Draft King Analysis|
February 10, 2014
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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The reaction to Missouri DE Michael Sam's decision to come out as gay has elicited some interesting reactions in the past 24 hours. I admire his courage for being willing to do so before the draft, knowing there is a chance that there are teams that might pass on him as a result.
I've been asked how it affects his draft stock: he was a 3rd/4th round prospect IMO, a talented pass-rusher who thrived against elite SEC competition but who also lacks either the size to be an ideal 4-3 DE or the agility to be a 3-4 OLB. There is some question on his technique and if he relies too much on his lean move. There is no questioning his motor and that he will give top effort on every play.
My take: technique can be taught and modified much easier than effort can be elicited. As for the revealing of his sexual orientation, what I suspect will work against him the most are that some teams will be hesitant to bring on the extra attention that will follow him. But particularly for teams running a 4-3 that like to switch up their defensive line look on passing downs, Sam could be a solid addition.
With pass interference rules stricter than ever, pass rushers are as valuable now as they've ever been. And particularly with the difference that Seattle showed that getting pressure from four down linemen makes against even the great Peyton Manning can make, the chance to bring in a defensive lineman who can help other teams to emulate that will be enticing. Even if he's undersized. Even if his decision to reveal his sexual orientation will bring unwanted attention and perhaps reveal hidden biases from management or teammates.
Like my friend Rich pointed out at work to me last night, NFL teams will draft convicted felons if they believe they can help them win. And as I mentioned to him, it just takes one team to make a decision for a player to go in a given spot, e.g. Darrius Heyward-Bey being taken by Oakland at #7 in 2009 even though Michael Crabtree was still on the board and most saw Heyward-Bey as a second-round talent at best.
It just takes one team drafting Sam in that range where he is expected to go for the biases of other teams to be hidden. If that doesn't happen? We'll see. Manti Te'o was seen (rightfully so) as a potential huge distraction with his Catfish/Fake Dead Girlfriend story (which damn near helped him win a Heisman) and he still ended up being taken at #38 overall last year.
Some other 2014 NFL Draft thoughts:
-While Houston might be willing to field offers for the #1 overall pick, it seems hard to think that they would pass up either their favorite QB prospect or South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney. It makes sense to throw it out there that you are willing since you might find a team willing to move a few spots up and pay a king's ransom to get a player they desperately desire, but ultimately QB is a huge need for the Texans and they can pick from any of them at this spot.
Don't agree with me? Read what John McClain wrote on the subject.
-It seems highly unlikely that the Rams would sit at the #2 spot with the pick acquired from the Redskins two years ago. I could see the Browns moving up there from #4 to take Johnny Manziel, at least if the rumors of Cleveland being interested in him are true. I've liked the idea of Manziel and the Browns for some time now, going back to when Johnny Football looked more like a mid-to-late first round pick and seemed like a possibility to fall to the Colts' first-round pick that the Browns acquired in the Trent Richardson trade.
If the ultimate goal for St. Louis is to end up with Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews, sliding back a few slots in a draft with a limited number of top-level quarterback prospects and plenty of QB-hungry teams seems like a worthwhile risk to take. The Rams have four picks in the top 75, but they could load up with a bunch of future selections by trading down. The hints are strong that St. Louis will focus heavily on defense wherever they end up actually drafting this year, though they should have all sorts of options available leading up to day one of the draft.
-Jacksonville at #3 is in an interesting spot. If some combination of Bridgewater/Manziel/Broyles are are off the board when the Jaguars' pick comes up, wouldn't going with Clowney here make the most sense? I realize that there will be a temptation to take a QB, but considering how strong next year's class could potentially be, taking a player with so much potential as Clowney there would make more sense to me than stretching to take the third-best QB with the #3 overall pick.