Berry Tramel

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Michael Sam: Will his draft stock be hurt?

by Berry Tramel Modified: February 11, 2014 at 1:00 pm •  Published: February 11, 2014
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Former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam says he is gay, and he could become the first openly homosexual player in the NFL. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade, File)
Former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam says he is gay, and he could become the first openly homosexual player in the NFL. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade, File)

Missouri defensive end Michael Sam has come out of the closet just before the NFL Combine. The SEC defensive player of the year has publicly said he’s homosexual.

Someone asked me what I thought. I said if the Missouri journalism school was half as good as it thinks it is, it would have broken this story two years ago.

But seriously, this is an interesting time to go public for Sam. He’s between teams. He’s no longer a Missouri Tiger, having played his final game in the Cotton Bowl, where his last-minute hit on Clint Chelf led to the fumble and defensive touchdown that sealed MU’s 41-31 victory over OSU. Sam is not yet on an NFL roster. The combine will be held Feb. 22-25. The draft is in April.

Will Sam’s pronouncement hurt his draft status? The answer is, possibly. It’s simple mathematics.

Will any team stay away from Sam because he’s homosexual, either because of some franchise-rooted discrimination or team chemistry fear or simply wanting to avoid the media circus that could ensue from such a pioneer?

Probably. Most teams won’t answer yes to all those questions. But some will answer yes to some of those questions. Let’s say two or three franchises just say no way. Want no part of it. Two or three worry about their locker rooms. Two or three want no distractions.

Suddenly, you’re talking six or seven franchises that will take a pass on Sam no matter what. And you might have had two or three franchises that were not interested in Sam in the first place. Every scouting department is different.

But that leaves almost three quarters of the league still interested. But Sam is not Ndamukong Suh. Not Gerald McCoy. Sam was not going in the first round no matter his sexuality. He was ticketed as a third- to fifth-round draft pick. Mid-round talent.

.@BovadaLV puts out over/under on Michael Sam’s NFL Draft position (125 1/2), late 4th round

— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) February 10, 2014

 

It seems likely that a franchise might let Sam slide now. If you had him on your board, a possible third-rounder, say, you might delay taking him. If you think he’s going to get bypassed for awhile, a franchise that was thinking him third round might believe it can nab him in the fifth round. It’s the law of supply and demand. The fewer the suitors, the more likely a player slips in the draft.

Of course, NFL scouts had become aware of Sam’s sexuality, so that would be reflected in the draft, even if Sam had not gone public. But just because the scouts knew it doesn’t mean everybody would have known it. I mean, Sam kept it quiet even in Columbia, where hundreds of aspiring journalists are bred every semester. So it wasn’t automatic that Sam would have been outed.

My guess: Sam slips to the back end of his draft projection. What was third-to-fifth will become fifth-to-sixth. I’d guess he goes in the fifth round.

Which doesn’t make him a bad ballplayer. The Seahawks won a Super Bowl with a bunch of playmakers who went late in the draft.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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