The Ravens’ rookie class is getting an injection of international flavor.
The Ravens have been awarded fullback Chris Ezeala, who played fullback, linebacker and special teams (including punter) for three years in the German Football League. He projects as a fullback in the NFL.
The NFL has chosen the AFC North for its second year of the International Player Pathway program, meaning each of the four teams have been assigned a rookie from overseas.
If players don’t make the 53-man roster at the end of training camp, they can be carried as an extra 11th member of the practice squad (after they clear waivers). They can't be brought up to the active roster during the season.
Overall, eight international players will be in the NFL this year, as the International Player Pathway program is expanding in its second year.
Ezeala was assigned to the Ravens because Baltimore is among the shrinking number of teams that still employs a fullback.
Ezeala, 22, has good size and athleticism at 5-foot-11, 243 pounds. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds, which would put him among the top 10 running backs at the NFL Scouting Combine. His 21 bench press reps and 34-inch vertical leap would also put him among the leaders.
“My coaches told me that while there are many linebackers like me in the NFL, there is no fullback that is so athletic and fast, so they are trying to create a new type of player with me," Ezeala said.
For the past three months, he’s been training with NFL draft prospects and former Ravens running back Earnest Byner, who is in the team’s Ring of Honor, at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
The son of a semi-professional soccer player, Ezeala started playing football when he was 13 years old.
On his highlight reel, he runs through and away from his competition and is a violent hitter. He’ll face a massive step up in competition level, but he should at least be fun to watch in preseason games if he keeps hitting like that.
Undrafted Maine defensive lineman Patrick Ricard converted from defensive tackle to serve as the team’s primary fullback last season, so a longshot such as Ezeala making the roster isn’t out of the question.
“He’s a pretty quick kid and strong as a bull,” said Vice President of International Game Operations Mike Kensil. “I’m telling you, he’s impressive.”
The Bengals got tight end Mortiz Bohringer, who was originally drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the sixth round in 2016. The Browns got British American Football League defensive back Tigie Sankoh and the Steelers received former professional rugby player turned tight end Christian Scotland-Williamson.