FanDuel - WFBC

May 10, 2014

Gay Athlete Michael Sam Drafted by St. Louis: Michael Sam has become the first openly gay player to be drafted by the NFL. The Missouri defensive end, honored as the SEC defensive player of the year last season, was selected in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams. "We were very fortunate to have the supplemental choices," Fisher said on NFL Network. "You use those for players you want to give an opportunity to, that you think that you want to draft. I haven't said a whole lot to anybody over the last week or so but after doing the studies, good football player."

posted by rcade to football at 08:06 PM - 32 comments

I went back and looked at the last 10 SEC defensive players of the year to see when they were drafted.

Jarvis Jones: 1st round, 17th overall
Morris Claiborne: 1st round, 6th overall
Patrick Peterson: 1st round, 5th overall
Rolando McClain: 1st round, 8th overall
Eric Berry: 1st round, 5th overall
Glenn Dorsey: 1st round, 5th overall
Patrick Willis: 1st round, 11th overall
Demeco Ryans: 2nd round, 33rd overall
David Pollack: 1st round, 17th overall
Chad Lavalais: 5th round, 142nd overall

With the exception of Lavalais, every winner was picked in the 1st round or high 2nd round. Does anyone think a straight Michael Sam falls all the way to the 249th pick? I'm glad the Rams picked him, but I have trouble believing he fell as far as he did. I thought a few more NFL front offices would be more enlightened.

posted by rcade at 02:56 PM on May 11

I'm glad the Rams picked him, but I have trouble believing he fell as far as he did. I thought a few more NFL front offices would be more enlightened.

He was ranked by many scouts as a 4th or 5th round pick before the combine - he's got the body of an undersized DE like Cameron Wake, but his foot speed is that of a huge bull-rush style DE. Cam Wake ran a 4.55 40 and had a tough time making it right away - Sam is running 4.92.

If you look at the last DE taken before him, Shelby Harris - Harris is 25 pounds heavier, benched 8 times more than Sam and still ran 0.2 seconds faster. I am sure the entire lead up had something to do with his combine results, but it's pretty easy to see that a straight Michael Sam was going to be a project NFL player who with bigger and stronger OL would need to change his body to approach his college results.

posted by dfleming at 03:47 PM on May 11

Those are good points, but he had 11.5 sacks and 18.5 in his collegiate career. He played in the SEC, which is the toughest conference in the FBS. Here's how the draft-eligible among last season's top 10 in sacks fared:

Trent Murphy, Stanford (15 sacks): 2nd round, 47th overall
Marcus Smith, Louisville (14.5 sacks): 1st round, 26th overall
Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas (13 sacks): undrafted, signed with Seattle
Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech (12.5 sacks): 2nd round, 50th overall
Shaquil Barrett, Colorado State (12 sacks): undrafted, signed with Denver
Kareem Martin, North Carolina (11.5 sacks): 3rd round, 84th overall

posted by rcade at 04:09 PM on May 11

The spread on that is telling - Jeffcoat (another undersized DE who won the top college DE award this year) was also supposed to go in the middle rounds but didn't get drafted. They project as guys who need big adjustments to make it in the pro game and guys you might need to wait a year or two for results from.

I'm not naive enough to think that there isn't one executive or team out there not willing to pick him for either his sexual orientation or the additional pressure he'll face as a rookie, but college results are rarely enough to overcome physical limitations. Troy Smith's an example - a Heisman winner who went in the 5th round because a lot of people didn't trust he could put the same numbers up in the pro game.

posted by dfleming at 04:29 PM on May 11

He played in the SEC, which is the toughest conference in the FBS.

Based on media rankings, maybe.

I do believe that SEC rosters are the strongest in College football. (I also believe SEC teams avoid playing good out of conference opponents which artificially inflates their ratings, but relevant only to my challenge of rcade's statement and not the issue here.)

I believe having 18.5 sacks has a lot to do with the roster he played with.

NFL teams could care less about a player's sexual orientation, skin color, favorite music, or anything else outside of what they deliver on the field. Teams drafted the likes of Moss, Hernandez, Pac Man, and a huge list of others based solely upon the fact they were studs on the field.

If Clowney declared he was gay he still would have gone first overall.

posted by cixelsyd at 09:41 PM on May 11

I have trouble believing he fell as far as he did.

As the draft wore on into the late rounds, Sam became a more frequent topic of discussion between the analysts on the NFL Network. I think the most telling thing was Sam's numbers at the combine compared to other players of similar size and projected position in the NFL. Sam's numbers were significantly poorer in such things as vertical leap, bench presses, and the like. He may very well become a useful NFL defensive end/outside linebacker, but the numbers seemed to push many teams away from him. I believe several of the teams that passed on him did so because of his athletic potential and not his lifestyle.

posted by Howard_T at 10:11 PM on May 11

Based on media rankings, maybe.

Name a tougher conference. The SEC won seven championships in a row before Florida State ended the streak, and nobody would say the ACC is tougher than the SEC.

NFL teams could care less about a player's sexual orientation ...

You can assert that, but I think the absence of an out gay athlete prior to Michael Sam suggests otherwise, as does how far he fell in the draft.

I believe several of the teams that passed on him did so because of his athletic potential and not his lifestyle.

Sexual orientation is not a lifestyle. Lifestyles change. An orientation does not.

posted by rcade at 12:52 AM on May 12

You can assert that, but I think the absence of an out gay athlete prior to Michael Sam suggests otherwise, as does how far he fell in the draft.

Do you think if Sam had Clowney skills he wouldn't have gone in the top 3 of the first round?

posted by dfleming at 06:44 AM on May 12

NFL teams could care less about a player's sexual orientation ...

You can assert that, but I think the absence of an out gay athlete prior to Michael Sam suggests otherwise, as does how far he fell in the draft.

Now you're being tautological. The lack of prior out NFL players makes sense, but then you use his draft position to prove that he fell in the draft because he's gay, where other people are pointing out some evidence that he fell because he's an atypical NFL player in many other ways.

He was projected as a 3rd-4th rounder after he was named SEC DPOTY and before he came out. His performance at the Combine didn't make anyone feel good about how well he'd translate to the NFL, and as we've seen time and time again with draft busts and late-drafted superstars, the NFL and NCAA games are different enough to be different.

posted by Etrigan at 07:21 AM on May 12

My guess is there were some teams that were interested in drafting Sam but realized that their locker room environment and team leadership component among players and coaches wasn't where it needed to be to have a good foundation for successfully rostering him.

Based on how the invertebrate Philbin handled himself during his OL crisis this past season, probably just as well that the Dolphins didn't draft Sam.

posted by beaverboard at 08:28 AM on May 12

Wow. That was a masterful shitty PR-hack-written nonapology from Jones.

posted by Etrigan at 08:39 AM on May 12

"I want to apologize to Michael Sam for the inappropriate comments that I made last night on social media," Jones said in a statement issued by the Dolphins.

"I take full responsibility for them and I regret that these tweets took away from his draft moment.

That's actually one of the better apologies I've seen written.
It doesn't have the usual "apologize if I offended anyone" or "regret if anyone was offended" and "that wasn't my intention" bullshit that nonapologies use.

At least here, he apologizes to the person, admits what he did was wrong, and he takes full responsibility. The extra bit about tying it back to his draft day and wishing Sam the best in his career was also a nice touch. I would actually call it a masterful PR-written apology. I don't think it could have been done better.

I expect that PR-writer to be fired by the end of the day.

posted by grum@work at 09:52 AM on May 12

I would actually call it a masterful PR-written apology. I don't think it could have been done better

I think, at least personally, when a player reads an apology so masterfully written that it had to come from a PR pro it doesn't come off as very sincere.

A better one would've included something about his beliefs were wrong and he's going to work on tolerance and respect, and not just that his outward expressions here on out will conform to the team he's trying not to get cut from.

posted by dfleming at 10:06 AM on May 12

Yeah, what dfleming said. Plus he only apologized to Sam, but he sincerely apologized to his boss (and other people who can affect his personal bottom line):

I sincerely apologize to Mr. (Stephen) Ross, my teammates, coaches, staff and fans for these tweets. I am committed to represent the values of the Miami Dolphins organization and appreciate the opportunity I have been given to do so going forward.

posted by Etrigan at 10:49 AM on May 12

Now you're being tautological.

No, the word "suggests" suggests I'm offering an alternative to Cixelsyd's view. I wouldn't use the word "suggests" if I was claiming absolute truth is on my side.

The fact that some athletes with top-10 sack totals did not get drafted is not enough, in my opinion, to prove that he fell for reasons other than his sexual orientation. I would be more surprised if all of them got drafted, because there are always players with good stats whose attributes aren't perceived as good value to the NFL.

To me, the draft positions of the last 10 SEC defensive players of the year are a more significant data point than the one about sack leaders. But there's obviously more data we could collect that may give us a better picture.

posted by rcade at 12:17 PM on May 12

Without defending the NFL, when Sam came out one of the first things I read was that he had been a fringe prospect to begin with and the declaration might result in him not being drafted. I don't think it's impossible for a player to be both the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and not much of an NFL prospect. If he were a first-round talent, he would have been at a better program and would have left before his senior year. Chad Lavalais from your list matches Sam's profile to a great degree: played through his senior year, drafted in the 5th round, lasted a few years in the NFL. College basketball is littered with the corpses of "tweeners" whose game didn't translate to the NBA. Remember Lawrence Moten?

posted by yerfatma at 01:01 PM on May 12

I am committed to represent the values of the Miami Dolphins organization

Does not fill me with hope. Let's ask Mike Pouncey what that means.

posted by yerfatma at 01:45 PM on May 12

If is draft value did in fact fall because of his announcement, I think that is an astonishingly dumb reason. Whatever your feelings on the prospect of having a gay player on your team, since that doesn't affect his playing abilities, it seems that it really should have only a binary impact on your draft decision (a la, perhaps, other character considerations--though I'm not intending to draw parallels between one's sexual orientation and one's character): either it is a concern to you and you don't draft him, or it's not a concern and you draft him wherever you grade him. Since the Rams drafted him, clearly they were willing to draft a gay player, and I am willing to assume that if they had him graded higher, they would have drafted him higher. Unfortunately, there's no way to really know how many teams were unwilling to draft him.

posted by bender at 02:20 PM on May 12

and I am willing to assume that if they had him graded higher, they would have drafted him higher.

Not necessarily so.

The best draft pick is not getting the player you want where you value him, but getting him where the rest of the league values him.

If you think a player has 3rd-round talent, but believe the rest of the league sees him as 7th-round talent (or not talented enough to draft), then you don't draft him in the 3rd round, but in the 7th round (or later).

posted by grum@work at 02:55 PM on May 12

Since the Rams drafted him, clearly they were willing to draft a gay player, and I am willing to assume that if they had him graded higher, they would have drafted him higher.

That's only true in a vacuum: if you think you can get a player in a later round because you feel other teams won't draft him, you might try to do so. I think Bill Barnwell did a good job of covering rcade's argument about SEC Defensive Players of the Year and Sam's prospects in this article.

posted by yerfatma at 02:55 PM on May 12

From the article: Well, because that's not a very substantial sample, nor one that means much in terms of predictive value -- that award has been around only since 2003.

I'm not seeing much of a rebuttal in this. How many years of data do we need to form a theory about where an SEC defensive player of the year is likely to get drafted?

Sam is going to have to show a lot to make the roster, given the stack of passing-down specialists on the Rams. Maybe he can impress on special teams and stick around long enough for that traffic jam to clear.

posted by rcade at 03:30 PM on May 12

Except he also uses other big conference defensive players of the year as well. It's a pretty mushy metric to begin with.

I'm trying not to get depressed by the Twitter traffic (Richard Dietsch of SI retweeted some ass clown with the should-be-funny-but-isnt username "helpachildnow" who acted shocked to discover "fag" was thought of as an offensive slur, but it's stuff like this that is depressing me as a former coworker who I like and respect posted it saying it summed up his feelings.

If you do anything less than fall to your knees weeping tears of jubilation that a man who is sexually attracted to men was picked to play a game for a living — you're a homophobe.

posted by yerfatma at 03:38 PM on May 12

From the article: Well, because that's not a very substantial sample, nor one that means much in terms of predictive value -- that award has been around only since 2003.

I'm not seeing much of a rebuttal in this. How many years of data do we need to form a theory about where an SEC defensive player of the year is likely to get drafted?

He points out immediately after that line that other leagues' DPOTY winners have had similar runs that eventually ended.

posted by Etrigan at 03:41 PM on May 12

Yikes, that Matt Walsh piece yerfatma linked is just a parade of straw men.

posted by bender at 05:12 PM on May 12

He points out immediately after that line that other leagues' DPOTY winners have had similar runs that eventually ended.

So what? The fact that the runs ended doesn't mean that Sam is another exception to the rule. All else being equal, winning the award is a strong indicator of being a high draft pick.

That Walsh piece is ridiculous. If he isn't a bigot, he sure found a lot of bigots in the comments who like what he said.

posted by rcade at 05:24 PM on May 12

that Matt Walsh piece yerfatma linked is just a parade of straw men.

Yes, it does. I took a deep breath before continuing on to page 2. And it didn't help. I think referring to it as disingenuous would be giving it unnecessary credit.

posted by tahoemoj at 06:03 PM on May 12

The fact that the runs ended doesn't mean that Sam is another exception to the rule. All else being equal, winning the award is a strong indicator of being a high draft pick.

For an award that's lasted 10 years. If a guy gets 6 hits in his first ten at bats of the season, should we reasonably expect him to hit .600 the whole year? Additionally, not all of the previous SEC DPoY winners listed have had stellar careers, so I don't know what value it has as a metric.

posted by yerfatma at 08:45 AM on May 13

The interesting thing about the video of Michael Sam getting the phone call is that it helps people determine their own level of support for equal rights and their own level of comfort with homosexuality.

Examples:

Low and low: "St. Louis is making a mistake having a gay guy in the locker room, and ESPN should be ashamed showing that disgusting display on TV."

High and low: "I'm glad that Michael Sam will have the same chance to prove himself in the NFL as any other college player...but did they really have to show him kissing his boyfriend? Ugh."

High and high: "Hey, good for him. Now can we move on to see some NHL highlights, please?"

posted by grum@work at 10:38 AM on May 13

For an award that's lasted 10 years. If a guy gets 6 hits in his first ten at bats of the season, should we reasonably expect him to hit .600 the whole year?

With at-bats we know the sample size can be much larger over a short time, so judging by the first 10 is foolish. Do you really think there's zero statistical significance in the fact that 90 percent of the winners of that award over 10 years were picked in the first 33 picks?

Next year when a winner is chosen, I think the most likely outcome is that he'll be picked that high. Maybe not 90% likely, but trends are trends.

Additionally, not all of the previous SEC DPoY winners listed have had stellar careers, so I don't know what value it has as a metric.

We're not talking about careers. That's a whole 'nother thing.

posted by rcade at 11:33 AM on May 13

Do you really think there's zero statistical significance in the fact that 90 percent of the winners of that award over 10 years were picked in the first 33 picks?

Is there zero statistical significance that, statistically, he was around 260th at the Combine as well?

posted by Etrigan at 11:37 AM on May 13

I've never argued that other data points about him are insignificant. If you had argued that the award suggests he should've been a high pick, but his combine performance was poor enough to show why he wasn't, I could see that.

Instead, the argument is that the award data point doesn't matter at all because of the sample size and the fact it was 9 out of 10 instead of 10 out of 10.

posted by rcade at 12:54 PM on May 13

Kony Ealy was his teammate, and was from the get-go considered better than Sam. Early mocks had him going #8 overall. Instead he lasted until #60.

Sam notched his sacks through effort and teammates funneling guys to him. And what showed on tape was a slow first step, limited chase ability, and no refined pass rush moves.

Even his draft profile on NFL.com mentions it:

Sack production results from effort and production flushed to him and is not creatively produced with savvy pass-rush moves, speed, power or bend.

He was projected to be a 5th round pick before he announced he was gay OR had a lousy combine. I think the second part of that had more to do with his slide in the draft.

posted by LostInDaJungle at 06:10 PM on May 13

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