After months of debate and mock selections, the 2018 NFL draft is just days away, and several players with African connections, predominantly Nigerian, are set to hear their names called out.
For those who may follow the NFL closely but College football a little less so, here are the African players most likely to be drafted during the three day event at AT&T stadium in Arlington, Texas this weekend.
Derrick Nnadi - Defensive Tackle - Florida State University (Nigeria)
A talented track and field athlete in his younger days, Nnadi was a productive nose tackle in Tallahassee for Florida State, and it won't be a surprise if he sees significant on-field snaps this upcoming season with the team that drafts him.
Why Nnadi traded in a track singlet for a football helmet
FSU defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi opens up about his journey from the track to the football field and the blow to his pride he was forced to take along the way.
Nnadi did not have a particularly good showing at the NFL Combine, but his college productivity, combined with his propensity for getting into the backfield at the nose tackle position, and his ability to shore up a run defense, make him an attractive selection.
Uchenna Nwosu - Outside Linebacker - University of Southern California (Nigeria)
Nwosu is a very athletic edge rusher who came into his own during his final two seasons at USC. The Carson, California-born Nigerian finished his senior season with 9.5 sacks and 75 tackles.
After putting up good test numbers at the NFL Combine, Nwosu is projected to be selected on day two of the draft, going anywhere from the second to the fourth round.
USC defense comes up with drive-ending sack
On third down the USC defense brings pressure and Uchenna Nwosu takes down J.T. Barrett to end the Buckeye's drive.
Chukwuma Okorafor - Offensive Tackle - Western Michigan (Botswana)
Eight years after moving to the United States, by way of Botswana, and being talked into joining his High School team, the NFL is calling for Okorafor. The big kid, who played soccer initially before becoming a high school punter and then a tackle, ended up at Western Michigan University, where he thrived.
Initially a right tackle before switching to left tackle during his last two seasons at the school, Okorafor's versatility will give him opportunities in the NFL. His accolades in college, plus his size and potential to succeed on the NFL stage, have him projected to be selected on the second day of the draft, ideally by a team willing to provide time for him to learn the intricacies of the position at the NFL level.
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo - Outside Linebacker - Oklahoma (Nigeria)
OU's Okoronkwo has come a long way since his freshman year
Oklahoma's Obo Okoronkwo and coach Lincoln Riley reflect on Okoronkwo's path to becoming one of the best DE/LB in college football.
The co-Big 12 Defensive player of the year in 2017, Okoronkwo grew up in Houston as the child of Nigerian immigrants and only picked up the game as a sophomore, before ending up at the University of Oklahoma.
The edge rusher had 76 tackles and eight sacks in his senior year, and put up solid numbers at the NFL combine. Okoronkwo will most likely hear his name called on day two of the draft in either the third or fourth round.
Godwin Igwebuike - Safety - Northwestern (Nigeria)
The former high school running back ended up playing defensive back in college and it turned out to be a good decision. Igwebuike became a leader at the safety position for the Northwestern Wildcats during his college career and is now in position to play on Sundays.
Igwebuike, nephew of Donald Igwebuike, one of the first Africans to play in the NFL, led his team with 108 tackles during his junior season and 78 tackles his senior season, while showing himself to be capable of playing the strong safety position at a high level.
Igwebuike is a quick learner and is likely to impress on special teams by stopping the run on defense. The Ohio product is likely to hear his name called on day two, selected anywhere from the third to the fifth round.
Duke Ejiofor - Defensive End - Wake Forest (Nigeria)
Another in the group of African edge rushers projected to be drafted in Texas, Ejiofor developed his game each year at Wake Forest and the results were obvious in 2017. His 50 tackles and 10.5 sacks his junior year were enough to keep the defensive end on the mind of NFL scouts, despite his inability to participate at the NFL Combine (due to shoulder surgery after the season).
Folorunso Fatukasi - Defensive Tackle - Connecticut (Nigeria)
The UConn defensive tackle is enticing to NFL teams because he has the size and versatility to play multiple positions on the defensive line. Likely to be selected anywhere from the third to the fifth round, Fatukasi was a standout at UConn and had a good Combine effort, and has the potential to become a quality NFL starter within a couple of seasons with the right team.
Isaac Yiadom - Cornerback - Boston College (Ghana)
Yiadom is the son of Ghanaian immigrants and grew up in Massachusetts. Staying in the New England area after high school, Yiadom starred at cornerback for Boston College and impressed NFL scouts with his coverage ability over the past two years.
With his ability to excel at special teams and provide capable play in both zone and man coverage, Yiadom is attractive to teams needing to shore up in defense. He will likely be selected in the fourth or fifth round of the draft.
BC forces first turnover of the game
Isaac Yiadom picks off Josh Jackson and returns it 9 yards to Virginia Tech's 25-yard line.
Ade Aruna - Defensive End - Tulane (Nigeria)
Born and raised in Nigeria, Aruna moved to the United States for high school to pursue a basketball career. After being convinced to give (American) football a try during his senior year in high school, Aruna impressed enough to be offered a scholarship to Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
After gaining knowledge of the game during his first couple of years at Tulane, Aruna blossomed as a Sophomore and Junior and is now in the draft mix. He is still a raw prospect and will need more refinement, but his measurables and excellent Combine scores have him projected to be drafted in the fifth to seventh round.
Jason Cabinda - Inside Linebacker - Penn State (Cameroon)
Cabinda, whose mother is from Cameroon, was an absolute beast on defense for the Penn State Nittany Lions during his time at Happy Valley. Another former high school running back-turned-defensive player, he led his team with 88 tackles in 2017 and made the All-Big Ten second team as well.
Projected to go on day three as a 6th or 7th round pick, Cabinda will find the odds stacked against him to make a team at his preferred middle linebacker role. But with the right team focused on his tenacity and tackling ability on special teams, Cabinda might follow Detroit Lions' Steve Longa as the next Cameroonian linebacker to find a home in the NFL.
Jester Weah - Wide Receiver - Pittsburgh (Liberia)
Pitt's Pickett finds Weah for big play
Kenny Pickett takes a hit as he completes a big 29-yard pass to Jester Weah on third down for the Panthers.
The nephew of current Liberian president and African soccer legend George Weah, Jester began playing the game in high school in Wisconsin, while also running track and playing basketball.
The big receiver has great catching ability and shone well at the NFL combine. Projected to be picked in the 6th or 7th round, Weah will probably require a couple of seasons to impress coaches enough for an opportunity on offense instead of special teams.
Afolabi Laguda - Safety - Colorado (Nigeria)
One of three brothers who all ended up playing division one football, Laguda was a star on special teams and at safety for the Buffaloes. A productive tackler, Laguda will do enough on special teams to make an impression, and from there it will be up to him to show his ability at the safety position and earn his playing time.
Joshua Kalu - Safety - Nebraska (Nigeria)
Another Nigerian-American safety in the draft mix, Kalu was a consistent presence in the University of Nebraska secondary throughout his college career. Starting as a cornerback initially, Kalu was moved to safety as a senior and acquitted himself well in limited time at his new position. Projected to be picked in the seventh round, Kalu has the size and speed to be productive at either the safety or cornerback position in the NFL.
Joel Iyiegbuniwe - Inside Linebacker - Western Kentucky (Nigeria)
The Kentucky resident stayed home for college and after putting together 116 tackles in his junior year, Iyiegbuniwe is projected to hear his name called on the final day of the draft. A special teams ace in college, he will likely impress his future NFL coaches in that phase of the game as he works to get on the field for defensive snaps.
Ebenezer Ogundeko - Defensive End - Tennessee State (Nigeria)
The New Yorker would be a probable day two selection but for concerns about off-field issues he's had. Initially a Clemson Tiger, Ogundeko found his way to Tennessee State and tallied 28.5 sacks in his three years there. If Ogundeko has matured away from trouble, the team that selects him in the 7th round will have a low risk, high reward player on their hands.