International Pathway expands the NFL’s horizons

RealSport takes a look at the four international players who have been given an opportunity by this relatively new concept.

(Photo credit/Thomas)

For the second year in a row, the NFL International Pathway has given four franchises the chance to bring in a foreign face. 

The Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, and Baltimore Ravens have all had an extra practice squad spot reserved for the year to accommodate one international player – thus promoting the growth of the sport and giving hope to foreign youngsters that the NFL may not be as distant as it once was.

In 2017, three Britons, Efe Obada, Alex Jenkins, and Alex Gray joined the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and Atlanta Falcons, respectively, while Germany’s Eric Nzeocha landed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While their NFL careers have yet to take off, they have all been brought back by those teams this offseason. At the least, it shows that this program offers the chance to develop young overseas talents who could genuinely prove fruitful in years to come.

With that in mind, here are the four new faces to join the NFL:

Moritz Böhringer, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

OK, so the notoriously tall German receiver may be far from an unknown quantity in the NFL given he was well known for becoming the first player drafted straight out of Europe in 2016 by the Minnesota Vikings. However, after failing to appear in the 2016 season, he was eventually waived in September 2017, and gone unclaimed. 

The upside of being picked up through the International Pathway is that by opening an extra spot on the practice squad, the Bengals have nothing to lose. Instead, they gain another receiver with good power, range, and potential, plus they have a whole season to develop him further. Let's be honest, the Bengals could be a great landing spot given their lack of receiver depth.

Christopher Ezeala, FB, Baltimore Ravens

A short stocky fullback, Ezeala also has experience as a linebacker and is an interesting developmental prospect. He has speed and strength to his advantage, having shown promise playing in the German league. At 5-foot-11, 243 pounds, he shows an ability to evade and break tackles, while his experience on defense and special teams has made him a decent blocker and tackler.

The challenge he faces is competition from both Patrick Ricard and Ricky Ortiz, who are currently listed as fullbacks on the Ravens roster. However, were Ezeala to flourish, then that would allow Ricard to focus on playing defensive tackle - as suggested by Joe Schiller - while Ezeala takes over as the primary fullback, assuming Ortiz doesn't make the final roster.

Christian Scotland-Williamson, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers

A former rugby player for the Worcester Warriors, the 24-year-old is another rugby convert hoping to give the NFL a try, following the likes of former San Francisco 49er Jarryd Hayne and current Atlanta Falcon Alex Gray. At 6-9, 276, Scotland-Williamson has opted to declare as a tight end, which given his size and build, makes a great deal of sense. 

Scotland-Williamson, though, is a diamond in the rough. He will need a great deal of work, and whether the Steelers opt to use this extra practice squad spot on him is yet to be seen. However, if he can pick up the game quick enough, then get ready for a tough player.

Tigie Sankoh, DB, Cleveland Browns

At 21, Sankoh is the youngest of this year's pathway members coming from a successful stint with the London Warriors. Standing 6-1, 214 pounds, the defensive back also has experience at receiver. Sankoh showed promise in his time with the Warriors, thanks to his good eye for play development, pace, and hard-hitting tackles. 

As with all European players, he is far from pro ready, but he has all the measurables to be worth at least a look during the offseason. Should he eventually be granted a practice squad spot, Sankoh may find special teams his best bet to make Cleveland's active roster - possibly as a returner. 

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