History was made on the final day of the 2014 NFL Draft, when the St. Louis Rams took Michael Sam in the seventh round. Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted, but he’s not guaranteed to have a career in the league.
The odds don’t favor Sam, who was drafted as the 249th overall pick. Since 2000, 666 players have been drafted in the seventh round. Less than half of those players have been on NFL rosters in Week One. Seventh-round picks aren’t guaranteed a spot on the roster. Their signing bonuses usually range from $45,000-$70,000, so they are easily released from the team.
St. Louis took the Missouri grad with hopes that he would help them win. However, they won’t hesitate to cut him in the summer, if he doesn’t prove that he can make it in the pros.
"[I]t’s going to be very competitive for him, as it will be for some of the other guys, the later picks, because of the depth and the talent level at the position,” Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said, via Pro Football Talk. “He’s going to have to come in, and like the rest of his new teammates, these rookies, they’re not in shape. Not in the condition our veterans are in. He’s going to have to work to get in great shape and we’ll blend him in the offseason program and we’ll go.”
Sam was a dominant player in college. As a senior, he was named the best defensive player in college football’s best conference, recording 11.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. However, he might not have the athletic ability to be a successful defensive end in the NFL. He could try to make it as a linebacker, because he is undersized, though he didn’t perform very well at the new position in the Senior Bowl.
The Rams aren’t exactly in need of another pass rusher. Last season, they ranked third in the NFL with 53 total sacks. Robert Quinn led the team with 19 sacks, and Chris Long added 8.5 sacks.
He might never be a starter in the NFL, but Sam can make the Rams roster and be a productive member of their team. The 24-year-old can contribute on special teams, as well as an occasional third-down pass rusher.
It’s not impossible for Sam to become a more than productive NFL player. Wide receivers Marques Colston, Donald Driver and T.J. Houshmandzadeh were all selected in the last round. Hall of Famer Shannon Sharper was also taken in the seventh round.
Duke’s Sean Renfree was drafted with the 249th pick in 2013. He didn’t play a game in his rookie season, but he made the Atlanta Falcons roster, backing up starting quarterback Matt Ryan. According to Spotrac, he signed a four-year deal worth over $2.2 million.