He was drafted near the end of the 7th and final round. The 249th player picked. It's no surprise when a player drafted that late does not make a team.
May 10, 2014 article :
Of those players at [Michael Sam's] position who had been rated as sixth-round picks before the draft — as Sam was — slightly less than 50 percent were chosen by an NFL team.
Central Catholic grad Dane Sanzenbacher went undrafted, but he made the Bears team his rookie season. After two years with the Bears, he played last year with the Bengals.
The late-round draft pick who has probably garnered the most attention over the past decade has been Tom Brady who got drafted in the 6th round. Brady was the 199th player selected, and he's headed to the hall of fame.
Two years ago when the Seattle Seahawks drafted the so-called undersized quarterback Russell Wilson in the 3rd round, I doubt the team expected Wilson to earn the starting spot because Seattle signed a big contract with QB Matt Flynn from Green Bay through free agency. But Wilson won the starting job in the 2012 preseason, helped Seattle make the playoffs that year and win a playoff game, and then Seattle won the Super Bowl this past season.
So who knows until they start practicing and playing pre-season games.
I think the math is simple for Michael Sam or any player, regarding the NFL.
- If he's a good player, then he'll make a team.
- If he's really good, then he'll play a fair amount.
- If he's really, really good, then he'll start.
If he's none of the above, then he'll be released. I don't think an NFL team will waste a roster spot.
But Sam will get his shot.
"... the knock against him is that he is a bit undersized."
I guess it depends upon what position he will play. He might be undersized for defensive end, but allegedly, his height and weight are 6' 2" and around 260 pounds. That seems big enough for linebacker if he's fast.
Sam Mills played inside linebacker in the NFL from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, and he was only 5' 9" and around 230 pounds. Even back then, that was considered small for linebacker.
Articles about Michael Sam:
May 10, 2014 article
He played defensive end in college, but he's short for that position in the NFL and slower than most linebackers, the position he'll need to transition to at the professional level.
February 2014 article :
Those hoping Sam would perform well enough in the peripherals for a move to linebacker were sorely disappointed. He's a bit slow even to slide into the middle—let alone as a stand-up outside pass-rusher. Teams would be able to take advantage of him too easily for that to be a viable option.
March 2014 article :
Similar to his combine performance, [Michael] Sam's positional workout was mixed. It's clear he worked hard to prepare and he knew exactly what he had to do in drills and was precise executing them. However, he still looked stiff and robotic when bending his knees and changing directions.
I do not believe he could make the switch to playing linebacker full time, but could handle playing a rush-linebacker or linebacker position in a 3-4 defense.
At 260-plus pounds, Michael Sam could be big for inside linebacker if this February 2013 article is correct where the writer claimed that the trend in the NFL was for teams to draft lighter weight linebackers.
And with the NFL's increasing reliance on spread formations -- not just spread concepts, but actually widening a defense by lining up outside the numbers on both sides -- defenses are changing their games by using linebackers that, 10 years ago, may have been seen as safety prospects.
In the 2012 NFL Draft, only one drafted inside linebacker weighed in at over 250 pounds, and the rookies who set the pace at that position were not at all like the "thumper" templates of years past.
Apparently, the St. Louis Rams use a 4-3 defense.