As the reigning SEC defensive player of the year, you would expect Michael Sam to be on every NFL teams’ radar—especially a team needing pass rush like the Falcons do. However, he doesn’t show the traits that will make him productive as a pro as a starter.
Sam is more than likely going to be nothing but a depth and special teams player for his career. Nonetheless, the Falcons have shown some interest in the Missouri edge player according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun.
Defensive End/Outside Linebacker
University of Missouri
Combine/Pro Day Measurements
Height: 6'2" Weight: 261 pounds
Arm Length: 33-3/8" Hand Measurement: 9-3/8"
40 yard dash: 4.71 sec. 10 yard split: 1.72 sec.
20 yard shuttle: 4.70 sec. 3-cone Drill: 7.80 sec. Bench Reps: 19 reps
Vertical Jump: 25.5" Broad Jump: 9'6"
2013: 14 Games Played, 48 Tackles, 19.0 Tackles for Loss, 11.5 Sacks, 5 QB Hurries, 2 Fumbles Forced, 1 Fumble Recovered, 2 Pass Deflections, 1 Defensive Touchdown
2012: 12 Games Played, 22 Tackles, 7.0 Tackles for Loss, 4.5 Sacks, 4 QB Hurries, 2 Fumbles Forced, 1 Fumble Recovered, 1 Defensive Touchdown
2011: 13 Games Played, 29 Tackles, 3.0 Tackles for Loss, 1.5 Sacks, 4 QB Hurries, 1 Interception, 1 Pass Deflection
2010: 13 Games Played, 24 Tackles, 7.0 Tackles for Loss, 3.5 Sacks, 2 QB Hurries, 1 Interception, 2 Fumbles Forced, 1 Blocked Kick, 1 Punt Return, 8 Yards
Sam is an extremely experienced defensive end from the power conference in college football. He’s seen a ton of NFL ready talent throughout his four years at Missouri and produced well against it. Sam has a motor that never dies and is able to attack from either outside linebacker or defensive end.
He’s quick off the ball and understands proper snap anticipation. He does well shooting gaps. He’s also able to maintain proper leverage so that he can convert speed to power. He’s also excellent with his angles in run defense and doesn’t over pursue.
Despite being a solid all-around linebacker and end, Sam doesn’t have certain traits needed to succeed at the NFL level. He’s undersized and doesn’t have the requisite speed to make up for his lack of size and strength.
His hips are very stiff and he doesn’t look like he’s great in coverage. Most of his production comes from his high motor rather than being blessed with elite physical tools. He’s a cerebral player but will amount to nothing more than a special teams contributor in the NFL.
How does he fit the Comrade Filter?
Off the field, Sam is everything any coach would ever want in a player. He has a great work ethic and drives others on his team to be the best they can be. On top of that, he was a captain for the Tigers in his junior and senior seasons.
The Hitchcock, Texas native showed that he’s more than willing to take a lesser role if it will allow his teammates to shine, as he was the third defensive end the majority of the season. Despite the reserve role, he never complained and was always seen as the voice of the Tiger defense.
Sam is a talented all-around player who is worthy of a draft selection, but it’s tough to project him in either the 3-4 or the 4-3. He would likely have to be part of a rotation in a multiple front defense. He just isn’t a dynamic enough athlete that offenses will have to account for him. Technically, he’s sound, but there are just too many size, speed and scheme-fit questions to make spending a pick on him in the first two days a sensible decision.
How he would fit into the Falcons' plans
If the Falcons were to bring in Sam, it would likely in a rotational role for which he'd have to compete with guys like Stansly Maponga. It's unlikely that Sam would see the field much as a rookie.
On top of that, Sam would have to compete for playing time on special teams. A special teams contributor could be his best role long term, as he has Ike Reese-level potential as a special teams player. But he still would have to show it on the field to even make a roster.
All stats used are either from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats (subscription required), ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All combine and pro day info is courtesy NFL Draft Scout. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.