Monday, February 10, 2014
Big Blue Morning: On Michael Sam news
By Dan Graziano ESPN.com
The news of the day in the NFL is the decision by University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam to come out as gay in advance of next week's scouting combine and the draft. Sam isn't a first-round prospect, but he is a prospect. Mel Kiper had him projected as a fourth-rounder prior to the announcement. Sam was a productive 4-3 defensive end in college, but he lacks the size NFL teams look for in 4-3 defensive ends, so they stood him up at the Senior Bowl to see whether he could play 3-4 outside linebacker, and word from there was that he struggled to make plays in space.
So there are legitimate questions about how Sam projects as an NFL player, and the likely scenario is that someone takes him as a situational pass-rusher who's willing and able to make an instant impact on special teams. That's a useful player for any team in this day and age, and Sam's SEC Defensive Player of the Year pedigree should help him get drafted in spite of his size and questions about his NFL position.
Now, if you're a New York Giants fan reading this, you want to know whether Sam would make sense for the Giants. They're always looking for pass-rushers and could certainly use help on special teams, so if the value is there and he's sitting at the top of their board in the fourth or fifth round, why not? There are going to be teams that shy away from Sam because he's gay or because they fear the extra attention he'll bring, but I doubt the Giants would be such a team.
"Michael Sam is a gifted athlete and a courageous man," Giants co-owner Steve Tisch said in a statement to ESPN on Sunday Night. "I hope any NFL team would not hesitate to draft Michael if he is right for their team."
As you know if you read my column on this Sunday night, I think outside concerns over how Sam will be received in an NFL locker room are overblown. But to the extent that his coming out will create any sort of issue -- even the "extra attention" one -- for the team that drafts him, the consensus seems to be that he'd do best in an environment with strong leaders who can create an atmosphere of support and tamp down any missteps or mis-statements that might arise among the rank and file.
The Giants, with Tom Coughlin as their head coach and Eli Manning as their quarterback, would appear to be such a team. They're good in East Rutherford at keeping the focus on football, which is what Sam says he wants. If the Giants' scouting and player development people think he's right for their team, I don't think they'd hesitate to bring him in.