Missouri defensive end Michael Sam was expected to be a mid to late-round selection in April’s NFL Draft. Then after revealing that he is gay, some NFL front office staffers felt his draft stock would drop.
But now a new thought process is developing over Sam, one which could move him high into the first round.
“I originally thought that the NFL wasn’t quite ready for a gay player,” said an NFL player personnel assistant who spoke to Sports Illustrated. “And I still believe that. But the more I think about it, I’ve come to realize that maybe players won’t want to block a gay guy. To block someone well you have to touch them a lot. Will players be willing to get all handsy with a gay player? Those 12.5 sacks he had last year were when he wasn’t publicly out and opponents weren’t worried about getting gay … cooties or whatever from him. Now maybe going unblocked? Michael Sam could break every sacks record.”
Another NFL staffer agreed.
“There are guys in locker rooms that maturity-wise cannot handle it or deal with the thought of that,” said an assistant coach. “It’s going to be a big distraction. That said, it could work both ways. His being gay could be a distraction for the opponent, right? They could spend the whole game thinking: ‘Ahh! There’s a gay on the field! A gay! What do we do? What do we do? A gay! A gay!’ That takes them out of their game plan. There is definitely more than one way to look at this.”
Some still view Sam as a pick with some baggage.
“I see him as a tweener,” said a former NFL GM. “Some games he won’t be as good because maybe the opponent will really step their game up to not suffer the humiliation of a gay man beating them for a sack. Other games you’ll have opponents who don’t want to touch him and he’ll be in the backfield all game. At least those are my current working theories. I’ll have to break down more film, both game film and gay film.”
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