Michael Sam a 5th Round Pick or Lower?


Feb 22, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Missouri Tigers defensive end Michael Sam speaks at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

The more Michael Sam shows at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, the more he seems to fall down draft boards. There were questions coming in, but Sam is too busy creating more to find the time to answer any. Many scouts are saying that Sam will not be taken before the 5th round in the NFL Draft after his combine performance today.

Sam posted an unofficial 4.79 40-yard dash time, which is good for 15th among defensive linemen. Now, the 40-yard dash is obviously not the golden standard of what makes a good football player, but at only 261 lbs., Sam hopes to make the switch to 3-4 OLB in the NFL. This 40-time does not help scouts believe that transition will be easy enough to bet a 4th round pick, or higher.

Michael Sam also participated in some linebackers drills and looked unnatural and robotic. It is not a surprise, given he spent 90+% of his snaps at Missouri in a 3-point stance on the defensive line. But, combining the poor burst he showed with the expected lack of lateral quickness, Sam doesn’t project to be a high round outside linebacker prospect in a very seep draft.

Michael Sam also posted 25.5 inches on the vertical jump. This is well behind most defensive linemen and good for 5th worst at the combine, ahead of only defensive tackles Louis Nix, Daniel McCullers, Anthony Johnson, and Kelcy Quarles, none of which are trying to make a case for a team to draft them to drop back into coverage.

There are some scouts that still believe Sam’s best position in the NFL would be at 4-3 defensive end. However, as Ernie pointed out on NFL Spin Zone earlier today, he didn’t exactly show great strength to survive on the line in the NFL either. Here’s what he had to say about Sam’s bench press:

"There are heavier guys on the defensive line that were able to put up better number in the [40-yard dash]. This also follows a disappointing showing on the bench. He was only able to put up 17 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench. That was the second-worst showing of all the defensive line that were invited to the combine."

Not only did Sam have a very poor showing in the 40 and dropping into coverage in the linebacker drills, he was one of the worst participants in the bench press among all defensive lineman. Sams biggest issue isn’t going to be a media circus, it will be his inability to answer the most important question coming into the combine. What position will he play?

Unlike Manti Te’o, Sam does not have the tape to overcome a poor combine showing. The opinion of his skills as a pass rusher was shaky at best coming into the combine, and his results so far may sway teams away. His day is not over, but if he does not improve opinion with the quickness drills and the rest of the linebacker drills, Sam’s window to solidify his position for the NFL might be closing.

What position is the best fit for Michael Sam in the NFL? How much do combine numbers affect your opinions of players?