The St. Louis Rams made Missouri defensive end Michael Sam the first openly-gay player ever selected in the NFL daft on Saturday evening. Sam’s career will undoubtedly be monitored closely by the media given the unprecedented circumstances, but that career could be short lived — at least in St. Louis.
Sam joins one of the most talented defensive lines in football. And that line got even better this weekend with the addition of first-round pick Aaron Donald, a potentially dominant interior pass rusher from Pittsburgh.
“Michael Sam will have to beat out Sammy Brown and probably Eugene Sims to make the Rams 53,” Evan Silva of Rotoworld tweeted shortly after Sam was made pick No. 249 of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Those who are familiar with Sam’s story, but unfamiliar with his game might be a bit puzzled as to why he almost went undrafted. Sam’s production was stellar at Missouri, where he won co-Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC last season. Although he has been labeled as a “disruptive edge rusher,” he isn’t thought to have the explosiveness, hip flexibility or power to make a seamless jump to the NFL. He definitely has tools to work with, however, including good size and arm length for the position.
Of course, pre-draft evaluations can often prove inaccurate once players are on the field with their new teams. Maybe Sam is just a good enough football player to get the job done at the next level despite any physical shortcomings. And even if he doesn’t make the Rams, another team that doesn’t boast as talented of a defensive line could have interest in picking him up.
Sam has said he wants to be referred to as “Michael Sam the football player” as opposed to “Michael Sam the gay football player.” If he overcomes the odds by making the Rams’ 53-man roster, he’ll certainly be one step closer to achieving that aim.
Cody Strahm is an NFL author for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.