NFL Draft 2022: Best international players to watch in historic Round 1

The NFL Draft typically features controversial picks, quarterback drama, and head-scratching trades. While we are on track for those three and more in 2022, we are also on track for a historic draft in terms of international players as we could see a record-breaking number of foreign-born players drafted this year, starting off with a long list of potential first-rounders:

International First Round Hopefuls:

David Ojabo DE Michigan 6’4″, 250 pounds:

Ojabo immigrated from Nigeria to Scotland as a child and quickly took over the Scottish sports scene playing basketball and running track. Fast forward five years and a high school exchange program and he’s a former All-American defensive end preparing for the NFL Draft.

Ojabo notched 11 sacks and five forced fumbles this past season in his first year as a starter. The junior has only played football for five seasons, picking up the game late in high school. That said, Ojabo has one of the highest upsides in this year’s Draft. His film shows a freak athlete with long arms and a quick first step, and his combine numbers backed that up with a 4.55 40-yard dash.

But there’s a catch…. Ojabo tore his Achilles on his Pro Day which will likely sideline him for the 2022 season. The quick-twitch pass rusher was seen as a top 12 pick before the injury, now we’ll see if he’s chosen at all on day one as a team will be investing long term in the former Scottish hoopster.

Read more about Ojabo here.

Bernhard Raimann OT Central Michigan 6’6″, 303 pounds:

Raimann is a product of the Vienna Vikings youth program in Austria. After playing receiver and tight end for one of Europe’s best programs, Raimann played high school football as an exchange student in Michigan and picked up an offer from the Chippewas. The tall Austrian began his NCAA career as a tight end before moving to offensive line in 2020. After only playing the position for one season he earned all conference honors.

Raimann took the momentum of his 2020 season into his senior year and underwent incredible improvement as an offensive lineman. Scouts love his technique, athleticism, and mean-streak as he graded out as one of the second-best linemen in the country according to PFF.

In a rare feat for any blocker, Raimann won Mid-American Conference, MAC, Player of the Year award and All-American honors this past season. He followed up his breakout season with a solid Senior Bowl performance and an impressive combine, recording a 5.12 40-yard dash and 30 reps of the bench press.

The former MAC Player of the Year is projected to be picked anywhere from 15-40 in the draft.

Read more about Raimann here.

George Karlaftis DE Purdue 6’4″, 275 pounds:

Karlaftis is coming off of an excellent junior season that earned him third team All American honors. A lethal bull rush and elite quickness helped the junior rack up 39 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2021. While the numbers may not wow you, Karlaftis was a disciplined player who made the Boilermakers defense better every time he was on the field.

Like many legendary athletes, Karlaftis was born in Athens, Greece. As a child he played basketball, soccer, and water polo. A natural athlete, he went on to play for the Greek national water polo team. At the age of 13 however, Karlafis moved to Indiana where he eagerly picked up football and became a top high school prospect. Now the Greek pass rusher hopes to become the first Purdue Boilermaker to be selected in the first round since Ryan Kerrigan in 2011.

Scouts have disagreed often on Karlaftis as some believe he is a first rounder, while others would wait until day two or even three to pick up the polarizing prospect. With that being said, the former Greek national water polo player could hear his name at toward the end of the Thursday night.

Read more about Karlaftis here.

These three prospects have a chance to make history tonight as they will be waiting for their names to be called. The three above represent an international draft class that features players from Australia, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Canada that will be picked up Friday or Saturday as the draft continues. These global dream chasers are paving a way for their countries football culture and are eager to represent their homeland at the games highest level.

Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football