2014 NFL Draft
Early projections had Sam as a third- or fourth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. However, his performance in the NFL Scouting Combine in February 2014 was seen as disappointing, which lowered expectations on whether or not he would be taken in the draft. He was seen as too small to play defensive end and too slow to play outside linebacker. He showed improvement at a public workout a month later, but his pre-draft rankings ranged from 12th to 25th among defensive ends. At the 2013 draft, 33 defensive ends were selected overall, with 23 taken in the final four rounds.
St. Louis Rams
Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round, with the 249th overall selection, of the 2014 draft. He became the first publicly gay player to be drafted into the NFL. In a statement, President Barack Obama said that he "congratulates Michael Sam, the Rams and the NFL for taking an important step forward today in our Nation's journey" and that "[f]rom the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove everyday that you should be judged by what you do and not who you are."
In the aftermath of his draft selection, St. Louis Rams jerseys bearing his name became the second best selling rookie jerseys at the NFL's website. Sam's jersey was more popular than all of the top-round choices except for Cleveland quarterback (and Heisman Trophy winner) Johnny Manziel. On July 16, Michael Sam won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2014 ESPYS.
We are talking about a 7th round pick who according the draft experts does not fit in as your standard linebacker or defensive end. Even without being gay he would be a gamble, which he was as indicated by the 7th round pick. So you have a very late round pick that will bring a media circus with him to training camp and into the regular season if Sams makes the Rams roster.
I can understand how a contending team may not want any distractions that may lead to a loss and hence missing the playoffs. The NFL draft is all about talent, the needs of the team, projected development, and more. It would be very hard if not impossible to prove discrimination base on Sams overall assessment and whether any particular team really needed him to fill a void.
As for Vick and Lewis, they already played years in the NFL, so this is comparing apples to oranges. Personally, if I were a NFL GM, I would have drafted him based on what he showed in college. The 7th rounds seems about right, now it is up to Sams personally and the St. Louis Rams to see if he can make that team.