gives Sam a third- or fourth-round grade.
In College (from Missouri’s postseason media guide): In 2013 Sam was named a First-Team All-American (Walker Camp) and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year (AP, Coaches). SEC First-Team selection (AP and Coaches). His 10.5 sacks for the year ranked first in the SEC, and tied for 9th in the NCAA … Tallied 18 tackles for loss, which topped the Mizzou defensive unit … had 45 tackles on the season, as the Tigers trotted out one of the best defensive lines in the nation … recorded one tackle for loss and 0.5 sacks among five stops vs. Texas A&M (Nov. 30) … had three TFL and one sack in the game vs. No. 20 South Carolina (Oct. 26) … third game with three sacks in the win vs. No. 22 Florida (Oct. 19) … scooped and scored off a Georgia fumble to put Mizzou up 28-10 in the 2nd quarter, returning the ball 21 yards to the end zone … second game with three sacks came in the win at Vanderbilt (Oct. 5).
So far in the scouting process: A few weeks ago some mock drafts had Sam going in the first round to the Dallas Cowboys. In fact, both Rob Rang and Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com had him going to the Cowboys. In the past couple of weeks Sam’s stock has reset somewhat. Now he looks like a second-day selection in the eyes of some scouts. Then, of course, came his announcement on Sunday that he was gay.
What scouts say:
“Sports a compact, well-developed frame. Very good initial quickness to explode past offensive tackles and apply pressure on the quarterback. Uses his natural leverage advantage well, keeping his legs driving to overpower much bigger opponents on the bull-rush, while also mixing in effective rip and club moves to keep blockers’ hands off his chest. Accelerates smoothly and closes in a flash, showing good power for the knockdown and technique to wrap securely. Considering his size, Sam is surprisingly effective in run defense. Can slip gaps due to his quickness to penetrate and make a big play behind the line of scrimmage and shows good power, knee bend to anchor and create a pile when run at. Good awareness, quickness and balance to recognize and defeat cut-blocks. Compares to Elvis Dumervil.” – Rob Rang, CBSSportscom
“He doesn’t have a clean position in either the 4-3, or the 3-4. He’s a little undersized to be a defensive end. You question his athleticism to play linebacker. To me, he’s a pure pass rusher, which, there is a lot of value for that, but for me, that puts him in that fourth-, fifth-round area. … I want to see how he runs (at the combine), how well he runs will be important. But I want to see him in the linebacker drills, how he moves around. There are some questions when you watch him on tape, you worry a little but about him being tight in the ankles, tight in the hips. He’s going to have to transition to linebacker, you’re going to have to drop and cover and do some things in that area. I’d like to see him do that at the combine.” – NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah
Why does he fit in Dallas: He seems to be a tweener. Is he a pass-rushing linebacker or a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end? It depends on whom you ask, but he’s earning more comparisons to players that play the outside linebacker position in 3-4 sets, such as Dumervil and Philadelphia’s Trent Cole. If Dallas drafts him they have to be confident he can play the defensive end position in the 4-3 set. He might also be asked to put on five or 10 pounds. But the Cowboys need some ends with his kind of speed coming off the edge.
The bottom line? Sam was going to be drafted before he announced he was gay, and he’ll still be drafted in May because he has talent that translates to the next level. That would make him the NFL’s first openly gay player. Whether that bothers you or not doesn’t matter nearly as much as whether it bothers Sam’s future NFL teammates. So far, the reaction seems to be far more with Sam than against. Patriots owner Robert Kraft told reporters on Monday that all his team is interested in are players that can help their team, and if Sam can they’ll draft him. That’s all that should matter in this case. There will be attention cast upon Sam, especially once he’s drafted, but NFL teams have many ways to help him manage that attention. If the Cowboys feel Sam can help them, they should draft him. Period.