The true level of homophobia in the NFL will be unequivocally revealed at the 2014 NFL Draft. Michael Sam of the University of Missouri is the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC. The SEC is universally acknowledged as the best football conference in the nation. So, for the most recent season of play, Michael Sam was the best defensive player in the best college football conference. He is also openly gay. This is a first for the NFL. They have never had to deal with a top college prospect entering their annual draft as openly gay. At this time there are no openly homosexual players in the National Football League. In fact, at no time in the league's history has there ever been an openly gay player on any team. Can Michael Sam be the first? What matters most, football or sexual orientation? How much money will some team bet on him? The NFL Draft will tell us.
What should the NFL Draft normally hold for Michael Sam? Sports fans, pundits and experts, and plenty of onlookers who know nothing about college football, they will all have opinions about Sam's future in pro football. Is he big enough? Fast enough? All the usual metrics will be discussed. And now, one of the most unusual is added -- his sexual orientation. But speculation is unnecessary. His worth as a player can be determined in comparison with others who won the same award in past years. There exists a solid, perhaps dispositive, historical measurement of Michael Sam's expectations in the coming draft. Let's look at the last 10 years of NFL Drafts and see exactly where the draft-eligible SEC Defensive Player of the Year was selected.
2013 Michael Sam Draft result TBD
2012 Jarvis Jones 1st round, 17th overall pick
2011 Morris Claiborne 1st round, 6th overall pick
2010 Patrick Peterson 1st round, 5th overall pick
2009 Rolando McClain 1st round, 8th overall pick
2008 Eric Berry 1st round, 5th overall pick
2007 Glenn Dorsey 1st round, 5th overall pick
2006 Patrick Willis 1st round, 11th overall pick
2005 DeMeco Ryans 2nd round, 33rd overall pick
2004 David Pollack 1st round, 17th overall pick
Wow! By all indications, NFL teams realize the high value of the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. In most years that player has been a top-10 pick. Last year's honoree, Jarvis Jones, signed a rookie contract reportedly worth $8.5 million. In 2004, David Pollack signed for $10 million. DeMeco Ryans, the only SEC Defensive Player of the Year in the last 10 years to be drafted as low as the second round, just signed a new six-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles for $46.8 million. With that history, Michael Sam is surely looking at a multi-million dollar NFL rookie contract. Well, maybe not. Listen to sports-talk radio or watch the cable sports networks. Sounds like NFL talk has Sam's draft position tumbling, falling way off to the 5th or 6th round. Some have said he won't be drafted at all, not by any team in any round.
In life this may be a matter of principle. But in professional sports it is principally a matter of money. Should Michael Sam drop all the way to Round 6, his rookie contract will be about $400,000. That would be $8,100,000 less than Jarvis Jones' contract a year ago, and about $46 and a-half million dollars off DeMeco Ryans' new Eagles contract. Is it possible, even conceivable, that Michael Sam is worth so little? Could he be so undeserving of the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and such a poor prospect for the NFL that he would break a seven-year string of First Round, big-dollar draft choices? Let's keep a close eye on this year's NFL Draft and see exactly how a man's sex life figures into his football value. Maybe the NFL has it together. Perhaps, they will lead the way rather than block the halls. The 2014 Draft will tell us all how far behind the times America's most popular and richest sport can be.