Nate Silver: Michael Sam Has 50-50 Chance in NFL Draft
Though some predict openly gay football player Michael Sam will most likely not be drafted into the National Football League, out statistician Nate Silver says the athlete has a 50-50 chance.
Silver outlines on his website, FiveThirtyEight, why he believes Sam has a 50-50 chance of getting drafted (the NFL draft starts May 8), saying the former Missouri defensive "is rated as a sixth-round pick on the Scouts Inc. draft board, which is available through ESPN Insider. That might seem to imply that he's likely to be drafted, because the NFL draft has seven rounds."
"But players projected to be chosen late in the draft are hard to differentiate from one another," Silver adds. "You can think of NFL prospects as representing the tail end of a bell curve. At the extreme end of the tail are a small number of potential franchise talents, such as Andrew Luck and Bo Jackson. The curve gets denser and denser with players the farther down the draft board you go, however. Players who are projected as sixth-round picks often fall out of the draft entirely."
Silver looked at what happened to projected sixth-round picks since 2005 who were defensive ends and outside linebackers, the two position Sam plays. He said he found there were 67 of those players between 2005 and 2013 and out of those, 37 of those players, or 55 percent, were not drafted and 24 others were drafted between the fifth and seventh rounds. Six, however, were picked in the fourth round or higher and only about 10 percent were chosen in the sixth round.
Silver concludes that even though he believes Sam's odds are 50-50, he would bet on the athlete getting drafted.
"A player only needs one team to draft him," he wrote. "A player like Sam who generates polarized opinions might have a better chance of being chosen in a late round by a team like the New England Patriots or the Seattle Seahawks than one who everyone agrees is mediocre."
Silver gives Sam better odds than others do. It was reported this week that some believe the athlete may not get drafted at all. According to a report by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, if drafted, Sam will be picked last in the draft.
"The reason you don’t hear much about Sam anymore a few days before the draft is this is the time for real players," McGinn writes. "Based on discussions over the last month about Sam’s capability as a player with about two dozen NFL executives in personnel, he’s regarded almost as a non-entity."
McGuinn polled 21 scouts and found that three scouts said they’d pick Sam in the fifth round, three said sixth round and three said seventh round. Five said they would sign him as a free agent while seven said they would not sign him as a free agent. Dan Hanzus, who also doesn’t have high hopes for Sam, wrote in on NFL.com the athlete’s problem has to do with size and speed.
Soon after Sam announced that he is gay, eight anonymous NFL officials told Sports Illustrated that they believe Sam would face obstacles during the NFL draft, blaming Sam’s coming out.
"I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet," an NFL player personnel assistant told SI. "In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room."