The NFL was quick to come out with a statement, saluting the courage of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam.
And now, the lead draft analyst of the league’s own network is on the record saying Sam should be a mid-round pick.
“I watched the tape and saw him at the Senior Bowl and have a pretty good feel for him, and my take is he’s a third- to fifth-round pick,’’ NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said, via Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News. “If I were a team, I’d hope that I would look at him and say, ‘OK, this is what he is [as a player] and draft him in that range if he’s available.’ I think some teams are going to say, ‘Hey, I give the kid credit for coming out. I’d like a tough-minded individual like that in my locker room.’
“But I think there will be other teams that are going to look at it and say, ‘Do I want that distraction in my locker room?’’’
Mayock said he thinks the story will be overblown, much in the same way the Manti Te’o fake dead girlfriend thing was last year at the combine. Of course, Mayock seems far more comfortable talking Xs and Os than sociology, so his football evaluation was what he was basing today’s opinion on.
At 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds, Sam lacks prototype size to play defensive end, and might not be fluid enough to play linebacker, and drop into coverage. He’s a pass-rusher (who had 10.5 sacks last year), and that has value.
“He’s an explosive kid who’s much better going forward than he is going backward,’’ Mayock said. “His size would dictate he’s got to be a linebacker, but I don’t think his physical skill-set dictates that, and therein lies the rub. He’s got some ability coming off the edge and chasing a quarterback. However, I don’t think he has an ability to stand up and play linebacker.
“Depending on your scheme and what you’re looking for, he’s not an every-down play. The best case for me is he’s a four-team special teams player and a situational pass-rusher. It just depends on where you value that kind of guy.’’
And whether you think your locker room and leadership is stable enough to handle the attention that will come with it.