Scott Frantz is about to enter the NFL and join a very small list of out gay men in the history big-time pro sports. Yet exactly what his journey will look like, where it will take him, and how long it will last, no one can predict today.
The now-former Kansas State Wildcats offensive tackle came out publicly as gay in 2017 and rocked the college-football landscape. Here was a starter... at a big-time program... coming out as gay... in the middle of Kansas. His coach was 78. It was, if you believe some fear-mongers in both sports and the LGBTQ community, a recipe for disaster.
Instead, his team and his coach — the legendary Bill Snyder — embraced Frantz for all of who he was, as we have seen time and time again with gay athletes in college sports. Together the Wildcats went about their business. The team was a combined 21-17 with two bowl appearances after Frantz came out. In 2019 they were picked to finish ninth of 10 teams in the conference; They finished fourth.
Now Frantz is poised to be selected in the NFL Draft later this spring as only the second publicly out gay athlete to be drafted, and he has a real chance to be the first out gay athlete on an NFL regular-season roster this fall.
What are people saying about Frantz’s chances of being drafted?
Predicting whether or not a player like Frantz will be drafted in one of the seven rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft is incredibly difficult. All it takes is one team to want him. Given some early projections we can start to take a guess.
“As a prospect, he’s a Day Three player, so the fourth round or later,” SB Nation’s NFL Draft expert Dan Kadar told Outsports. “He has a strong upper body, which he uses to control defenders at the line of scrimmage. When he’s playing with good leverage, he can use that strength to jerk opponents around and either open a hole or open up the edge.”
Walter Cherepinsky, another NFL Draft analyst, says Frantz is the No. 34 OT prospect in the Draft, and he predicts he’ll get picked in the sixth round or later, if at all. (Some of the players in front of Frantz, as listed by Cherepinsky, are not seniors and will be returning to college next year.)
Dan Schmelzer of NFLMocks, picked Frantz to go in the sixth round to the Miami Dolphins, predicting he could make a transition to guard in the NFL. “Frantz gets off of the ball quickly and shows extremely strong hands. He is a smart and experienced player who could be a real value selection late in the 2020 NFL Draft.”
All of these people consider him a “Day Three player,” which certainly doesn’t guarantee he’ll be drafted. And even if he is, players drafted in the fourth to seventh rounds of the NFL Draft have no clear path to an NFL regular-season roster.
Michael Sam was drafted late in the seventh round and never played a regular-season down in the league. Of course there are many other athletes — notably Terrell Davis and Tom Brady — who were drafted in the late rounds and are or will be in the Hall Of Fame.
Ryan O’Callaghan, the offensive tackle who came out publicly after he retired, was drafted by the New England Patriots in the fifth round and spent six seasons in the league before retiring due to injury.
The point: The future, including the draft stock, for athletes like Frantz isn’t clear. It depends on individual teams’ depth charts, playbooks, coaching preferences, preseason performance and a host of other issues.
Will Frantz being gay affect him in the NFL Draft?
People will naturally look at the drafting of Michael Sam — despite the obvious differences between the two players — for comparison. I have written at length about how Sam’s draft position (seventh round, #247 overall) was likely affected by his coming out. Yet a couple of things jump out as different between the two.
First, Sam was in the 2014 NFL Draft. That was six years ago. Times have changed. The percentage of Americans supporting same-sex marriage has gone from 66% to 73% last year, according to Gallup. While a shift of only seven percent, that is still a dramatically significant change. Even in Texas — home of the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans — nearly two-thirds of the people there oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Gay Americans face a substantially more accepting world in 2020 than they did in 2014.
Second, and maybe more importantly, Sam came out publicly a few months before the NFL Draft. With Frantz coming out publicly in the summer of 2017, he has had three full NCAA seasons playing on the line of a Big 12 team as an out gay man. In addition, he’s done it in the middle of a Red State — Kansas — where Mitt Romney and Donald Trump each won the state by over 20 points. He’s shown... whom he loves doesn’t matter to even the most conservative fanbase.
Third, frankly, Michael Sam blazed a trail. He showed that a gay athlete could be accepted by teammates and a coaching staff. The Rams’ fanbase showed that people in the Bible Belt could cheer for an out gay athlete.
Still, Kadar is concerned some old-school NFL front-office executives and scouts may still be stuck in the 1990s.
“Unfortunately, there are still plenty of evaluators and front office members who aren’t as accepting,” Kadar said. “It’s impossible to say definitively whether his sexuality will negatively impact where he is drafted. As they say, it only takes one team. But the sad truth is that some teams might shy away from him because he is gay. But hopefully, and quickly, it should not matter.”
While various teams — including the Minnesota Vikings, New York Giants, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins — have put forward powerful LGBTQ-inclusive efforts over the last few years, no doubt there is some old-school thinking in various corners of the league’s teams.
But for every scout who might ding Frantz for being gay, there’s the San Francisco 49ers who have offered same-sex partner benefits to employees for 20 years and hired an out gay coach in Katie Sowers.
People do carry their own prejudices. Some NFL front-office executives believe their team leadership is so weak it cannot quickly move past the sexual orientation of a very good gay athlete. But those voices are fading, and the world has changed dramatically since the drafting of Sam almost six years ago.
So what are the NFL Draft prospects of Scott Frantz?
The NFL Draft is an enigma. It’s a blend of science, art and “magic,” the cracking of which remains a multi-million-dollar industry.
Frantz is no different. His NFL prospects are, at this moment, being weighed by 32 NFL teams.
What do we know?
Frantz has an agent, Brett Tessler, based out of Florida. Tessler represents active NFL players, including San Francisco 49ers running back and special-teams expert Raheem Mostert, as well as Tennessee Titans placekicker Greg Joseph.
Frantz also just finished participating in the College Gridiron Showcase in Fort Worth, Texas. Tessler told Outsports “teams are already showing a good amount of interest” from Frantz’s performance at the Showcase.
He is also currently scheduled to participate in the Hula Bowl, an annual all-star game featuring some of the top NFL prospects, this year being hosted on Jan. 26.
These are great signs. An agent has invested his time in him. NFL teams are interested. He’s got a legit shot.
“He has a strong upper body,” Kadar said, “which he uses to control defenders at the line of scrimmage. When he’s playing with good leverage, he can use that strength to jerk opponents around and either open a hole or open up the edge.”
Here’s the rub. Over the last five NFL Drafts, as many as 26, but as few as 16, offensive tackles have been selected in the draft (the average has been 21). Depending on whom you ask, Frantz is in that range or just outside of it.
Ultimately we’ll put Frantz’s chances of being drafted at about 70%. So much of the later rounds of the draft are random — the personal preferences of a couple people at the teams still looking for an offensive lineman that late in the Draft. It’s literally impossible to accurately predict.
What happens if Frantz doesn’t get drafted?
Teams pick up tons of players who don’t get drafted — over 200 every year. These players get invited to the team’s training camp and could end up on the regular-season roster, the team’s practice squad, or left behind.
After Sam failed to make a regular-season roster at the end of his lone NFL training camp with the St. Louis Rams, he was picked up by the Cowboys and put on their practice squad. He never made it onto the field during a game.
In 2019 there were 67 offensive guards and tackles who were signed by a team as a free agent following the Draft. And there’s some benefit in not being drafted in the sixth or seventh round. Undrafted, a player gets to choose which of the teams that want to sign him he’ll go to, weighing the city, the fit of the coaching staff, roster opportunities, etc....
While every player wants the affirmation of being drafted, there isn’t much benefit to it if he’s going to be drafted late.
So if Frantz isn’t drafted, it’s likely he would be picked up by a team as a free agent and would, in all likelihood, at the very least play in the 2020 NFL Preseason as he aims to earn a roster spot for the season.
We’ll give Frantz a 99.5% chance of being signed by an NFL team by late May, whether he’s drafted or not. Given his college career and obvious interest from NFL scouts, how he’s handled himself, the long-term acceptance he’s seen from teammates and two head coaches, along with a host of other dynamics working in his favor, it’s hard to fathom a situation where at least one team doesn’t sign him after the Draft.
Outsports will be following Frantz’s NFL journey every step of the way.