International Players to watch this 2023 NFL Preseason

The NFL is finally back as preseason football is officially underway once again this weekend. This year dozens of players with international roots will take the field for their respective NFL teams this season with some having bigger roles than others.

Fans from around the world will be cheering for their homegrown gridiron heroes, from 2 am toasts in Australia, to surfing the web for NFL betting sites in Canada, these international players whether starters or reserves are playing a crucial role in the growth of the game.

Many international players enter the 2023 preseason with little to prove as established veterans on their teams. Impact players such as Jordan Mailata, George Karlaftis, Efe Obada, Yunghoe Koo, or Jermaine Eluemunor will use the preseason to tune up their games as their teams will be relying on them for all 17 games.

For this article, we’ll be taking a look at the international players with something to prove this preseason as they hope to make the most of the league’s three exhibition games to build momentum into the regular season

David Ojabo – Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens might have picked up the steal of the 2022 NFL draft as they scooped up the Big Ten’s top pass rusher from the year prior. The catch was Ojabo tore his Achillies at his pro day that spring, meaning he will finally be making his NFL debut this pre-season. The former Scottish track and basketball star will have a lot of eyes on him this pre-season as he hopes to show the skills that once had him rated as one of the top edge defenders in the 2022 draft.

Habbakuk Baldonado – New York Giants

The Giants said goodbye to Austrian running back Sandro Platzummer, but said hello to Italian defensive end Habbakuk Baldonado. Baldonado was a highly sought-after undrafted free agent who came to New York after a long and productive career at the University of Pittsburgh. Baldonado will certainly be a player to watch as he will likely need a strong pre-season to secure a roster spot.

Isaac Alarcon – Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys bring back practice squad veteran Isaac Alacon out of Mexico as he looks to make the roster after three seasons of the Cowboys practice squad. This could be a make or break year for the former Mexican college football standout as he is going into his final year of the NFL IPP contract, meaning he will no longer have a practice squad exception for the 2023 season. According to the Cowboys website, Alacon has made the move from offensive line to defensive line as the 6’7 320 25-year-old hopes to wear a star on his helmet this fall.

Killian Zierer – Houston Texans

The 6’7″, 312-pound native of Munich, Germany finished a three-year career at Auburn University (NCAA Div. I, SEC) which saw him start every game of his senior season at left tackle. Zierer as an undrafted free agent needs a great pre-season this year if he wants to stick around in the NFL.

Daniel Faalele – Baltimore Ravens

The behemoth offensive lineman played in all 16 games for the Ravens last season, making one start. The 6’8 380 pound blocker now hopes to make the jump into the Ravens starting lineup this pre-season. The Baltimore line features veteran tackles Ronnie Stanley and Morgan Moses so it could be difficult for Faalele to slide into the starting role there.

Sammis Reyes – Jacksonville Jaguars

The former Chilean national team power forward blew scouts away at the 2021 NFL IPP combine earning a contract from the Washington Commanders on the spot. Reyes immediately made an impact for Washington that season playing in 11 games and making 2 special teams tackles. However, the following season in 2022, Reyes suffered an injury and training camp and was released. Later that year in October, Reyes was signed by the Chicago Bears where he spent the rest of the season in the practice squad. Now the 27-year-old is on his third team in as many years vying for a roster spot in Duval.

Ali Gaye – Houston Texans

Gaye began his journey with junior college stints at Arizona Western and Garden City in Kansas before playing at LSU. His family moved from Ghana to the US when he was a child in search of better healthcare. Now the former LSU Tiger faces an uphill battle to make the Texans as an undrafted free agent.

Bernhard Raimann – Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are hoping Raimann can make a jump in 2023 as the Austrian had a up and down rookie season in 2023. Raimann started 11 games for the Colts, after some rocky outings at the beginning of the season, Raimann improved mightily down the stretch earning  a Pro Football Focus pass blocking grade of 76.5, which ranked 21st among 81 tackles with at least 100 pass blocking snaps in the final eight games of the season.  Colts fans will have their eye on Raimann this pre-season as they are hoping he can become a cornerstone on the Indy offensive line.

Nigerian Newcomers

Last year the buzz of the NFL IPP program was the influx of African talent joining the program. After several camps in Africa and the NFL International combine in London, six African players joined the NFL through the program this year, four with no formal football experience. Defensive lineman Basil Okoye of the LA Chargers, David Ebuka Agoha of the Las Vegas Raiders, and Kenneth Odumegwu of the Green Bay Packers hope to get some reps this pre-season as they play 11-11 for the first time at the highest level. On the offensive side of the ball, 6’5 offensive tackle ChukwuebukaJasonGodrick hopes to learn the art of pass pro this preseason with the reigning super bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.


Other NFL IPP Alumni:


Several NFL International Pathway Players are going into the pre-season with eyes wide open. However, tight end Bernhard Seikovits of the Arizona Cardinals, offensive lineman Max Pircher of the Detroit Lions, and offensive lineman Alfredo Guiterez of the 49ers enter their third preseason with their respective teams, hoping to make the jump from the practice squad to game day players.


Defensive back Marcel Dabo of the Colts, defensive end Adedayo Odeleye of Texans, tight end Thomas Odukya of the Titans, Bears tackle Roy Mbaeteka, Broncos lineman Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi, and Jacksonville safety Ayo Oyelola all go into their second NFL preseason. Last pre-season fans saw all five of these global talents take the field making impactful plays as rookies.


Besides the Nigerian players above, the only other Rookie NFL IPP player this season is Frenchman Junior Aho of the Minnesota Vikings. Aho could be the most ready of this year’s class as he played four seasons of college football at SMU registering regular playing time and notching five career sacks. Look for him to get plenty of snaps for the Vikings this pre-season.

Alex is a former NCAA and semi-pro American football player who is now located in London, where he works in digital marketing. His goal in writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and