NFL Draft Recap: Where did all the best international players end up?

After three days and 262 picks, the 2022 NFL Draft is finally over.

This year’s draft had one new wrinkle as it was filled with a historic number of international players. From first-rounders to undrafted free agents, the 2022 NFL Draft class was stacked with international talent eager to prove themselves at the game’s highest level.

Let’s see how draft day went for these global dream chasers:

George Karlaftis, DE Purdue, Greece (1st round, 30th pick) Kansas City Chiefs

The night’s lone international first-rounder joins Andy Reid and a stacked Chiefs team. Look for the Greek pass rusher to be an immediate contributor. Karlaftis moved to the US from Greece as a teenager and quickly fell in love with American football, eventually becoming an All Big-Ten defender for Purdue.

Arnold Kevin Ebiketie DE/LB Penn State, Cameroon (2nd round 38th pick) Atlanta Falcons

Another Penn State Nittany Lion who heard his name on draft day was Arnold Ebiketie. Born in YaoundeCameroon (the hometown of NBA star Joel Embiid), Ebiketie ended up playing high school football in the talent filled Maryland area, before eventually earning a scholarship to Temple University.

Ebiketie spent four seasons with the Owls before transferring to Penn State in 2021. In his first year in Happy Valley, he led the team with 18 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks on his way to first team All Big Ten honors. Scouts love his quick hands and variety of pass rush moves but question his overall athletic ability. Most observers had predicted Ebiketie would not go until the third or fourth round of the Draft.

John Metchie, WR Alabama, Canada (2nd round 44th pick) Houston Texas

Metchie joins the Texans rebuild in the middle of the second round. He was projected as a possible first-rounder back in November but he tore his ACL late in Alabama’s season, making his status for 2022 uncertain.

David Ojabo, DE Michigan, Nigeria/Scotland (2nd round, 45th pick) Baltimore Ravens

Once seen as a potential top ten pick, an unfortunate Achilles tear at his pro-day cost Ojabo the first-round status and a big payday. However, he didn’t have to wait long Friday night and now enters an ideal long term situation in Baltimore.

Bernhard Raimann, OT Michigan, Austria (3rd round, 77th pick) Indianapolis Colts

In one of the surprises of the draft, Raimann fell to the third round where he was quickly scooped up by the Colts. Raimann was seen by many draft analysts as a first-round talent, yet the Austrian wasn’t selected until the third round. He should fit in well with Indianapolis’s zone running scheme.

Daniel Faalele OT Minnesota, Australia, (4th round, 110th pick) Baltimore Ravens

The draft’s largest prospect at 6’9 380 pounds Faalele is hard to ignore. Faalele was a viral sensation in high school at IMG for his eye-popping size. That massive frame led to 31 starts in 34 games for the Minnesota Gophers. This past season, Faalele was named 1st Team All Big Ten.

The catch is that scouts worry about the big man’s ability to keep up with the NFL’s ultra-quick speed rushers. He fits well with Ravens power running scheme as he can use his size to move defenders in the run game.

Jesse Luketa LB Penn State, Canada (7th round, 256th pick) Arizona Cardinals

Canadian Jesse Luketa joins Metchie as a prospect from up north. The Ottawa, Ontario native earned third team All Big Ten honors last year making 61 tackles, one interception, and half a sack as linebacker and defensive end for the Penn State Nittany Lions. Luketa was projected by many experts as a day two pick so his fall to the seventh round came as a surprise.

Bamidele Olaseni OT, Utah, United Kingdom (Undrafted Free Agent) Las Vegas Raiders

At 6’8 340 pounds Olaseni is a massive lineman with good upside. The London native had the longest wingspan in the draft at nearly 90 inches. The knock on Olaseni is his age – 26 – and his limited production as a one-year starter.

Olaseni started every game for the Utes this season as they went to the Rose Bowl. The massive Englishman was a Juco All-American before playing for Utah. He started playing football in the United Kingdom for the London Blitz. He now goes to Las Vegas and will have a chance to earn a spot on an up and coming team.

Luiji Vilain DE Wake Forest, Canada (Undrafted Free Agent) Minnesota Vikings

Another international edge defender who was expected to be picked up on day two but who went undrafted is Canadian Luiji Vilian. Villain played one season at Wake Forest last year after spending most of his career with the Michigan Wolverines. Villain put up good numbers in 2021, notching 34 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, and eight sacks. Yet it was really his only year of production.

Daniel Whelan P, UC Davis, Ireland (Undrafted Free Agent) New Orleans Saints

In 151 punt attempts Whelan made a total of 6,523 yards with a long of 67. Averaging 43 yards per punt and only 7 touchbacks, he had 42 punts of 50 yards plus. Whelan also doubled up as a kickoff specialist. In 2021 he was named to the FCS All America team. Whelan now becomes the first Irish player in the NFL in 37 years.  Read more here:

Jordan Genmark Heath LB UCLA, Sweden (Free Agent)

A converted safety to linebacker spent four seasons at Note Dame before coming to UCLA. The Swedish linebacker had an excellent season for the Bruins in 2021 notching 55 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and one interception.

Heath fits the mold of the NFL’s new age linebacker well but he has to yet be picked up. Read more here

Marcel Dabo DB Stuttgart Surge, Germany (NFL IPP Allocation Team TBD)

Dabo, part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program, ran a 4.42 40-yard dash, jumped a 40.5 inch vertical, and benched 21 reps at 225 putting himself on draft boards across the league. The raw 21-year-old has all the tools to become an impact NFL player.

In 2021, he was the European League of Football’s rookie of the year. Dabo is highly likely to be selected as one of the NFL’s IPP players and allocated to an NFL team soon. Read more here.

Thomas Odukya TE Eastern Michigan, Netherlands (NFL IPP Allocation Team TBD)

The Almere, Netherlands native was a tight end and a team captain for EMU in 2021. His physical playing style and excellent blocking made him a pre-season Mackey (best TE) Award nominee. Yet, his limited receiving production of 13 catches for 130 yards and two scores might make it hard for him to break into the NFL.

Odukoya is also very likely to be selected as one of the NFL’s IPP players and be allocated to an NFL team soon after the draft. Odukoya could also be a promising longer-term project if converted to OL.  Read more here

International Player Pathway Prospects:

Thirteen players are part of this year’s class, including Dabo and Odukoya. Three players in this year’s group have already signed NFL contracts, as Nigerian offensive linemen Haggai Chisom Ndubisi and Chigbo Roy Mbaeteka signed as free agents with the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants respectively prior to the Draft.

Two to four more players in this group will be allocated to NFL teams following the Draft. Brits Ayo Oyelola and Adedayo Odeleye along with Austrian Leonel Misgumkini are back for second time in the program hoping to get picked up this time around. Other prospects that have impressed so far are Mexico’s Hector ZepadaRalf Rusins of Latvia, and France’s Souleymane Karamoko. TE Thomas Odukoya and DB Marcel Dabo look to be two favorites for allocation onto NFL teams.  Read about the full list here.

All if you are looking for the latest NFL odds, look no further than Betway.

Global fans are excited for the massive influx of international talent ready to hit the field this season. Expect next year’s draft to continue the trend of talent from abroad as the game continues to grow around the world.

 

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