Michael Sam 2014 NFL Draft Patriots Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam could be a target for the Patriots in the 2014 NFL Draft. Credit: Getty Images

The Patriots are in need of a defensive upgrade, as their defense once again lagged behind the offense in terms of respectability. The Pats finished third in the NFL in points scored this past season but the defense finished 10th in points allowed.

New England’s attention now turns to the NFL draft, where they currently have seven picks.

Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam’s name was on the radar of draftniks prior to Sunday night, but when Sam announced to the world that he was gay, he immediately became the most recognizable face in the 2014 NFL Draft, outside of Johnny Manziel.

The social impact of Sam entering the league – he will likely be the first openly gay player drafted in a major sport – will be discussed in great detail in the next few months. But, on the surface, it appears as though teams like the Patriots will only be asking questions like, “Can he play?”

 

“We’re about winning,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft told the Boston Herald Monday. “And anyone who can come in here and help us win, I personally don’t care what their ethnic background is, their racial background, the gender preference. If they can help us win, and they’re about team first, then I’m happy to have him here.”

Draft experts expect Sam to be taken in the middle rounds of the draft in early May. The Pats have one third round, one fourth round and one seventh round pick and they have two sixth round picks.

Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS

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