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Mayock on Sam: 'Situational pass rusher, a really good first step'

Michael Sam, who will be the first openly gay player in the NFL, was taken in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams. Sam was taken with the 34th pick in the round (249th overall), with a compensatory selection.

NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock has been calling Sam a 'tweener since the combine, and he used that description again Saturday. He also said Sam's lack of athleticism is noticeable compared to other players looking to make the transition from defensive end in college to outside linebacker in the pros.

Mayock also said, though, that Sam had "high-level production in the best conference in football."

"He's a situational pass rusher (with) a really good first step," Mayock said.

Mayock said Sam is joining "one of the two or three most ferocious fronts in football." St. Louis picked Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald in the first round, and the Rams already had former first-rounders Michael Brockers, Chris Long and Robert Quinn.

Mayock and fellow analyst Daniel Jeremiah said Sam has a chance to be used in sub packages with the Rams. Jeremiah, a former NFL scout, said teams have what they call a "DPR" -- a designated pass rusher. "That's what Michael Sam is," Jeremiah said.

Among the defensive ends who heard their name called in Saturday's seventh round were Marist's Terrence Fede and Illinois State's Shelby Harris, and Sam -- the co-defensive player of the year in the SEC -- also was chosen behind kickers Zach Hocker of Arkansas and Nate Freese of Boston College.

NFL Media Insider Michael Silver spent the draft weekend "embedded" with the Rams, and he said Sam's selection "was not something that was expected in this building."

"I don't know if he (Rams coach Jeff Fisher) felt Michael Sam would be available at that spot," Silver said.

Silver also said the environment with the Rams probably would be one of the best in the league for Sam, who went to college about two hours west of St. Louis.

"I think a lot of people would (say) Fisher's locker room is a perfect place," he said.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who served as a guest analyst on NFL Network's draft coverage, has friends on Mizzou's coaching staff and said they "raved about (Sam)."

Fisher said Sam's on-field work caught his eye. "The guy is productive," Fisher said. "His production exceeds his talent."

Sam announced in February that he was gay. The announcement came about six weeks after the end of the 2013 season, when he led the SEC in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (19). He helped Missouri finish 12-2 in '13.

Mayock said Sam "handled himself with dignity and with class" in an intense media glare at the combine. He now will be given another chance to handle the intense media glare that comes with being a drafted high-profile player.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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