Rams defensive end Michael Sam believes he should have been drafted much, much earlier than he was.
Sam, selected late in the seventh round, said NFL teams chickened out from drafting him, although he stopped short of saying that his draft stock dropped because he was the first openly gay prospect in NFL history.
“From last season alone, I should’ve been in the first three rounds. SEC Defensive Player of the Year, All-American,” Sam said, via the Associated Press. “I knew I was going to get picked somewhere. Every team that passed me, I was thinking how I’m going to sack their quarterback.”
Many of the great players in NFL history who were selected in the late rounds of the draft have used that fact as motivation. Former sixth-round pick Tom Brady can still name all of the quarterbacks who were drafted ahead of him. The Rams should be glad that Sam is fired up by a perceived slight.
But Sam is wrong if he thinks being SEC Defensive Player of the Year or an All-American should make him a high draft pick. Those are media awards, and NFL teams couldn’t care less what sportswriters think. For proof of that, Sam needs to look no further than his fellow Associated Press All-American defensive end, Jackson Jeffcoat: Despite a great college career and a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award, Jeffcoat went undrafted. NFL teams weren’t discriminating against Jeffcoat when they passed on him, they were simply calculating that he lacks the size and strength to be a great defensive lineman, while simultaneously lacking the speed and burst to be a great linebacker. In that respect, Jeffcoat and Sam are similar players and similar NFL prospects.
Maybe Jeffcoat, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Seahawks, will prove the teams that passed on him wrong and play like a guy who should have gone in the first three rounds. And maybe Sam will prove everyone wrong, too. But I believe Sam was a seventh-round pick because he’s a seventh-round talent.