NFL 2014: Brit watch

Sports Mole looks at some of the British players set to feature in the NFL this season.

In recent years, more and more international players have found themselves playing in the American-dominated NFL.

The 2014 season got underway on Thursday, with a number of British players set to make their mark this season after securing roster spots around the league.

With three regular-season games taking place in London this season, and talk of a British franchise being established in the future, Sports Mole takes a look at some of the UK players that will feature this year.

Menelik Watson - tackle - Oakland Raiders

Manchester-born Menelik Watson made history in the 2013 by becoming the highest-drafted Briton in the history of the NFL when he was taken in the second round, 42nd overall, by the Oakland Raiders.

The 25-year-old only took up gridiron football in college, having focused on basketball before then, but an impressive couple of seasons for Florida State University caught the eye of the NFL.

Watson missed much of his rookie season in the league with a string of injuries, featuring in just five games, and has been struggling with a hip injury during pre-season.

He looks set to start the season as backup to Khalif Barnes at right tackle, after Raiders head coach Dennis Allen admitted that he had concerns over Watson's ability to stay healthy.

British fans will get to see Watson in action on home soil this season, as the Raiders are due to face the Miami Dolphins at Wembley later this month.

Menelik Watson #71 of the Oakland Raiders participates in drills during Rookie Mini-Camp on May 11, 2013© Getty Images

Jack Crawford - defensive end - Dallas Cowboys

Londoner Jack Crawford is heading into his third season in the NFL, having entered the league in the 2012 draft, being selected in the fifth round by the Oakland Raiders.

After two years in the AFC West, the 26-year-old was released by the Raiders last month, but quickly found a new home with the Dallas Cowboys.

Crawford moved to the United States in 2005, taking up American football in high school before playing for Penn State in college.

The Briton was never a starter for the Raiders, but featured in all but one game for Oakland last season, and should see more playing time now that he is at the Cowboys, who have lost several defensive players over the off-season.

Crawford will get to play in his home city this season, as the Cowboys are due to face the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley as part of the international series.

Defensive end Jack Crawford #91 of the Oakland Raiders looks on prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on August 29, 2013© Getty Images

Osi Umenyiora - linebacker - Atlanta Falcons

Outside linebacker Osi Umenyiora is one of only three British players to have won the Super Bowl, securing two titles during his spell with the New York Giants before his move to the Atlanta Falcons last year.

The 32-year-old, who was born to Nigerian parents in London, took up American football in high school after the family relocated to Alabama.

Umenyiora played at defensive end during his college career at Troy University, but established himself as a linebacker after being picked in the second round of the 2003 Draft by the Giants.

As well as earning two Super Bowl rings so far, Umenyiora has twice been named in the Pro Bowl, led the national conference in sacks in 2005 and jointly holds the league record for most forced fumbles in a season, with 10 in 2010.

While the Falcons struggled in 2013, Umenyiora made an immediate impact on the team, making 47 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and his first NFL interception in his first season in Atlanta.

Atlanta's Osi Umenyiora on the sidelines during a game with the Bengals on August 8, 2013© Getty Images

Lawrence Okoye - defensive end - San Francisco 49ers

Former London Wasps academy player and British discus record holder Lawerence Okoye made headlines on both sides of the Atlantic when he announced his intention to break into the NFL last year.

The 22-year-old's athletic prowess caught the eye of several teams after he took part in the regional scouting combine and earned a contract with the San Francisco 49ers, despite having never played a down of gridiron football.

Okoye, who represented Britain in the discus at the 2012 Olympics, spent his rookie season on injured reserve after sustaining a knee injury in the pre-season, and was initially cut by the NFC West side last month, but re-signed to their practice squad a day later.

Lawrence Okoye of the San Francisco 49ers participates in individual drills during the San Francisco 49ers rookie minicamp at their training facility on May 10, 2013© Getty Images

It will still be a long journey for Okoye if he is to establish himself as a successful NFL player, as he is still a relative novice. Should he come off the practice squad and onto the roster this season, it is unlikely that he will see much playing time as the 49ers have plenty depth on defense.

Defensive end Jack Crawford #91 of the Oakland Raiders looks on prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on August 29, 2013
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