Should the Buffalo Bills taken a flyer on the most talked about 7th round draft pick ever? Obviously if the Bills had drafted Michael Sam they would have drafted more than just a football player. Fair or not, the discussion inside One Bills Drive and all front offices for that matter centered on whether their team could handle the distraction. If Michael Sam had been Khalil Mack I’m sure every team would have said yes, but since Sam is a not the same caliber of prospect the question is warranted. First let’s take a look and see if Sam would have been a fit for the Bills on the field.
Michael Sam was a Co-Defensive player of the SEC, the best conference in College Football. Unfortunately for Sam his measurables don’t fit what most pro teams are looking for. At 6’2, 261 lbs and running a 4.9 forty he is a little undersized to have his hand in the dirt be a 4-3 defensive end for 40 plus plays a game and his lack of fluidity and slow forty time limit his ability to be a 3-4 outside linebacker full time. The pros in his game are that he possesses a quick first step and that helped lead him to 10.5 sacks in the best conference in college football. For our purposes, let’s talk about how he would fit as a Buffalo Bill.
The Bills will be employing a 4-3 scheme under new Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Michael Sam would project to a defensive end, ideally he would play about 20 snaps a game, mostly in pass rushing situations. At first glance you might say defensive end isn’t a need for the Buffalo Bills being that they were 2nd in the NFL in sacks last year with 57. However, that was under DC Mike Pettine (now head coach of the Browns) and he employed a multiple, but mostly 3-4 scheme. A lot of pressure was generated by then 3-4 DE’s Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus with Alan Branch clogging up the middle. Under the 4-3 Williams and Dareus will still get there’s while rushing up the middle and Mario Williams (13 sacks last year) and Jerry Hughes (10 sacks last year) will be the starting ends. But there isn’t much depth there, Manny Lawson will convert from outside linebacker to defensive end and most likely play for Hughes on obvious running downs and the team signed a journeyman in Jairus Wynn in the offseason. Could the Bills have drafted Michael Sam to compete to be the 4th defensive end? Schematically it appears to make a lot of sense. Neither Mario Williams or Jerry Hughes bring much to the run defense and one of Michael Sam’s strengths is setting edge, he wouldn’t be asked to start if he couldn’t play in the situations where the Bills could use him best. One of Coach Schwartz’s staples has been his use of the “Wide 9” technique were the defensive ends spread out wide of the tackle giving them an optimal pass rushing advantage, well that would be perfect since Sam used this technique back at Missouri. Finally, any 7th rd pick is excepted to make their money on Special Teams, Sam actually does have ideal measurables to play on ST and has done so in college.
Now let’s look at the non football side. Michael Sam is a distraction, plain and simple. It’s not his fault, it’s nothing he can control but it doesn’t matter. Like Tim Tebow before him all sorts of non football groups and organizations are going to descend on the St. Louis Rams training camp now. Some teams enjoy this sort of attention (the Jets and Cowboys come to mind) however most head coaches would prefer to expose their team to as little of the outside world as possible. The Bills are in a very precarious situation right now, they have a young and upcoming roster however they have been thrust into a win now mode. The death of owner Ralph Wilson Jr. has brought on the pending sale of the team. As recent examples in Jacksonville, Cleveland and Miami have shown us, that is when a new owner comes aboard, as does a new coach and new general manager. Both GM Doug Whaley and HC Doug Marrone know they need to win, and win quickly. Thus they took the bold step of trading next year’s number 1 pick to get Sammy Watkins. The 2014 Buffalo Bills can afford no distractions and this I believe is the reason why they didn’t take a chance on Michael Sam. It has to be the reason, because from an X’s and O’s standpoint I can’t see how he wouldn’t help this team.