Will Michael Sam’s Poor Performance at the NFL Combine Make a Difference with His Draft Prospects?

Openly gay football player Michael Sam was at the much heralded NFL Combine.  His performance was lackluster at best.

• 40-yard dash: 4.91 seconds (tied for 18th
• Bench press (225 pounds): 17 reps (tied for 47th/second to last)
• Vertical jump: 25.5 inches (tied for 39th)
• Broad jump: 114 inches (tied for 14th)

Now, this has to be a concern for teams looking to fill spots on their defensive front line.  (Yes, I know about football).  The NFL is looking to fill these spots with explosive men who are not just strong, but fast.  His vertical jump debacle is going to be a real problem.

While it is certainly true the NFL combine isn’t the only sign that there are problems with him being a high pick in the draft.

My conclusion. Sam was a good player for one season in college. He was productive, so the accolades he received were earned. But being a good college player and becoming a good NFL player are two different things (see Tim Tebow). Sam did well for Missouri with a lot of talent around him. A majority of his production came in three games against inferior competition without a need to show much of a pass-rushing repertoire. He doesn’t show much of what the NFL looks for on special teams, and it’s difficult to project a position for him on the next level. For those reasons, Sam would project to be no better than a mid- to late-round pick. He could go undrafted. To my eyes Sam is decidedly average, with nothing exceptional about his game—though he will be helped by the fact that this draft is not deep with pass rushers, and those are always needed.

This written by Peter King of Sports Illustrated.  Mr. King knew little of Mr. Sam until his announcement about his sexuality.  Mr. King watched hours of game film to gain perspective of the player.  I have seen no one say that they thought Mr. Sam would be drafted in the first two rounds come May.  He just isn’t all that.

The problem becomes what will happen if he doesn’t get drafted at all?  From Scriber Mag:

Will Sam’s sexuality play a role? Absolutely, but it won’t cost him the first or second round. He was never there to begin with.

If Sam goes undrafted, that is when we will know that homophobia in the NFL is truly rampant.

Now this was written before the combine.  It seems to me that some in the NFL are being set up to be called homophobes before Sam even went and did the dog and pony show for the scouts and GM’s.

There are real concerns about putting an openly gay player in a locker room. Much of it may be silly and ignorant, but that doesn’t change the fact that it will be there.  These men undress and shower in very close proximity to each other.  There will be some that will be uncomfortable with that.  While I doubt that gay men are all that interested in being with heterosexual men, it doesn’t change the fact that there will be some who will find it uncomfortable.  They have the right to feel that way and that doesn’t make them homophobic.  Can an inexperienced head coach handle the problems that could arise?  Does an owner want to deal with a situation not unlike the one that happened in the Dolphins locker room last season?  Do other players want to surrounded by the media asking questions about how they are dealing in the locker room with an openly gay player.  Mr. Sam will get a great deal of media attention soley because he is gay, not because of his game time performance.  That will put additional pressure on the team, at least in the short-term.  Maybe it shouldn’t be that way, but it will be.

We have seen all too clearly this past season that a NFL locker room is not for the faint of heart.  The mess with the Miami Dolphins highlighted that quite clearly.

We will see how this all pans out once the draft is done.  But so far nothing about Mr. Sam’s performance on the field has put him in a position to be drafted before the third round and that would be the case if he were straight.  Regardless of what anyone else wants to say about it.

I am sure that he won’t be the first gay player in the NFL.  He is just the first to talk about it.  No one should not get a job because of what they are doing as consenting adults in their bedroom.   That is private affair.  The one postive about it is that once this hurdle has been passed maybe we can actually stop hearing people going on national television and talking about their sex lives.  I personally am sick to death of hearing it about it.  Sam shouldn’t not be drafted because he is gay.  He also shouldn’t be drafted simply because he is gay and people are afraid to be labeld a bigot either.