NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock echoed fellow analyst Bucky Brooks Monday in assessing Missouri defensive end Michael Sam as a third- to fifth-round choice in the May 8-10 NFL draft, and he said he doesn't think Sam's sexual orientation would change that. Sam, who announced Sunday that he is gay, would be the NFL's first openly gay player this fall if he makes a team.
Still, Mayock believes some NFL clubs might hesitate to draft Sam to avoid a locker room distraction.
"Maybe I'm being naïve and altruistic, but my take is, if his Missouri teammates were mature enough to deal with it, why can't an NFL team deal with it in the same manner?" Mayock said, according to philly.com. "If I were a team, I'd hope that I would look at him and say, 'OK, this is what he is (as a player),' and draft him in that range if he's available. I think some teams are going to say, 'Hey, I give the kid credit for coming out. I'd like a tough-minded individual like that in my locker room.' But I think there will be other teams that are going to look at it and say, 'Do I want that distraction in my locker room?'"
Mayock also said he doesn't see any perceived distraction outlasting Sam's work ethic and determination.
"We're going to blow it out of proportion," he said. "The kid, who sounds like he's a really good kid, is going to get in a locker room and work his tail off, and everybody is going to forget about his sexual orientation."
Scouting opinions on Sam vary, however, and the draft projections of Mayock and Brooks appear to be most favorable.
One NFL general manager, speaking anonymously to mmqb.si.com, said he doesn't believe Sam will be drafted.
"First of all, we don't think he's a very good player. The reality is he's an overrated football player in our estimation. Second: He's going to have expectations about where he should be drafted, and I think he'll be disappointed."
NFL Media analyst Nolan Nawrocki compared Sam to San Diego Chargers linebacker Larry English, whom he described as a disappointment as a first-round pick in 2009. English (6-2, 255) has averaged just two sacks per year over five seasons. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah compared Sam to a far more successful pass rusher in Trent Cole, but the comparison was more about style of play than overall talent.
Like Jeremiah, Mayock sees Sam as a poor fit as an every-down player in the NFL, even as a linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, which would best allow for Sam's lack of size to translate into successful pass rushing.
"Depending on your scheme and what you're looking for, he's not an every-down (player)," Mayock said. "The best case for me is he's a four-team special-teams player and a situational pass rusher. It just depends on where you value that kind of guy."