Michael Sam's Draft Stock: The Stupidity of Quantifying Gay
At around 7:00 p.m. Sunday night, Missouri senior defensive end Michael Sam announced to the world on ESPN what he had announced to his teammates prior to the 2013 football season -- he is gay.
Photo by Marcus Qwertyus Michael Sam
The sit down interview with Chris Connelly was one prong in a meticulously constructed media game plan that was originally slated for launch after the NFL Combine next weekend, but due to the likely revelation of Sam's sexual orientation from sources other than Sam himself before then, the time table was moved up to Sunday night.
In ten impressive minutes with Connelly, Sam confirmed that the gay community could not have a better representative as the first pre-pro career athlete to go public with his being gay -- he was well spoken, he is well respected, and he has been toughened by real life adversity (Among other tragedies, Sam has lost three siblings in his lifetime).
How that all translates on NFL Draft weekend for Sam became the next question. How will the NFL process this news?
It didn't take long for the insanity to begin.
And I knew the insanity would happen. This is why a couple minutes into Sam's interview, I tweeted this:
NOTED: As of 7:07pm on 2/9, Michael Sam is currently rated the 90th best prospect and 9th best defensive end, per http://t.co/oBzilb47PF.— Sean Pendergast (@SeanCablinasian) February 10, 2014
Within twelve hours, it became evident why planting a flag in Michael Sam's draft stock at the time of the announcement was necessary, because by the following morning, this exact same website had Michael Sam plummeting to the 160th overall prospect and 14th best defensive end.
Apparently, Michael Sam's gayness was worth exactly 70 draft slots.
Later in the afternoon, Sam's stock on nfldraftscout.com had begun its regression to mean, climbing back up to 110th overall and 11th among defensive ends, and it was abundantly clear that Michael Sam's sexual orientation was like a greased draft slot pig -- NFL personnel guys just couldn't wrap their arms around it.
How many slots is GAY worth on a big board? Somebody make some phone calls! Marjorie, get me my sexual orientation-draft slot conversion chart, STAT!
I say this all somewhat tongue in cheek, and this certainly isn't meant to pick on one website. Everybody's efforts to grasp the "Gay Announcement Draft Stock Effect" on Monday morning were hilarious. (It bottomed out with Skip Bayless, noted expert on nothing, firmly opining that it would effect Sam's draft stock by one round. Okay then, Skipper. Glad you settled that for us.)
But that's the world that NFL scouting and personnel types live in, trying to translate every variable, both on the field and off the field, into something quantifiable, and their unit of measure is draft slots and draft rounds. It's the language they speak. I get that.
Here's the thing about Michael Sam's announcement that he is gay, as compared to other off the field variables (I'll refrain from calling it "baggage," like Herm Edwards did in his cringeworthy Sunday appearance on SportsCenter.) -- with college players who have committed crimes, or guys who have shown a general lack of motivation, or players with an entourage, the possible future occurrence of issues are all variables, so you have to adjust draft slot (and, in turn, opportunity cost and salary) according to some unknown risk.
He had three arrests in college, but he can really play. I'm not willing to bet the opportunity cost or salary of a first round pick he stays in his shoes, but I'm willing to bet a third round pick. Let's see what happens.
That makes sense.
Quantifying Michael Sam's being gay in terms of draft slots makes no sense.