Few teams need an edge-rusher more than the Tennessee Titans. Titans enthusiasts tend to have strong awareness about draft prospects that come out of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). University of Missouri All-American defensive end / linebacker prospect Michael Sam attempts to become the NFL’s first openly gay player.
Does that have any impact on how you view him as a prospect? If you knew Sam would help Tennessee win games, would you stay away from him because of his sexual preference or the media circus that may accompany him?
Check out this sports marketing study from Emory Goizueta Business School (HERE). They conducted a Twitter analysis based on collecting tweets mentioning “Michael Sam.” All 31 NFL markets (New York has two teams in same exact market…Jets and Giants) were tested. Tweets were tested for positive, negative and neutral sentiment. No combine performances would’ve had any impact on these results because this study was conducted before the 2014 NFL Combine.
Six of the seven worst Twitter sentiments came from AFC markets. The only NFC market was Green Bay (third worst). Two of the six worst markets were AFC South teams. Jacksonville came in as sixth worst.
The other AFC South market was Nashville. It came in dead last.
There are a lot of questions surrounding Sam’s potential as an NFL prospect. He’s often seen as too small for a defensive lineman but not fast enough to play linebacker. Before Sam came out, he was viewed as a mid-round draft prospect. Now teams have to decide not only whether he can help them win games but whether he fits into their locker room environment. While unfair, teams like the Miami Dolphins could very well have trouble with the media baggage that Sam brings.
I’d like to think this decision strictly comes down to football—nothing more. General manager Ruston Webster and his staff / coaches will decide on whether Sam can provide the depth or even starting ability as a jack-rusher in Ray Horton‘s defense. Then they can decide what round he’s worth drafting in.
One note: In 2013, the Titans used a late third-round pick on Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden.