Should Michael Sam be selected regardless of his playing ability?

(I hesitated as to which forum to place this in but decided it’s more of a debate than anything else. I’m quite content to see it moved should the mods disagree.)

Prompted by this story.

So is this a no-brainer (he should be selected or not solely on his ability) or does the potential historicity of this militate that his ability is not the sole or even prime consideration here?

I think the League is in a tricky position here. If it were my decision I think I’d be prepared to select Sam over better players but I’m not sure I’d be able to justify my choice to those passed over.

Either way I really admire Sam. It took guts to come out in such a testosterone-soaked sport.

The league does not draft players, teams do. And if you actually believe that, you’re announcing why you’d be unfit for the job. Any team drafting him to advance a social cause is putting their team at a competitive disadvantage.

He should get exactly the draft position his talent, skills and performance warrant, no higher or lower. From what I’ve read/heard about him, he’d be rightfully insulted if someone were to give him a charity spot based on his sex life. Honestly, it would put gay rights backwards.

It’s a tragedy of the commons type thing. It’s in the interest of every team to have Micheal Sam be drafted but it’s not in any team’s interest to draft him themselves. That’s assuming he flat out doesn’t have the talent to be drafted which isn’t a given. Often football players who excel in college are drafted even if they don’t quite have the physical ability coaches are looking for in pro athletes. The idea is that they will turn out to be “effort guys” who will outwork more talented prospects.

He wants to be treated exactly like everyone else, right? Then his draftability should strictly be based on his playmaking abilities, work ethic and disinclination to get in trouble with the law. If ‘additional considerations’ are given to him and his comparatively weaker performance is detrimental to the team then those 'additional considerations will come under scrutiny and blame. And as furt said draft choices are at the sole discrtion of the 32 teams, not the league.

Of course if he isn’t drafted, he can still sign with any team as a free agent. The draft is only a part of the process for players entering the league, and you can make a case that a player is better off as an undrafted free agent than a sixth- or seventh-round pick because there could be some competition for their services and some choice about where they sign.

There’s a theoretical cost because you’re picking him instead of someone else, but a seventh-round pick is worth next to nothing. You don’t even necessarily expect those players to make the team. If any of them actually play and contribute, it’s a bonus. This is kind of an arbitrary measurement, but here is one writers’ choice of the best five picks from the seventh round of last year’s draft. None of them played in a game. Three were practice squad guys and two missed the season with injuries. All of that said, yes, he should be drafted and signed based on his actual ability. But it’s not as if some team will be making a huge sacrifice if they use a late-round selection on him or sign him after the draft. They’ll be taking a flier on him and giving him a chance to prove himself.

Players should be primarily selected on their playing ability. But there are other reasons, a team may bring in an older, soon to be retired star for his leadership ability as an example. It wouldn’t be wise to draft an unknown player like Sam unless he fits the bill as a player, that is in terms of winning games. For potentially increasing ticket sales, to make a point about society, or for any other reasons the team owners can do what they want.

In this case, for the right team, Sam would be an asset based on playing ability alone.

Sam’s problem is not that he is gay, it is that he is considered to be a “'tweener”. He is too small to play DE in the NFL and to big and slow to play OLB. He falls inbetween those positions and would not be good enough at either to consider him over another player. His best bet is to get signed and make a name as a special teamer until he can bulk up enough to catch on as a smaller DE in a 3-4 defense. Being gay is the least of his problems in this draft.

Agreed. He’s only 260 and has a 4.9 40.

It wouldn’t be very surprising if he weren’t drafted at all, though I fully expect somebody will take a shot at him. As mentioned, he’s a bit of tweener. A better combine would have been good for him. Dwight Freeney is actually a bit shorter and roughly the same weight but also faster and stronger.

That said, it would be absolutely shocking if didn’t get any calls to sign as a free agent after the draft. Even as a tweener, he’s still a better player than players with more prototypical measurables.

Yeah, and that’s one of the big differences between NFL and FBS college ball. Michael Sam is a very good football compared to the population of all football players, he’s made it pretty highly in the second most prestigious/competitive rung of football.

But one of the big differences between it and the highest rung is the level of specialization in the NFL. In college ball there is still room at the high FBS level for that super athlete who is a jack of a few trades but master of none, in fact in some roles they end up being stars in college (think fast but smaller running QBs like Pat White.)

But in the NFL there is almost no room as an every down, permanent position player for anyone that isn’t basically a specialist at that position and who is exceptionally well suited for it. Those tweener guys if they are extremely good end up being guys who occasionally get playing time on special teams, or at some positions (like QB) they become perennial backups…not an abortion to have on the field but not what you want day to day.

Minor hijack, but I don’t think it warrants its own thread:

Is drafting Sam or signing him as a free agenct a courageous thing for a team to do?

This, exactly.

Not really, no. He’ll end up on a team if his skills make it worth it to them. Drafting someone in the final rounds doesn’t mean squat if he doesn’t end up on the team.

Before he came out, Sam was projected as 4th round (at best low 3rd) because of the size/speed concerns. I can’t really call drafting anyone in the 4th round “courageous” and even as a Missouri fan, I can’t really call not drafting a defensive end who projects no higher than 4th round as unfair.

That said, I’ll bet some team takes a chance on an All-American and SEC defensive player of the year.

249 out of 256, but he did get drafted.

The word “should” in the title is pretty problematic. Should some team be forced to draft him? Of course not. The problem with Sam is that he didn’t have a fantastic day working out for pro teams, and he’ll need to land on a team that plays a 4-3 defense. On the other hand, he was the defensive player of the year in the premier college conference in the country. It would be shocking if the DPOY in the SEC went undrafted, especially after being projected around the 4th round prior to coming out.

If anyone is particularly interested in analysis of Sam as a player by an unbiased source, this is a great review: SBNation draft preview. Sam needs to get stronger. He isn’t fast enough to play linebacker for a 3-4 team, so he needs to go to a 4-3 team and get stronger there.

In the end, it seems like everything worked out well. Projecting the later rounds of the draft is essentially impossible, but he is the kind of player that, all things being equal, should get drafted. By landing in St. Louis on a 4-3 team with a talented defensive line, he’ll be able to start his career as a situational pass rusher to take advantage of his abilities and mask his deficiencies. “Should” didn’t play into it at all. Sam ended up on the right team in the right scheme, which is what would have needed to happen for him regardless of his sexual orientation. Good for him and good for the Rams to recognize that the SEC defensive player of the year has talent.

There’s no tricky position. If he’s not good enough to play, they shouldn’t draft him. Giving him ‘special’ treatment for being gay would be a very bad thing. I don’t care for football, but I think that would reflect very poorly on gay sports players in general because it would say that gays just aren’t really good enough. Whether he should be or not, he’s basically the symbol of gay athletes at the pro level right now and getting a pass just because he’s gay would be a PR nightmare.

I hadn’t read about Sam’s combine performance but yikes, yeah converting to an OLB just is never going to happen. He doesn’t appear to have the speed or ability to play that position and I doubt he’d be able to develop either to an NFL level.

UTejas is spot on…if he’s to have an NFL career he needed to be on a team that has a 4-3 defense and yeah, now that his job is playing football he needs to get serious about putting on weight through heavy muscle building. Generally anyone can get stronger and bigger and Sam is going to need to do that.

I don’t foresee that Sam’s will have a stellar career in the NFL. Besides his marginal capabilities, the controversy about his sexual orientation is going to distract from his ability to integrate well into the league. The players who aren’t upset about his being gay are likely going to be bothered by the media attention that he’s receiving and that they are not.

If he makes the cut, I forecast several year on the Rams, a trade and then retirement due to injury or by not making the cut on another team.

Something said in the Game Room thread on this topic that made me think:

That might be interesting: comparing where other players in the same position with similar ability were drafted. I don’t know enough to do it myself.