Updates from Saturday, May 10
The wait is over for Michael Sam, as the St. Louis Rams have selected the Missouri standout in the 7th round. Sam avoids the designation as the only SEC Defensive Player of the Year to go undrafted. The Rams announce the pick:
Michael Sam thanked the Rams via Twitter:
Michael Sam's dream of becoming the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team is going to have to wait longer than most expected. The sixth round of the 2014 NFL draft came and went without the star Missouri defensive end hearing his name called, slowly calling into question whether he will be taken at all.
Sam was projected as a Day 3 pick by most talent evaluators. ESPN Scouts Inc. ranked Sam the No. 224 overall prospect—equivalent to an early seventh-round choice—while CBS Sports gave him a fifth-round grade.
A 2013 All-American, Sam is the first openly gay NFL draft prospect in history after publicly coming out in February. If drafted or brought in by a team as an undrafted free agent, he would be the first gay NFL player to publicly acknowledge his sexuality. Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins recently became the first openly gay athlete to play in the United States' four major professional sports leagues.
Although Sam's bravery and honesty has been lauded throughout the process, he has consistently maintained he wants NFL teams to judge him on his on-field production. Sam, a defensive end with an unlimited motor and toughness, made 11.5 sacks as a senior en route to winning numerous national awards.
"Well, heck yeah, I just wish you would just say, 'Hey, Michael Sam, how's football going?' I would love to give the answer to that question," Sam told reporters at the combine. "But it is what it is. I just wish you guys will see me as Michael Sam the football player, instead of as Michael Sam the gay football player."
Expected to be a mid-round choice coming out of school, Sam's drop is largely based on concerns about his size and speed. Listed at 6'2" and 261 pounds, he does not have prototypical size for an NFL defensive end. His 4.91-second 40-yard dash time also drove concerns about his ability to transfer to outside linebacker.
Sam's drop out of the sixth round already made history, but not in a good way. When (or if) he is drafted, he will become the lowest-selected SEC Defensive Player of the Year in the award's history. Former LSU defensive lineman Chad Lavalais, who won the inaugural award in 2003, set the mark when he was taken No. 142 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2004.
Each of the last seven SEC Defensive Players of the Year were taken in the first round. Although few expected Sam to shake commissioner Roger Goodell's hand Thursday night, it's at least a mild surprise to see someone with his production slip this deep into Day 3.
Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter: