How DE Michael Sam Fits with the St. Louis Rams

Steven GerwelFeatured Columnist IVMay 10, 2014

ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 4: Michael Sam #52 of the University of Missouri Tigers looks to sack Nathan Scheelhaase #2 of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini during the State Farm Arch Rivalry game on September 4, 2010 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. The Tigers defeated the Fighting Illini 23-13.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

With two first-round picks, the St. Louis Rams were piecing together a phenomenal draft, but oddly enough, it's a seventh-round selection that will undoubtedly generate the most media headlines. 

With the No. 249 overall pick in the final round, the Rams selected defensive end Michael Sam of the Missouri Tigers. 

In February, Sam openly admitted that he's gay, according to ESPN. As a result, he's now the very first openly gay player in NFL history. 

That's a fact that could bring on an unwanted media storm, but according to Jeff Fisher on his NFL Network appearance, he's not discouraged by the possible distractions. 

"We drafted a good football player," said Fisher. "I'm excited to get him on the practice field and get him going." 

He went on to comment on how the team is prepared to deal with Sam and the media. 

"Yeah, there's going to be some extra attention for a couple of days, but Michael's a Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year, you know. That's important to us," said Fisher. 

"We have a young team, a very mature team. We're not not going to let any kind of distractions wreck this football team."

Fisher is a veteran head coach in this league. If anyone can handle immature teammates and unwanted media attention, it's Fisher. 

However, don't expect the immaturity of teammates to be a problem. Rams players are already flooding Twitter with support for Sam.

Football is all about making plays, welcome to the Squad @MikeSamFootball Rams Nation accept you for who you are... #ShowTime

— J.Jenkz (@JjenkzLockdown) May 10, 2014

Bingo RT @AtkinsNate: How will Rams' locker room embrace Michael Sam? Same way TJ Moe, EJ Gaines and Tim Barnes helped make happen at Mizzou

— T.J. Moe (@TJMoe28) May 10, 2014

It's nice that Sam is receiving proper support already, but he needs to be evaluated as a player as well.

Here's how Sam will fit in with the team as a football player: 


Sam As a Pass-Rusher

Drafting the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in the final round is a rare opportunity, and Sam certainly earned that award during his final year at Missouri. 

In 2013, Sam led the SEC with 11.5 sacks and finished with 19 tackles for loss—both career highs—while also forcing two fumbles. 

Missouri fielded a surprisingly stout defense in 2013—a unit that carried the team to the SEC Championship Game—and Sam was the most valuable aspect of that unit. 

On a team with Robert Quinn and Chris Long already in the mix, as well as decent depth with William Hayes and Eugene Sims, it'll be difficult for Sam to find playing time as a rookie. 

At 6'2" and 261 pounds, Sam is undersized for a 4-3 end, so it's possible that the team will instead give him a shot at outside linebacker, as that's the position where the Rams have a greater need. 

If the Rams opt to play him at linebacker, it will likely take him a few years to develop, as Sam spent most of his college career with his hand in the dirt. Playing upright as a linebacker will be a transition. 

In the end, whether the Rams use Sam as a developmental end or a pass-rushing linebacker, the team will undoubtedly allow Sam to do what he does best: hunt the quarterback. 


A Hometown Favorite

Sam played his collegiate years just two hours west of St. Louis on I-70, so Rams fans are perfectly familiar with Sam as a player and a person. 

Sam's stellar play for Missouri helped the Tigers cap off one of the most prominent seasons in the school's history, so the fans within this state are incredibly grateful for his contributions. 

In reality, this was a brilliant move by Fisher, who was smart enough to realize that the majority of Rams fans double as Mizzou fans. If there's a fanbase that's undoubtedly capable of supporting Sam in every possible way, it's the St. Louis fanbase. 

Keeping Sam close to home and in his comfort zone puts him in a position to succeed. 


Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams' game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer profile or by following him on Twitter.