All eyes were on the NFL combine this past week as teams from around the league evaluated the incoming talent prior to the draft. While most players go through the combine in obscurity, one young man had all eyes on him in Indianapolis. Michael Sam, a defensive end out of the University of Missouri, made waves earlier in the month when he came out to the media and became the first openly gay prospect in league history. With Sam projected as a third or fourth round pick, his disappointing performance at the combine may have hurt his draft stock.
With an official 40-yard dash time of 4.91 seconds, Sam literally got off on the wrong foot as he recorded a false start on his first attempt. He followed that up with his first unofficial time of 4.79, not very impressive for a man at his position. Sam would go on to commit two more false starts before posting a slower time of 4.84 and his official time soon after. Sam also faired very poorly at the 3-cone drill and vertical jump, finishing in the bottom half of players at his position, including 40th out of 43 in the vertical (25 ½ inches). He also finished at the bottom of the pack in the bench press, as Sam was able to lift 17 repetitions of the 225-pound weight. The only event that Sam has success in was the broad jump, where he finished 14th of 43 with a jump of 9 feet 6 inches.
Sam has often been described as a tweener who boasts the size of a linebacker but has the skill set of a defensive end. Still, with his performance at the combine, Sam has demonstrated that he will not be the type of player who will manhandle the offensive line no matter where or when he is put in the game. Sam will be most effective as a specialist in blitz packages where he can push through his defensive line in pursuit of the quarterback. He has already shown that he can be a formidable pass-rusher at the collegiate level, leading the SEC in sacks this past season. Whether that success will translate to the NFL still remains to be seen.
Sam will have the ability to better his draft stock once more and impress NFL teams at Missouri's pro day on March 20.