5 Reasons Philadelphia Eagles Should Draft Michael Sam
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In July, the Philadelphia Eagles were consumed by controversy after Riley Cooper’s now infamous rant at a Kenny Chesney concert was exposed on the Internet. Rather than feed the media leviathan that the shocking video spawned, Eagles players banded together to defuse the controversy before it could negatively impact their season.
This is the kind of NFL locker room that Michael Sam wants to walk into. The All-American defensive lineman from the University of Missouri will usher in a new era after coming out as gay during a recent ESPN interview. Sam's decision to speak out was expedited when he learned that scouts had become aware of his sexual orientation during Senior Bowl practices. After coming out to his teammates before last season, Sam decided to publicly announce his sexuality before rumor and innuendo could affect his future.
Perhaps inevitably, Michael Sam's announcement has spawned more speculation about how his draft stock will be impacted than how he will revolutionize the sports world. However, once the story has been run through the sports media spin cycle, we will find Sam's draft stock unchanged.
Already considered a “tweener” (undersized for his position), Michael Sam has received a fourth-round grade from most draft experts though he is unanimously regarded as a terrific all-around football player. Having already been severely downgraded, because he lacks ideal size, it is hard to imagine him falling out of the fourth round. In fact, only one other SEC Defensive Player of the Year in the last decade has lasted past pick No. 33 of the NFL Draft. A high-character player with Sam's accolades never slips into the late rounds.
Despite the inherent barbarism of the sport and intolerant-sounding language sometimes used on the field, many NFL franchises are equipped to handle the media-microscope that will accompany Michael Sam. Look for Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman to select Sam if he is still available in the middle rounds. Here's why...
Locker Room Leadership
Support from teammates would be critical for any franchise to draft Michael Sam. When taken to the brink by the Riley Cooper controversy last season, Eagles players demonstrated uncommon leadership qualities when they embraced their embattled teammate. In the process, the team has become more accustomed to offseason media scrutiny.
The Eagles run the 3-4 defense, and at Missouri, Michael Sam was an edge rusher in the 3-4 defensive scheme. Specifically, he played the hybrid “elephant backer” role that is part defensive end and part outside linebacker. Primarily rushing the passer, but also dipping into coverage, the elephant backer is a tweener by nature and a critical component of successful 3-4 systems.
For the Eagles' defense to break into the NFL's upper echelon, their elephant backer must be a disruptive playmaker. Michael Sam fits that profile.
Trent Cole Is Perfect Mentor
Turning 32 years old next season, Trent Cole would be the perfect veteran player to groom Michael Sam. Under Cole’s tutelage, Sam could ease his way into the starting lineup as he adds muscle mass and refines his pass rush moves in the years ahead.
Premium On Edge Rushers
Michael Sam is a young, explosive edge rusher. Beyond Trent Cole, the Eagles are incredibly thin at that position. Players who can pressure the quarterback are always in high demand around the league.
Last season, Michael Sam compiled 11.5 sacks, 19 tackles for a loss and was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. On tape, he passes the "eye test", genuinely looking like a starter at the NFL level that can help the Eagles win a Super Bowl.