Former Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum discusses drafting Michael Sam
Michael Sam’s announcement that he will become the first openly homosexual player in the NFL created all sorts of headlines. It also will have an impact on his draft status.
The issue might not be how Sam’s sexual orientation will hamper his ability on the field but rather if he will be a distraction for his new teammates. After all, an NFL locker room is a cross-segment of the population at large and not all of his future teammates will be accepting of who he is. There’s also bound to be intense media scrutiny no matter which team drafts him.
All this might make Sam, slotted as a mid-round selection in this spring’s NFL Draft, a less-tantalizing prospect for NFL teams than he was this time last week.
“If I was drafting, the fact that he made this announcement wouldn’t affect my evaluation. It remains to be seen what happens on draft day, as it is there is some disagreement about him as a player,” former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum told Metro New York. “I hope that his draft status isn’t affected. What he did by making the announcement is show tremendous strength and courage. Those are attributes that are sought after by every team.”
But the announcement and his decision to make his sexuality public might be something some teams will wish to avoid.
One NFL scout for an elite NFC team told Metro on Monday they had an initial grade on Sam somewhere in the fourth or fifth round. Now, the scout wasn’t so sure how things would play out.
“Whether he intended to or not, he now has a lot of baggage,” the scout said. “It has everything to do with him being a distraction and nothing to do with his lifestyle. I don’t think most teams care about that. What they will care about is the other 52 players in the locker room constantly being asked about it. It will become a distraction.
Again, it has nothing to do with him being gay. I think teams are fine with that and merely want him to be healthy like they would any other player. That isn’t a concern. The concern is the media attention and scrutiny. All that press scared teams off from Tim Tebow. In a very different context, that will happen now with Sam.”
The scout spoke on the condition of anonymity because he’s not supposed to comment publicly on player evaluations.
“I see him being a Tebow and teams become scared because of everything that now goes with him,” the scout said.
Sam’s talent level — a likely mid-round prospect — means teams will be tempted to not draft him, the scout said. Teams can merely bypass Sam and say they had other players at his position ranked higher on the draft board. This would be more difficult, the scout said, if he was a first-round talent.
Tannenbaum sees Sunday’s announcement by Sam as a positive because teams will be able to examine his character and courage. He also isn’t concerned about Sam being received in an NFL locker room.
Prior to his senior season at Missouri, Sam came out to his fellow teammates and the secret was kept in their locker room. He was All-SEC and a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, given by the Maxwell Football Club to the nation’s top defensive player, during his final season.
“He should be received in the locker room without any issues,” Tannenbaum said. “If you look at Missouri, they all knew about his sexuality and they went on to have a tremendous year and it was a non-factor for them.”
Tannenbaum’s track record in the draft included selecting Darrelle Revis, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold in the first round.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.