Rams take Sam near end of draft

Rams take Sam near end of draft

<p>Michael Sam's dream of becoming the first openly gay player to play in the NFL was made a reality by the St. Louis Rams, who selected the Missouri defensive end in the seventh round of the 2014 Draft.</p>

New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Michael Sam's dream of becoming the first openly gay player to play in the NFL was made a reality by the St. Louis Rams, who selected the Missouri defensive end in the seventh round of the 2014 Draft.

Sam, the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, was taken with the first of the Rams' two compensatory choices at No. 249 overall, seven spots before the final pick was made.

After publicly declaring his homosexuality shortly before the scouting combine took place in February, Sam became one of the most intriguing stories during the three-day event. Despite his impressive production with the Tigers, the 24-year-old was considered a likely final-day pick due to size and athletic limitations.

"Surprised he was there in the seventh round," Rams head coach Jeff Fisher remarked during a post-draft press conference. "When you look at the ability and the grade and our ability -- we were able to take advantage of the compensatory picks there -- that's a football player with ability that you just can't pass up.

Sam, who tallied 11 1/2 sacks and 19 tackles for loss during his senior year, will be attempting to compete for a reserve role on a Rams squad that's well-stocked along the defensive line. Fellow end Robert Quinn led the NFL with 19 sacks last season and St. Louis took Pittsburgh tackle Aaron Donald with the 13th overall pick on Thursday to team with fellow former first- round choices Chris Long and Michael Brockers.

Earlier on Saturday's final day, a pair of accomplished SEC quarterbacks were taken with back-to-back picks to highlight the fifth round.

The Kansas City Chiefs selected Georgia standout Aaron Murray with the 163rd overall choice, one slot before the Cincinnati Bengals took 2013 Heisman Trophy runner-up A.J. McCarron.

Murray finished his collegiate career as the SEC's all-time leader in passing yards (13,166) and touchdown throws (121), but likely fell to the third day due to a lack of preferred size for the position.

McCarron piloted Alabama to back-to-back BCS national championships in 2011 and 2012, then claimed the Maxwell and Unitas Awards this past season after throwing for a school-record 3,063 yards and 28 touchdowns. He went 36-4 as a starter for the Crimson Tide.

"When it's all said and done, [winning] is what quarterbacks do, and he's done that," said Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. "He's done it at a very high level and a very good college program. He has a lot going for him."

Two other signal-callers came off the board in the fourth round, with Arizona nabbing Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas with the 120th selection and the quarterback-needy Houston Texans choosing Pittsburgh's Tom Savage with their compensatory pick (No. 135).

Both players are noted for their size and arm strength. Thomas stands 6-foot-6 and set a record for velocity at the scouting combine, with the 6-foot-4 Savage also faring well in that category.

LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who saw his stock slip by a torn ACL and reports that he failed a drug test at the combine, lasted until the second pick of the sixth round (No. 178), taken by the Tennessee Titans. Near the end of the round, the New York Jets grabbed Clemson triggerman Tajh Boyd at No. 213.

The fourth round, which Philadelphia kicked off by snaring Florida defensive back Jaylen Watkins at No. 101 overall, also featured another Heisman finalist in Boston College running back Andre Williams, whom the New York Giants landed with the round's 13th pick.

Williams, the 2013 Doak Walker Award recipient, led the nation with 2,177 rushing yards during his senior campaign with the Eagles to place fourth in the Heisman race.

Watkins is the older brother of new Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who was plucked with the fourth overall pick of Thursday's first round following a draft-day trade with Cleveland.

The draft concluded with the Houston Texans bestowing the title of "Mr. Irrelevant" on Memphis safety Lonnie Ballentine by making him the 256th and final choice.

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