While there is much uncertainty about whether the draft status of Michael Sam will be affected after his revelation on Sunday that he is gay, one thing appears clear: The Missouri defensive end, an outstanding player in college, might have a tough time adjusting in the NFL as a player.
That's the opinion of two NFL Media analysts who have studied Sam extensively. Bucky Brooks, who watched Sam participate at the Senior Bowl last month in Mobile, Ala., sees the lineman as "a bit undersized and limited athletically." Nolan Nawrocki, who writes draft profiles for NFL.com, wrote in his profile of Sam that he compares favorably to Chargers LB Larry English, "an overhyped, overdrafted, marginal producer in the pros."
Sam did record 11.5 sacks last season, the final one coming in the Tigers' Cotton Bowl win. Nine of them came during a trio of three-sack peformances against Arkansas State, Vanderbilt and Florida. He also recorded an assisted sack while working against Texas A&M star left tackle Jake Matthews, who is expected to be a first-round draft choice.
Below are the analysts' full thoughts on Sam:
Brooks: Sexuality a non-factor
Michael Sam is a productive pass rusher with a relentless motor and a knack for getting to the quarterback. He's a bit undersized and limited athletically, but his ability to pressure the quarterback could make him an intriguing situational pass rusher. Based on his game tape and how he fared at the Senior Bowl, I would expect him to come off the board as a mid-round (3-5) selection.
I don't believe his revelation will impact his draft status. Sexuality has been discussed in pre-draft meetings in the past, but it was never a factor in the evaluation process in my experience as a scout. Sam's football character and background will be scrutinized like every other prospect in the 2014 class, with teams evaluating their findings and making appropriate tweaks to his character grade based on that information.
However, I don't believe it will be a problem in the locker room because the overwhelming majority of players simply want teammates who can make key contributions to a potential championship run. If Sam can play at a high level, the production will override any concerns that emerge following his revelation.
Nawrocki: Could need time to adjust
Good arm length. Anticipates the snap and has a very good initial first step. Plays hard, gives great effort and competes every down. Good on-field intensity and demeanor. Attacks the edges aggressively and motor runs hot. Outstanding weight-room strength; can squat a small house. Very durable.
Lacks burst and acceleration off the edge to get a step on blockers and finish. Sack production results from effort and production flushed to him and is not creatively produced with savvy pass-rush moves, speed, power or bend. Average hip flexibility and snap -- struggles clearing his hips at the top of his rush and trimming the corner. Adequate anchor vs. the run. Is late to disengage from blocks. Does not strike with authority. Inconsistent tackler. Late bloomer who could require time to adapt to the pro game.
Overall, a productive, 4-3 weakside rusher who came on as a senior and made his last season his best. Could fit most ideally as a 3-4 outside linebacker in a zone-blitzing scheme like the Steelers' or Ravens'. Compares favorably to Chargers 2009 first-round pick Larry English, an overhyped, overdrafted, marginal producer in the pros.