Which team will draft Michael Sam?

2/11/14 in NFL   |   Pat   |   5233 respect

September 15, 2012; Columbia, MO, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly (10) is brought down by Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Michael Sam (52) during the second quarter at Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: Dak Dillon-USA TODAY SportsAfter Michael Sam announced that he is gay, the discussion about his draft stock began in earnest.

It's a complicated issue, not only because of Sam's groundbreaking announcement, but also because of his size.

He's 6'2" and 260 pounds, which is considered undersized for an NFL DE, and that could turn some teams off from the start.

There's nothing necessarily wrong with that. We've seen successful players who were undersized for their position in the past, but it's understandable if that's the reason teams don't want to take a chance on him, assuming there are players who better suit their needs and fit the size standards they have for their system, for whatever that's worth.

There will be other teams, however, who will drop him down (or off) their draft board simply because he's gay. Some will be due simply to homophobic GMs. Some might be concerned with the level of acceptance in the locker room. Others simply have a low tolerance for distractions, which is what some perceive Sam to be.

So which teams might actually take a chance on him?

ESPN took a look at each team around the league and evaluated their likelihood of drafting Michael Sam.

Note: They assess it based on need, not necessarily on the off-field factors that could determine a team's willingness to draft Sam.

Some interesting assessments:

On the Bills -- The Bills have a pair of established pass-rushers in Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes, but lack depth at defensive end. Sam, who is projected to be a mid- to late-round pick, would be an ideal role player. -- Mike Rodak

Steelers -- Sam has been projected to go anywhere from the third to fifth round of the NFL draft by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., and that is the area where the Steelers may look to bolster their pass rush. Sam was an extremely productive player in what is easily college football's toughest conference, something on which the Steelers place a premium. -- Scott Brown

Chargers -- Veteran edge-rushers Dwight Freeney, Thomas Keiser and Larry English's contracts expire at the end of the 2014 season, so the Chargers need to draft a developmental prospect. Sam was productive at Missouri rushing the passer, but he has to show that he can play in space as a 3-4 OLB. He's a possible mid-round selection for the Chargers. -- Eric D. Williams

Panthers -- The Panthers' interest in Sam could hinge on whether they find a way to keep free-agent defensive end Greg Hardy, a sixth-round pick four years ago. If the team's 2013 sack leader leaves, the Panthers will be looking for a mid-round pick to help fill his shoes. -- David Newton

Check out the ESPN article to view their take on the other teams around the NFL.
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