Michael Sam struggles to prove he can play LB

Michael Sam struggles to prove he can play LB

Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis, IN, USA; Missouri Tigers Michael Sam runs through drills during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

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by BRENT SOBLESKI / USA TODAY Sports

KING5.com

Posted on February 25, 2014 at 8:09 AM

The NFL combine is a chance to impress teams. Players have an opportunity in front of them to perform at a high level and improve their status for the NFL draft. Not every prospect performs well — and some really struggle.

Unfortunately, the stock of three particular players may have dropped a round or more during Monday’s combine drills:

1. Michael Sam

The biggest obstacle for Sam isn’t his decision to announce he’s openly gay. It’s how he projects to the NFL. And he didn’t perform well in front of NFL decision-makers Monday.

Sam is an undersized 4-3 defensive end at 6-2 and 261 pounds, and he hadn’t shown the ability to play linebacker.

During his workout at the combine, he didn’t display the physical tools necessary to convert to linebacker in the NFL.

First of all, Sam isn’t very fast. He clocked a 4.91-second 40-yard dash. UCLA’s Anthony Barr and Buffalo’s Khalil Mack, who are considered the top 3-4 outside linebacker prospects, both ran 4.6-second 40-yard dashes. Sam’s time was among the worst of all defensive ends.

He also struggled in other events. His 17 repetitions on the bench press and 25.5-inch vertical jump were also well below average.

When Sam participated in drills to see if he could convert to linebacker, he lumbered around the field and simply did not look fluid enough to be a conversion prospect.

After a poor performance at the combine, Sam is likely considered late-round prospect by most teams.

2. Dee Ford

It’s unfair to knock a prospect when he’s not medically cleared to participate in drills. But it’s disappointing to not see him compete after publicly calling out South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney.

Ford stated he was better than Clowney. He also said Clowney plays like a “blind dog in a meat market, basically.”

Ford wasn’t able to prove he’s a better prospect when the two of them could have been on the field at the same time.

A bigger concern for Ford long-term is his health. Teams could medically flag Ford after the doctors at the combine wouldn’t allow him to participate due to a back injury he suffered during the 2011 season.

I feel fine,” Ford told NFL Network. “Everything is fine. It’s what they call a medical precaution that they wanted to go through, and they don’t want to risk anything here. So I had the medical exclusion. It’s very unfortunate. I’m very disappointed. I came to really compete in this combine but, you know, it’s all good. I’m still going to stay here and support my peers.”

And Ford, even though he wasn’t participating, didn’t back off his previous statement about Clowney when he was given the opportunity to do so Monday.

3. Will Sutton

While Sutton put together a solid performance through positions drills, he still hasn’t gained the explosion seen as a junior in college.

During the 2012 season Sutton led Arizona State with 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. His numbers dropped dramatically in 2013. Sutton finished with 13.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.

Part of the reason Sutton struggled as a senior was due to the fact he gained more than 20 pounds. Instead of playing near 290 pounds, he was playing at 315. And he wasn’t nearly as quick off the snap.

Sutton cut weight for the Combine, coming in at 303 pounds in Indianapolis, but it’s still not ideal.

Sutton still didn’t show the same burst off the snap seen more than a year ago. His 40-yard dash time was poor at 5.36 second. And his 10-yard split was average at 1.75 second.

If Sutton wants to be a productive player in the NFL, he needs to regain that quick-twitch ability to explode off the snap. And it will require better overall conditioning.

However, there are teams that don’t plan on letting him lose the weight.

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