There Is a Place for Michael Sam in the NFL: The New York Jets

Head coach Rex Ryan is a widely acknowledged defensive mastermind who, for years, has used exotic blitz schemes and a dominant defensive line to generate a pass rush and wring multi-sack seasons from similarly undersized former first-round busts like Aaron Maybin. Last year the monstrous trio of Damon Harrison, Muhammed Wilkerson, and former Mizzou Tiger Sheldon Richardson consistently ate up enough blockers to clear the way for Calvin Pace, who will turn 34 in October, to have a career 10-sack season. Can the 24-year-old, technically sound (if not advanced) SEC co-defensive player of the year approach or match the production of a 33-year-old player on the downslope of his career at a position of dire need? It would only cost one of the Jets' 12 picks (three in the fourth round, where Sam should go) to find out, and second-year general manager John Idzik is descended from the Seattle Seahawks tradition of finding tremendous value in the later rounds (Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman come to mind).

It's true that Sam doesn't possess prototypical size for either defensive end or outside linebacker, the position he may be asked to play at the next level. But even as a purely situational pass rusher, he will have value in a pass-first league. Teams have bid higher on similarly miscast players like Dion Jordan, who the Dolphins traded up for last year in the hopes that he would become a pass-rushing beast (note: he did not), and Bruce Irvin, another "in-betweener" who the Seahawks have had success with after drafting him in the first round in 2012.

Sam's greatest weakness, according to White, may be his overall strength (though he's already improved on his bench press numbers from the NFL combine to his Mizzou pro day), but the NFL is full of athletic super freaks who never lived up to their potential. To say that Michael Sam doesn't deserve a chance, that he isn't even worth the minimal risk of a late-round pick because he's a few tenths of a second slower than his more highly touted peers, is patently wrong. There is a place for Michael Sam in the NFL, and there is  no football-related reason for him to go undrafted beyond the league's simple fear of the unknown.

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Daniel D. Snyder is a writer based in New Mexico.

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