When Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round, it created the most controversial and most memorable moment in ESPN’s history of covering the draft.
That moment, which almost did not happen because a storm had knocked out ESPN’s feed moments before the pick, was great for ESPN as it led to a national conversation about a portion of ESPN’s coverage that is typically ignored.
But that moment may have also been the worst possible way for Sam to begin his NFL career.
St. Louis Rams depth
Sam is a defensive end who was drafted by one of the only teams in the NFL with no need for a defensive end.
One of the Rams’ starting defensive ends is Chris Long, who was the second pick of the 2008 draft and has three years remaining on his $US48.2 million contract.
The other starter is Robert Quinn, who at 23 is considered one of the best young defensive ends in the NFL and was a first team All-Pro this past season.
In addition, in a league where most teams carry just 4-5 defensive ends, the Rams already have two established veteran backups (Eugene Sims and William Hayes) under contract through 2015.
Sam’s one advantage is that he will be cheap and the Rams would take a relatively small cap hit ($230,000) if they release Sims. If Sam can play as well as Sims, he could win a spot.
Going undrafted is better than seventh round
Sam was the 249th pick in a draft with 256 overall picks. While there is clearly something symbolically positive about having your name called out in the draft it also limited Sam’s choices.
If the five teams that still had picks remaining at that point had all passed on Sam he would have most likely had a chance to choose from several offers to sign as an undrafted free agent.
With that choice, Sam could have picked the team that gave him the best chance of making the roster. He almost certainly would not have picked the Rams.
With the Rams’ depth, Sam’s best shot at making their roster is if he can show that he can contribute on special teams. Otherwise, there is a good chance he will get cut in the preseason.
If Sam is cut, he will almost certainly be picked up by another team.
But getting a second chance will not erase the stigma of having failed in his first attempt even if the situation was not a favourable one.
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