Kinda cool on the linebacker end to have a name like "Mike" "Sam" (+1 if you know what I'm talking about). Only thing that would make it better would be if his middle name was "William" ("Will").
Draft projection for Sam is 3rd-5th Round as an edge-rushing OLB-DE. This was an updated review from a respected draft site following his Senior Bowl performance (and, like most reviews, pre-coming out):http://walterfootball.com/draft2014OLB.php
Walter Football2/8/14: Sam was a breakout performer for Missouri in 2013 with 11.5 sacks. He also recorded 48 tackles with 19 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and two passes broken up. Sam returned a fumble for a touchdown in the Tigers' upset win over Georgia. He dominated with three-sack games against Arkansas State, Vanderbilt and Florida. Sam was shut down by Tennessee's tough offensive line, and Auburn ran over him in the SEC Championship. He should move to outside linebacker in the NFL, but could be a situational defensive end in obvious passing downs. Sam had a mixed week at the Senior Bowl.
Sam recorded 22 tackles with 4.5 sacks, seven tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles in 2012. As a sophomore, he had 1.5 sacks. That was slightly less than the 3.5 sacks from his freshman season. For the NFL, Sam would probably fit best as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
I was interested in where the previous SEC Defensive Players of the Year got drafted. I believe all were first or second rounders:
* 1986 - OLB Cornelius Bennett, Alabama (Overall Conference Player of the Year); 6'3", 240 lbs.; 1st Round, 2nd overall pick (Colts, traded to Bills); 3x NFL All-Pro; 5x Pro Bowler; 2x AFC Defensive Player of the Year
((SEC split up conference player of the year awards by offense and defense in 2003))
* 2004 - OLB/DE David Pollack, Georgia; 6'2", 255 lbs.; 1st Round, 17th overall pick (Bengals); neck injury ended career during rookie season
* 2005 - MLB DeMeco Ryans, Alabama; 6'1", 247 lbs.; 2nd Round, 33rd overall pick (Texans); NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year; 2x Pro Bowler
* 2006 ILB Patrick Willis, Mississippi; 6'1", 240 lbs.; 1st Round, 11th overall pick (49ers); 5x NFL All-Pro 1st Team; 7x Pro Bowler; NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year
* 2009 MLB Rolando McClain, Alabama; 6'4", 259 lbs.; 1st Round, 8th overall pick (Raiders); off-field crimes derailed career
* 2012 OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia; 6'2", 245 lbs.; 1st Round, 17th overall pick (Steelers); rotating 2nd-stringer
* 2013 OLB C.J. Mosley, Alabama (co-award winner); 6'2", 238 lbs.; projected mid-1st Round in 2014 NFL Draft
* 2013 OLB/DE Michael Sam, Missouri (co-award winner); 6'1"-6'2", 255-260 lbs; projected 3rd-to-5th Rounds in NFL Draft
There was talk during the Senior Bowl last week that his "size" (as a player shifting to linebacker from defensive end) is what is working against him. But, matched up solely against this award-winning peer sample, I don't see how size is really a problem. I guess he could shed some pounds, maybe? Mosley's advantage was he played LB primarily at Alabama, while Sam played DE at Mizzou.http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcsouth/post/_/id/54216/would-falcons-draft-michael-sam
ESPNSome say Sam hurt his draft status by struggling to make the transition to linebacker at the Senior Bowl, although he had a sack in the game. ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said Sam is a fourth-rounder as of right now, with the possibility of him going in the third round.
There's an insinuation (not by ESPN) that Sam is going to drop further in the draft because of his coming out (based on the "we're not really ready" execs who spoke anonymously in SI). But based on where these other SEC Defensive Players of the Year were picked, I'd say the pre-coming out rumors among NFL scouts sunk his draft stock as far down as it will go already.
In a couple weeks, we'll get to see during the NFL Combine measurements if "Size" is really a justifiable issue.