Statistician Nate Silver has crunched the numbers whether Michael Sam will be among the 256 men chosen in this year’s NFL draft.
His prediction on the chances for the openly gay former Missouri defensive end? About 50-50.
Sam, the 2013 SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, 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. 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.
I looked at what happened to projected sixth-round picks since 2005, as according to the Scouts Inc. draft board. Specifically, I looked at defensive ends and outside linebackers, the two positions that Sam might play in the NFL. (That some scouts regard Sam as a “tweener” is one reason he may not be drafted highly.)
There were 67 such players between 2005 and 2013. Of those, 37 players — 55 percent — were not drafted. Twenty-four others were drafted between the fifth and seventh rounds, while six were chosen in the fourth round or higher. Only about 10 percent were chosen in the sixth round exactly.
All in all, Silver says that although Sam’s chances of being drafted are only about 50-50, Silver would still take his side of the bet.
A player only needs one team to draft him. 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.