To say Michael Sam’s combine has been one he’d like to forget has been an understatement. On Sunday, he lifted just 17 reps, third-worst among defensive lineman. Although, that provided ammunition for scouts who did not believe has the size or strength to be a full-time starter at linebacker, it’s not the end of the world.
He struggled during his transition to 3-4 outside linebacker at the Senior Bowl last month, teams interesting in him rushing the passer from that spot had concerns about his ability to play in coverages. At the combine he flashed stiff hips and stumbled during the linebacker conversion drill. 3-4 defensive ends are usually collegiate defensive ends who have the speed to stand up at the pro level, however, his pass coverage skills are rudimentary at best and after he ran his 40 today, Sam's stock will likely drop.
His pass rushing technique also isn’t very advanced if you listen to scouts and he benefitted from playing across from a possible first rounder in college who attracted double teams. Like Manti Te’o getting against thrown around by ‘Bama last year, he also routinely was burned on zone reads.
Here’s the positive for Sam. Before we start shaking our heads in shame like John Harbaugh watching Te’o labor towards the finish line, let’s keep this in perspective.
Last year, Te’o ran a 4.82 at the combine after his catfishing incident and had a stellar rookie season. Sam is presumably, a fifth round prospect at this point.
This 40 time probably puts an end to any talk of Sam playing standing up in a 3-4 capacity, but in the 4-3, he still could be a situational edge rusher at defensive end.Elvis Dumervil is one of the NFL's premier pass rushers, but the Louisville defensive end dropped to the fourth round because of his diminutive size. Te’o experienced the same media scrum surrounding his performance, but the player Sam’s often compared to is Philadelphia’s undersized Trent Cole.
Cole ran a 4.7 40, but he was also 30 pounds lighter than Sam's 266-pound frame. Cole recorded a dismal 15 reps on the bench and has been a Pro Bowler on multiple occasions in his career. Sam’s teammate teammate Kony Ealy ran a 4.92.
He lacks the same physical advantages that have the Texans considering drafting Jadeveon Clowney firts overall, but unlike Clowney, there are no red flags about his motor or his mental fortitude. Unfortunately, the questions wll now persist more fervently than ever about when or if he'll be drafted.