Manchester’s Watson leads British raid on NFL Draft night
The NFL Draft is one of the most eagerly anticipated nights on the American sporting calendar, but this year there are plenty of reasons for those on the other side of the pond to stay up and watch.
Four British-born players will enter the talent acquisition bonanza at Radio City Music Hall with chances of instant fame and massive financial reward.
Manchester has produced two hopes in Menelik Watson and Eze Obiora with Watson tipped to be among the elite to be picked in the opening round. Tom Wort from Crawley and Olympic discus star from last year Lawrence Okoye make up the quartet of raiders that will be hoping things will never be the same again.
Watson initially chose the path of basketball but as he saw his opportunities narrow in New York he tried football and was a perfect fit. The 24-year-old Florida State starting right tackle has all the physical attributes required and has impressed many with his grounded attitude, all delivered appealingly with a Mancunian accent that has refused to fade.
NFL Network’s main man for the Draft, Mike Mayock has described it as ‘probably the best story out there’ and despite only playing 20 games for Florida State the 6ft 5” 310lb’er is expected to be picked at least at the beginning of the second, if not in the premier round on opening night.
Tom Ward’s life is also set to change forever with the Oklahoma University middle linebacker predicted to be chosen as early as round four. Another export with a likeable persona, Ward’s voice betrays his Sussex roots but he still sees himself as very much an advert for how the UK can make an impact on the biggest stage around.
Eze Obiora has been described as ‘one of the most underrated players in the Draft’ and there are high hopes from his new home of Chicago that the Southern Illinois outside linebacker/rush defensive will be picked up in the latter stages.
Finally, Lawrence Okoye could complete an incredible journey that began as a top-level rugby union player, then as an Olympic discus finalist last year, to potentially becoming part of an NFL franchise without ever having a single down on the football field.
Originally from Croydon, Okoya entered a regional NFL combine and impressed scouts so much with his physical abilities that his zero experience in the game may be forgiven. Okoya’s fate will be decided at the very last stage, but he can take heart from the past where gambles have been taken on unknown quantities. In 1962 the Dallas Cowboys took a punt on Cornell Green, who had never played a game in his life and went on to feature in six Pro Bowls.
Whatever the result of this unique 72 hours in New York, the presence of Watson and co are further evidence that the popularity of America’s national game on these shores is only going to grow.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.