Jan 3, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Michael Sam (52) runs on the field before the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at the 2014 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Missouri beat Oklahoma State 41-31. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Sam is the first openly gay player that Division I College Football has ever seen. When, and if he is drafted come May, he will be the first openly gay player in the NFL. This is huge for not only him, but also teams that are looking at him as a potential selection.
NFL General Managers have been anonymously stating that Sam “would be a distraction” to the locker room. Sam’s teammates have been aware of his sexuality since August of 2013, and kept his secret as he went on to win SEC Defensive Player of the Year. But, is the NFL ready for a gay athlete? Maybe not most teams, but there are a few in this league with enough leadership that can handle the media’s constant headlines. The Atlanta Falcons are a team with numerous leaders around the whole organization that would not only be able to give Sam a welcoming environment, but also a scheme that he would fit in.
One of Atlanta’s top needs in the draft is a versatile player who could play both 4-3 DE and 3-4 OLB in Mike Nolan’s hybrid front. Players such as Anthony Barr, or Khalil Mack are viewed as the top prospects that fit the description, but what about players who can be found later in the draft? This is where Michael Sam comes in. Currently, the Missouri product is a projected 3rd-5th round projection, and with his confession, possibly even undrafted. Atlanta may want to shore up the offensive line early, pushing back a defensive pick. With the Falcons more than likely selecting more than one pass rusher in the draft, Sam would be a great value pick late on Day 3.
In 2013, Michael had 10.5 sacks with the Tigers, with 3 sack performances coming against Arkansas State, Vanderbilt, and Florida. The fact that he is undersized is a con, but Sam seems to be a man with nothing but a desire to compete. As long as he has that, Bryan Cox can turn him into a valuable role player on the Falcons Defense.