On Sunday night, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam announced that he's gay. Sam, who may end up playing outside linebacker in the NFL, is hoping to be drafted in May, and he could become the league's first active player who is openly gay.
Since Sam's announcement, numerous people have chimed in on what exactly this means for where he will be drafted. Based strictly on his play, Sam is expected to be a mid-round draft pick, but it remains to be seen if the fact that he is gay will alter how some teams evaluate him.
The Detroit Lions made it clear on Monday that they intend to evaluate Sam strictly based on "his ability to help the Lions win football games." Via Tim Twentyman, here is the full statement Lions president Tom Lewand released:
"As an organization and football team, the Detroit Lions place the highest priority on inclusiveness and diversity. We applaud Michael Sam for his courage and proactive approach, and we will evaluate him, like every player, based solely on his ability to help the Lions win football games."
That's the right approach, because the only thing that truly matters when it comes to evaluating Sam is if he will make the Lions better. His sexual orientation is irrelevant; from a football standpoint, what is relevant is that Sam was the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. Obviously this is a big deal from a cultural standpoint, but for the Lions, their evaluation of Sam will be based only on his skills as a football player.