While former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam has been impressive while dealing with the media in the run-up to this year's NFL Draft, there's still not an assurance that Sam actually will be selected by anybody next weekend.
And while some analysts predict that Sam, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year, could be drafted anywhere between the fifth and seventh rounds, this latest poll from theMilwaukee Journal Sentinel is sobering for anybody who's a fan of Sam.
In effect, a number of teams might not want to draft him at all. Or sign him as a free agent.
Writes the respected Bob McGinn:
The reason you don't hear much about Sam anymore a few days before the draft is this is the time for real players. Based on discussions over the last month about Sam's capability as a player with about two dozen NFL executives in personnel, he's regarded almost as a non-entity.
The Journal Sentinel polled 21 scouts with national responsibilities asking what round, if any, they would be comfortable selecting Sam.
Three said fifth round. Three said sixth round. Three said seventh round. Five said they would sign him as a free agent. Seven said they wouldn't sign him as a free agent.
While there's little doubt that Sam's ability to compete as the first openly-gay NFL player would be important in terms of social progress, that doesn't mean a specific team will feel compelled to sign him to a roster if that organization feels it doesn't have much use for him.
The perceived issue that's plagued Sam since he began the draft process is that he is too much of an in-betweener. He's too small to be a defensive end, but not athletic enough to be a linebacker. He could have a hard time rushing the passer, but he also might have a tough time dropping back into pass coverage. That's the perception, anyway.
"It's a tough fit when you're short and slow and a try-hard overachiever," one AFC executive told McGinn. "That's the issue."
While Sam clearly was successful in college, that doesn't necessarily translate into a guaranteed spot on an NFL roster. Particularly since a number of NFL decision makers don't necessarily believe Sam has the goods.
"Most of his production was hustle stuff," an NFC personnel man told McGinn. "There's production, but he's short, he's not a really good athlete and he doesn't play good against the run.
"He's kind of a one-task pass rusher. Just run up the field. And they swallow him up and kind of push him around. It doesn't fit with being SEC Defensive Player of the Year. But that's just kind of what he was."