Former Missouri defensive end and NFL prospect Michael Sam has really captured the attention of all headlines this week, and this time it has nothing to do with his playing ability. During an interview on ESPN’s Outside the Lines on Sunday, Sam made the announcement to the entire football world that he is an “openly, proud gay man.” Sam’s “coming out” party has triggered an outpour of support from both players and fans from around the country. Following his announcement, the NFL immediately issued a statement:
“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”
So with an already enormous and continually increasing posse of followers, Sam has not hurt his draft stock at all by coming out. If the press is on your side, exposure can go a long way — just ask Jadeveon Clowney, who enjoyed his reign as SportsCenter’s Best of The Best for 45-consecutive weeks for his hit on Michigan Wolverines‘ Vincent Smith. According to an article released by ESPN, he has already received many looks from some NFL teams. One team in particular is the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons and Sam recently became acquainted at the Senior Bowl. Sam, who will most likely have to convert to the linebacker position because of his size, was closely analyzed by Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and defensive line coach Bryan Cox. Cox complimented Sam on his athleticism and pass-rush ability.
Given Sam’s progress in his transition to the linebacker position, he is currently projected to go in the late third-round or in the fourth-round. So given that possibility, the Falcons should definitely take advantage if he is still available. Many NFL locker rooms may shy away from any distractions, but this SEC Player of The Year’s expertise is too good to pass up. Sam’s versatility at both linebacker and defensive end would help any team tremendously, especially a team like the Falcons in need of depth. Sam is definitely a player who could play a Kroy Biermann type role for the Falcons.
The Falcons are really hurting in the pass-rush category. With Clowney most likely going within the first five picks, the Falcons will probably go for UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr as the sixth pick in the first-round. In addition, ESPN’s latest article also noted that the Falcons are already familiar with coaching former Missouri players, including Sean Weatherspoon and William Moore.
All things aside, Sam still has to go through the NFL Combine at the end of this month. Also, given the amount of attention he has already received, the Falcons may not have the opportunity to snag him.