What position or role in the NFL will be the best fit for Missouri defensive end Michael Sam?
Michael Sam is a terrific college player, but he's a man without a true position at the NFL level. Measuring 6-1, 260 pounds, Sam is undersized to play defensive end, yet he lacks the movement skills and agility to play outside linebacker. Thus, he will be viewed as a pass-rushing specialist, driving his stock down a bit on draft boards across the league. As far as Sam's sexuality, I don't believe it will significantly impact his draft status. Most scouts were aware of his sexuality through their background research, so the topic had probably been discussed before the announcement. Additionally, coaches and executives are well aware of a number of gay athletes in the NFL and it hasn't been a problem to date. If a player can make plays and help a team win games, the other stuff won't be a problem.
Personally, I don't think Sam is an ideal three-down player in either scheme. His best fit is as a designated pass rusher. He can contribute on passing downs for any team. One team that makes sense is Jacksonville, which is desperate for pass rushers, and Sam could be a nice value in the fourth or fifth round.
Before the Senior Bowl, I saw Sam as a 3-4 OLB because of his size, but afterward I came away skeptical of his ability to play on his feet and in space. In my estimation, Sam fits best on a team looking to pump up its pass rush at DE, not a team seeking a true 3-4 OLB who will rush and drop into coverage. Sam plays better moving forward than backward, and is better suited to be a down defensive end who rushes the passer. Several scouts I talked to agreed, but he will test at the combine in some OLB drills, anyway, to see if he has improved since the Senior Bowl. Most people that I have talked to had him in the fourth or fifth round. I think Atlanta and Minnesota could be good fits for Sam because Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer are both very creative with how they use their players.
- Matt "Money" Smith NFL.com
49ers, Jets make most sense
The generic, obvious answer is the San Francisco 49ers. They run the 3-4, it's a historically trailblazing market for gay rights, and Jim Harbaugh is the sort of no-nonsense head coach that wouldn't allow any distractions to alter his team's focus. The New York Jets are a close second, considering the level of talent on that unit, which includes Sam's former teammate at Mizzou, Sheldon Richardson, who just won defensive rookie of the year honors. Finally, the San Diego Chargers come to mind. It's a scheme fit, and because they're a bit under the radar, his sexuality might not be as much of a story on a team that plays in the AFC West. Plus, San Diego is a laid-back city where even Manti Te'o managed to avoid being a national story that distracted his team in his rookie season.