Michael Sam Openly Gay: 2014 NFL Draft Impact

By Walter Cherepinsky – @walterfootball
Feb. 10, 2014

I’d say the response to Missouri defensive end Michael Sam telling the nation that he’s gay was overwhelmingly positive. Most of the tweets I saw commended Sam for revealing his sexual orientation. Many lauded Sam for being brave and attempting to break a barrier in American professional sports; if Sam makes an NFL roster, he’ll be the first openly gay player in league history. Or so that’s what the public believes.

Unfortunately for Sam, qualifying for some team’s 53-man roster could prove to be a challenge, especially if he’s not drafted. I slotted Sam in the second round of last week’s 2014 NFL Mock Draft, but many see Sam as a mid-rounder at best. He’s too small to be a 4-3 defensive end and apparently lacks the passing-rushing moves for a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Now, throw in the possible distraction that most teams in the NFL fear, and Sam could potentially go undrafted. According to SI.com, eight NFL executives and coaches believe that Sam is in for a free fall in the 2014 NFL Draft. They stated that NFL locker rooms are “not prepared to deal with an openly gay player.”

The individual who made this remark is stupid and/or ignorant because he’s unaware of what transpired in the NFL 20 years ago. Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle wrote an article in December about two members of the 1993 Houston Oilers who were gay. Their teammates knew and didn’t care.

Sam may not be drafted, but if he’s not, it’s because teams don’t think he’s a good football player. There are some closed-minded fools still lurking in the NFL – as evidenced by Chris Kluwe’s accusations of his former coach – but many are open-minded and are willing to give someone like Sam a shot, and they won’t care about this perceived “publicity circus.” After all, Manti Te’o was apparently going to cause a huge distraction. He dropped a bit in the 2014 NFL Draft, but the Chargers selected him in the second round. Did Te’o distract San Diego as it qualified for the playoffs and upset Cincinnati in the first round?

The thing is, we may not learn anything from this Sam situation. If he goes undrafted, some will attribute it to him not being a very good football player (which I would disagree with). The real test would be if someone like Jadeveon Clowney came out of the closet. Would a player of Clowney’s caliber fall out of the top five? Absolutely not. He’s just too good, and most people in the NFL wouldn’t care about any sort of “distraction” that wouldn’t actually occur.

As for Sam, here are some teams that may take a chance on him:

San Francisco 49ers:
This is a clear choice, but there are more reasons than the obvious one. The 49ers have a strong locker room and coaching staff, and they have a need for an outside linebacker just in case Aldon Smith gets into trouble again.

San Diego Chargers:
San Diego is my favorite destination for Sam. As mentioned earlier, the Chargers already took a shot on one “distraction,” and Te’o worked out fine for them. Sam would also fill a big need across from Melvin Ingram. To top it off, San Diego is a small market that doesn’t garner much media attention.

Oakland Raiders:
It’s only a coincidence that I’m listing all of the California teams initially, but the Raiders have always been an organization that has welcomed outsiders. Based on new owner Mark Davis’ personality, I believe he’d want to add Sam to his roster as a situational pass-rusher.

Baltimore Ravens:
The Ravens are another team that has taken chances on players. They also have a strong locker room. This describes the Patriots as well, but I don’t think Sam is a good scheme fit for Bill Belichick’s defense. He would make sense for Baltimore though to provide needed depth at outside linebacker.

Dallas Cowboys:
What’s this? A team from a conservative state? Why not? When asked if Sam is an option for Dallas, Bryan Broaddus, a scout who writes for DallasCowboys.com said, “Sure he is. He can rush the passer.”

I can list more teams, but Sam is a fit for all of them as long as he matches the system. There will be many teams willing to give Sam an opportunity.

What do you think about Sam’s 2014 NFL Draft status? Vote in the poll, discuss in the comment board below or follow @walterfootball for updates.

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