Top 5 International Players in the NFL

The NFL is finally back! After months of anticipation, foreign fans of the American football league can rejoice in knowing that they’ll be able to stream and watch the sport’s biggest league. While many US online sportsbooks are projecting a rematch of the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in this year’s championship game, anything can happen in the NFL.

While the NFL is still predominantly American, there is a growing number of international players in the league. For us international viewers, keeping an eye on the players from beyond the borders of the US is always a fascinating element of the game.

In our opinion, these are the top 5 foreign-born players in the NFL this season. 

  1. Younghoe Koo, K, Atlanta Falcons  – South Korea

Kickers are people too, and Younghoe Koo is one of the best in the game today. Koo was originally brought to the NFL by the Los Angeles Chargers as an undrafted free agent before the 2017 season. After struggling early on in the season, he was unceremoniously released and replaced by veteran kicker Nick Novak

He followed this experience up with stints in the now-defunct AAF and a short-lived tenure on the New England Patriots practice squad. Here Koo blossomed into one of the league’s best kickers and was named to the 2020 Pro Bowl.

An underdog through and through, Koo accomplished all of this after immigrating to the US during childhood.

  1. Jordan Mailata, LT, Philadelphia Eagles – Australia

The development of Jordan Mailata has been one of the most fascinating storylines in the NFL the past few seasons. As a professional rugby player, the Samoan-Aussie giant’s highlights quickly caught the eye of NFL scouts. He was invited to try out for the league’s International Player Pathway Program and chose to play offensive tackle after seeing the movie The Blind Side.

He turned enough heads to be drafted by the Eagles in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft, becoming just the second player to be drafted with no high school or college playing experience. Against all odds, he hung around the team and was eventually called into action when injuries ravaged the Eagles’ offensive line in 2020. 

He played well enough last season to justify a competition for the starting left tackle spot with former first round pick, Andre Dillard. He beat out the more touted prospect and is set to protect Jalen Hurts’ blind side this season.

  1. Romeo Okwara, DE/OLB, Detroit Lions – Nigeria

Romeo Okwara has developed into one of the better edge rushers in the NFL. Okwara moved to the US from Lagos, Nigeria with his family as a 10-year-old. Okwara and his brother, Julian, quickly picked up a love for the game of American football.

Okwara was able to gain a scholarship to play for the University of Notre Dame’s prestigious football program but still failed to be drafted when his time at university was over. He caught on with the New York Giants but was cut after two seasons. The Detroit Lions signed Okwara as a project, and their initial investment has more than paid off. Last season, Okwara accumulated 10 sacks and was rewarded with a 3 year, $37 million contract extension.

His brother Julian was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2020, joining Romeo and completing the childhood dream of the two brothers.

  1. Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers – Canada

Nicknamed Mapletron, the Canadian Claypool turned heads as a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. Tallying up 62 receptions, 873 yards, and 11 total touchdowns, Claypool established himself as a favorite target of Ben Roethlisberger’s and young star on the rise.

Chase Claypool grew up in British Columbia, Canada, where he played American football and basketball in high school. His prowess as a pass-catcher caught the eyes of numerous American universities, and he eventually committed to Notre Dame.

Going into the 2021 season, Claypool will need to improve even more to power Pittsburgh past the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns in the AFC North, where many American football sportsbooks project them to finish third and potentially miss the playoffs.

  1. Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings – Jamaica

Danielle Hunter moved from Jamaica to Katy, Texas as an 8-year-old. He quickly picked up American football and worked his way up to be recruited by one of the top college football programs in the country, Louisiana State University. Since entering the league as a 3rd round pick out of LSU, Hunter has been making the lives of NFL quarterbacks extremely difficult. In his five NFL seasons, Hunter has tallied a total of 54.5 sacks.

Hunter was named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro squads in both 2018 and 2019 and was a crucial member of the Vikings’ dominant defensive force that powered their playoff runs during the 2017 and 2019 seasons. For his accomplishments, Hunter’s peers voted him the 40th best player in the NFL in 2020.

Hunter will be looking to bounce back from a missed season in 2020, where he was sidelined due to a herniated disc in his neck.

American Football International is your source for news and updates about American Football outside the United States!