European influence

We’re a little under 50 days from the NFL’s 2013 Annual Selection Meeting, or the Draft to you, and Dave Holmes brings an alternative preview to the 2013 Draft, starting with the non-Americans…

As the NFL’s popularity continues to grow on these shores & across the continent, they’ve been gifted a bumper class of prospects from this side of the pond that should only generate further interest. Oh, and I’m not talking kickers, 7th round roster fodder or those who returned to the States whilst still in nappies either. No, Sir.

It’s only fair to begin with the pick of the bunch, Germany’s Bjoern Werner. Looking to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Sebastian Vollmer (a lot of German Pats fans at Wembley I recall) he’s a promising defensive end and has a shot at being the highest ever drafted European. Having played in College at Florida State after originally picking up football during a student exchange programme in Connecticut, he had at times been pegged as high as #2 overall however now finds his stock starting to slide a little. Questions have been raised about his motor on a down by down basis, and he has naturally been compared alongside Seminole teammate & fellow draft prospect Cornelius Carradine. Arguably the most naturally talented Defensive End in the class, ‘Tank’ has been seen to draw protection away from Werner thus allowing him to stand out to a greater degree. Alas, Carradine tore knee ligaments late in the season & will drop down boards as a result, but don’t let that detract from the fact that Werner is a very good player in his own right and could still be amongst the top 15-20 players taken.

Sticking with the D-Line, I’ve developed something of an unhealthy obsession with SMU’s Margus Hunt. A 6ft8 300lb beast of a human being, he was one of Estonia’s best junior athletes and went to the States to pursue a career in the shot put, only to find the SMU track team disband shortly after his arrival. The Olympics loss is the NFL’s gain, as he walked on to the football team and began his ascent up draft boards culminating in an MVP performance in the Hawaii Bowl. His massive size coupled with freakish athleticism could see him fit as at either defensive tackle or as a 3-4 end. Indeed early comparisons have been drawn to one-man wrecking crew J.J. Watt in terms of their physical attributes, and he will certainly have his name called by the end of Day 2. I cannot wait for the 2018 International Series in Tallinn after his 2nd consecutive DPOY, who’s with me?

And so, to the boys from Blighty. Teammate of Werner at Florida State was offensive tackle Menelik Watson, originally of my hometown Manchester. His story is particularly interesting, originally a promising basketball player he escaped a tough upbringing in the UK to play hoops on the Canary Islands. A move to the States soon followed, but as that particular dream faded he took up football at the JUCO level alongside fellow OT and 2013 draft prospect Kyle Long (more on him at a later date). Setting aside what a terrifying prospect that must have been for opposing defenders; Watson eventually gained a chance to showcase his talents at the top level with FSU and should be a solid day 2 pick. The former Burnage High School student grew up only a few miles from my good self, so I’m certainly rooting for the guy.

Finally, Crawley’s Tom Wort has had a productive career at linebacker for one of College Football’s top programmes in Oklahoma. His positional value may mean he isn’t a flashy pick & that he hangs around until the mid to late rounds, but whoever ends up drafting him is getting a tough, hard working football player.

TV & Podcast regular Neil Reynolds joked on Twitter that the Wembley bound Jaguars could look to each of these players with their top 4 picks as they seek to establish a European fan base. Whilst that’s unlikely for many reasons, especially given the Jags even turned down the PR frenzy that is hometown hero Tim Tebow, such a talented group of European players can only be a good thing for the NFL in our time zones as even more ‘mainstream’ media sources seek to tap into these prospect’s stories and the leagues ever growing popularity.

One thought on “European influence

  1. The journey of Menelik Watson and the pride that the UK can take in his magnificant rise as a symbol of what is possible should be a symbol of pride for all.

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