Michael Sam Could Provide Draft Value for Packers

Michael Sam

I’m going to start this piece by briefly explaining my views on LGBT rights:  I don’t care enough about what people do in their own private lives to take a stance on it, which I believe technically puts me on the pro-LGBT side politically.  I am fine with this.  I also want to commend Michael Sam on his announcement because regardless of your views on LGBT, Sam took a risk.  He absolutely could have allowed the pre-draft process to run it’s course, been selected some time on Day 2 or in the early stages of Day 3 and then made his sexual orientation public.  Coming out before the process is complete brings the fact that he is gay in to his evaluation.  Teams have to decide whether they believe his sexual orientation is a distraction.  Teams may drop him on their boards and if enough teams do it, his coming out will directly affect his salary for his first NFL contract.

Michael Sam is an exceptional football player.  There is absolutely no doubt about that.  He was the Defensive Player of the year in the country’s toughest and most athletic conference.  He was a unanimous All American selection.  He posted eye popping numbers this season.  48 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, nine QB hurries, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.  He was a playmaker.  Those skills had placed him among the top 70-120 players that are draft eligible according to most experts.    This would place him somewhere in the 3rd to 6th round range.  There is real concern that avoid a “media circus” could cause a number of teams to choose another player over Sam that they may have rated closely or ever so slightly below the Mizzou defensive end.

Selfishly, I hope they do.  I hope that front offices pass on a 3rd round talent to take somebody else because they don’t want to deal with the media.  After that happens, I hope our favorite team, the Green Bay Packers selects him.  Michael Sam’s sexual orientation never has, and will continue to not have anything to do with how effective he is playing football.  Selecting a player with 3rd or 4th round talent in the 5th or 6th round has happened before  due to “character issues”, but for Michael Sam, being gay is not a “character issue”.  His possible fall in the draft creates a real opportunity, and I hope the Packers view it as such.

The first question of course is whether or not Michael Sam fits in to Green Bay’s system.  The answer is a resounding yes.  at 6’2″ 255, Sam is probably too small (short) to play defensive end in a 4-3.  He will more than likely make the switch to linebacker in the NFL, and the Packers love to work with these conversions.  Of the 5 OLBs that saw time with the Packers last season (Matthews, Perry, Mulumba, Palmer, Neal) only Matthews was not a converted defensive lineman.  Michael Sam’s pass rush ability and general penchant for making plays could be a huge asset  for this defense that is so lacking in both areas.

The second question that must be answered is will the Packers be interested?  Would it be possible that a front office, with such a stoic and seemingly conservative man running the show in Ted Thompson, invite that kind of media attention to Green Bay?  It sure seems like Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy is ready:

“I think you definitely have to feel he’s a courageous young man but my understanding is he’s a talented young player,”  ”We always from Day 1 talked about our program, about our culture. Ted is going through the draft process right now and at the end of the day it comes down to good football players.” ”Any player who can come here and be a good teammate and follow the rules of our program, which is one be respectful and produce on the football field, we have room for that guy.”

The Packers are probably the team most prepared for the kind of media attention that the NFL’s first openly gay draft prospect would bring.  They have dealt with a circus before.  The summer of ’08 (FavreMania [side rant: I will not refer to it as FavreGate. Not everything is -gate. The scandal happened at the Watergate hotel. -gate is non-sensical. end rant]) was a nationwide circus and the four leaders of the organization, Murphy, Thompson, McCarthy and Rodgers handled it with aplomb.

If you’re going to try and hide a media circus in the NFL, why not try and hide the damn thing in Green Bay, Wisconsin, population 104,868?  Green Bay is the NFL’s smallest market by a wide margin.  The reasons that supporters of former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow were giving to bring him to Green Bay still apply here.  It’s still a small town team in midwest America.  The fans are still the best and most supportive group in the league.  The national media circus certainly won’t be avoided in Green Bay, but it certainly would be knocked down a peg or two.

If Michael Sam should fall in the draft because his sexual orientation is viewed as a possible problem for NFL teams, I sure hope the Green Bay Packers take advantage of that.  He’s a very good player at a position of need and if this announcement creates a bargain, I sure hope Mr. Bargain (Ted Thompson) is paying attention.  It’s possible that looking at Michael Sam’s announcement from a football perspective and how it could help our favorite football team is selfish, small minded and a little simple.  To me Michael Sam is just a good football player, and I am a simple man.

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Ross Uglem is a writer at PackersTalk.com. You can follow Ross on twitter at RossUglem

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8 Responses to Michael Sam Could Provide Draft Value for Packers

  1. Horse says:

    I’m going to quote Mike Tanier: “He is still a tweener: too small for defensive end and too inexperienced for outside linebacker. The obstacles facing the NFL’s first openly gay player are difficult to anticipate. But we know the obstacles that face tweeners in this league. Life is hard for tweeners, unless they have 4.5 speed or the agility of a samurai (Sam has neither), regardless of their personal lives.”

    Does Green Bay need to use a pick on yet another chance that a too small and too slow DE will eventually develop into a decent OLB? I think the team has enough of those already.

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  2. Ross Uglem says:

    I understand your concerns and I actually share them. In a recent episode of From the Benches the guys and I discussed wanting a true OLB on the roster besides just Matthews, not another convert. I’m simply promoting the value. I see, and so did many experts, Sam as a top 100 prospect. If, because of this announcement the Packers can get him at pick 160, or pick 190 it’s a value. It’s a value and it would allow Green Bay to address other needs in the top rounds (S, DL, TE, ILB) while still getting a top 100 prospect after those needs are addressed. This isn’t trying to make Andy Mulumba of Eastern Michigan or Erik Walden of Middle Tennessee State into an OLB. It’s the SEC defensive player of the year.

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    • Horse says:

      I’ve seen projections from before the coming out story broke from round 3 to round 7 with an outlier at round 2 and another at UDFA. It’s not a value pick if he doesn’t provide value to the team beyond what a different player could have provided.

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      • Ross Uglem says:

        That’s fine. I’m saying I view him as a top 100 prospect. Therefore if he’s gotten at a later pick he is a value to ME. Whether or not you, Todd McShay or Ted Thompson himself agrees with me is in no way the point here. I think he’s a 3rd-4th round guy and if we get him in the 5th or 6th I view it as a value. Pre Combine draft analysis is weak at best which is why I used words like “Could” in the title and ranges as wide as “Day 2 to early day 3″ in my projections.

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  3. John Rehor says:

    I do not care one bit about a player’s personal life. The only thing that concerns me is their play on the field. Now if that personal life begins to affect their play (getting suspended for violating the drug policy, jail, etc) that is a different discussion.

    As far as Michael Sam, he may be a good player in the NFL, but the Packers do not need another tweener. He is going to struggle in the transition to a 3-4 OLB, as evidenced by his showing in the Senior Bowl. GB already has of these on their roster.

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  4. Jim Sekorski says:

    Where ever he goes , it is going to be a Tim Tebow like circus. Let somebody else have all the headaches. Perhaps San Fran would have a place for him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

    • Ross Uglem says:

      Given that the 49ers have two outstanding starters at OLB and an up and coming prospect at the position in former 3rd round pick Cory Lemonier, I’m going to assume that this comment is directed at San Francisco’s history as a city commonly associated with homosexuality. Very clever.

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  5. […] that the conversions can’t ever work. The obvious name that everyone is talking about is Michael Sam. Whether or not the Packers are going to continue to convert defensive ends or invest in more true […]

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