MIAMI (CBSMiami) – University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam will be the most debated NFL prospect until his name is called during the 2014 NFL Draft. Some have said his coming out will hurt his draft stock and that he’s a “tweener” for an ideal position. In Miami, the question is would he fit with the Dolphins?
Sam played four years at Missouri, two in the Big XII Conference and two in the Southeastern Conference. It was his final season in the SEC when everything came together and Sam made a big impact on Mizzou’s defense.
The 6’2”, 255 pound defensive end pulled down 19 tackles for loss including 11.5 sacks against SEC offensive linemen, some of the best in the collegiate game. Sam’s best games came against bad teams, and he struggled at times in games against the best teams.
However, teams also began to scheme to take Sam out of the play as his season numbers continued to pile up in 2013. He also played across from defensive end Kony Ealy, who will likely be another Missouri defensive lineman taken in the first round of the NFL Draft this season.
At the end of 14 games in 2013, Sam finished with 48 total tackles, 19 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks. For his career, he finished with 111 total tackles, 32.5 tackles for loss, and 18.5 sacks. He did most of this while playing in a defensive line rotation for Mizzou that went four or five deep at times in 2013.
The Dolphins will need backups at defensive end for Olivier Vernon and Cameron Wake; and as the NFL has learned in recent years, a team can never have too many pass rushers with pass happy offenses running the league.
For comparison purposes, the Dolphins’ Vernon stands 6’2” and now weighs around 261 pounds. Coming into the NFL, he ran a 4.8 second 40-yard dash and was projected by CBSSports.com as a fifth-to-sixth round pick.
Vernon was drafted in the third round by the Dolphins who liked his strength and quick twitch coming off the edge of the defensive line. Vernon had little college resume to speak of after being suspended in his last season with the University of Miami.
Since then, Vernon has turned into a beast playing opposite of All-Pro defensive end Cameron Wake. Last season, Vernon finished the year with 46 total tackles and 11.5 sacks. He’s flourished in Miami and looks to be a starter opposite Wake for the near future.
For comparison, Sam is projected by CBSSports.com as a third to fourth round draft pick, before the Scouting Combine. He’s 6’2”, weighs roughly the same as Vernon, and has been clocked at 4.74 seconds in the 40-yard dash, just a bit faster than Vernon.
None of this is to say that Sam can equal Vernon’s stellar production in his two seasons in the NFL. But, both players are similar on a lot of levels and its possible Miami could strike gold a second time with the defensive out of Mizzou.
What will determine where Sam’s drafted in the 2014 NFL Draft will be at the NFL Scouting Combine and at Mizzou’s Pro Day later this spring. If Sam can put up impressive numbers for scouts, any fears about his production will quickly fade away and his draft stock will improve.
On the flip side, if Sam struggles during workouts, it’s possible that he could fall out of the draft completely based on the numbers and possibly on the fact that he revealed his homosexuality.