Everybody in the football and non-football world is talking about Michael Sam and the fact that Sam is the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team. But few of us have broken down Sam’s chances of actually playing for that team — in this case, the St. Louis Rams.
Here’s the thing: While it was nice that Sam had his moment at the draft, the reality is that he might have been better off in the short term had he not been drafted at all. That way, he’d have possessed the ability to pick between several possible suitors.
This way, the Rams get a PR bump while reserving what is basically a right of first refusal on Sam, who many projected to be a mid-round pick only a couple months ago.
Of course, eventually, if Sam has the NFL talent, he’ll find an NFL job. But a training camp spent in St. Louis before an eleventh-hour cut could cost him in the short term.
The problem in St. Louis is that the Rams already have two very good starting defensive ends in Chris Long and Robert Quinn. They’re young and talented and it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere. Veteran backup William Hayes also had five sacks and the second-best Pro Football Focus grade on the team last year, while Eugene Sims is also a quality reserve who excels in run defense.
Here’s the thing, though: Last year, the Rams kept five defensive ends. They kept undrafted free agent Gerald Rivers on the roster for almost the entire year before releasing him in December. They drafted no ends except Sam, and they signed none in free agency.
So if the Rams were willing to carry a fifth defensive end for 14 of their 16 games last season, then why would anyone possibly rule out the chance that Fisher and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams going with five this year?
With that in mind, it would actually be a minor upset if a late-round steal like Sam didn’t make the roster, jersey sales notwithstanding. And that should surprise nobody, considering that Sam is a versatile sack machine coming off an exceptional senior season in the SEC.