Sam certainly deserves credit for making a bold and brave move. However, honesty isn’t always rewarded. SI.com, NFLDraftScout.com and others are predicting Sam ― the 2013 SEC co-defensive player of the year ― could drop as a result of his announcement.
But is this really about the NFL wanting to remain in the stone age and shunning an openly gay player, or is there another reason?
As a pro prospect, Sam is a good player, but as Auburn discovered in the SEC Championship Game, he is hardly a great one. He played defensive end in college, but likely will slide to linebacker in the NFL, which is a new position for him and will require a learning curve. He is projected as a third-, fourth- or fifth-round pick. It’s possible he could slide out of the draft completely.
In the wake of his announcement, the team that drafts him will face ultra-close scrutiny. If there are other good players out there, especially at the same position, would an NFL team reason that it should draft that player and avoid the distraction of Sam’s sexual orientation? After all, imagine the fallout if an NFL team drafts him and then finds out it needs to cut him because he isn’t good enough to make the roster?
With the time and expense NFL teams put into learning as much as they can about draft-eligible players, it’s unlikely any team didn’t know already he is gay. An SI.com report about Sam quotes an unnamed NFL personnel assistant as saying 90 percent of teams already knew that before his Sunday announcement. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel told reporters Sam told his college teammates this summer he is gay.
The much-discussed announcement is what makes the difference in Sam’s draft status and not just that he is gay.
If there is a plus in all of this for Sam, it’s this: The team that drafts him knows up front what it’s getting, and as a result, that might help in developing a more trusting environment for him, which could help him thrive as a potential player.
Contact Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org.