British defensive veteran offers words of warning for 2022 NFL Draft prospects

The NFL Draft is the culmination of a lifetime’s work for 262 young talents lucky enough to get selected, but amidst the bright lights of Las Vegas and the celebrations is a stark reminder from pros: the work begins now.

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who won Offensive Player of the Year honours in 2021 following a stellar season, took to social media to offer his two cents to the stars of tomorrow. The receiver – drafted in the third round by the Rams – wrote: “The draft is not the arrival, it’s the departure. Go to work!”

The sentiment is shared by British defensive end Jack Crawford, who was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2012. He has carved out a career spanning 10 years since the iconic franchise decided to spend the 158th pick on a Penn State prospect.

While he acknowledges recruits hope they will get drafted higher than they’re originally projected, it adds a lot of pressure than many cannot handle. Crawford’s advice is simple.

“The draft is going to be the least important day of their careers,” Crawford exclusively told The Mirror before offering a warning. “There’re just countless examples of players who have gone into the first round and become busts as they are unable to adapt to the speed of the NFL game.

“Some players can’t handle having soo much money put into their bank account immediately after college. The pressure can often cause a lot of people to crumble and you’ll see a lot of fresh round picks become very self destructive or keep getting in trouble.

“Then there are kids who go undrafted as nobody has heard of them, and they become household names. Tom Brady is the perfect example: sixth round selection and now he’s the best player to ever play the game.

Jack Crawford enjoyed the best spell of his career while with the Dallas Cowboys, who he credits with developing him into an NFL-calibre player
Jack Crawford enjoyed the best spell of his career while with the Dallas Cowboys, who he credits with developing him into an NFL-calibre player

“Congratulations to each and every player that has been picked – but the work hasn’t even started yet.”

The draft may be puzzling to some new or more casual fans, as so much emphasis is placed on the earlier rounds, but the later choices are where rosters are truly constructed. Crawford, a fifth round selection, talked of how diamonds can really be found in the rough, and such picks often make or break a team’s chances at winning the Super Bowl.

This is why the London-born star believes it is critically important for each team to evaluate every available player, as leaders and key cogs can be found. However, the draft itself is a brutal process – Crawford likened the wait to get drafted to picking teams in a playground at school, only this was more gut-wrenching given the peer-to-peer bragging rights, enhanced fame and millions of dollars on the line.

“It was a roller coaster of emotions,” Crawford revealed. “I was anxious and very nervous, but when your name gets called, it’s definitely a feeling of relief.

“I felt accepted – there was a real sense of validation and feeling of belonging. It’s an emotional time.”

For all the drama and hype the draft presents regarding an individual player’s talents, the environment a player lands in goes some way in determining how successful their career might be. If a talent lands in a scheme that doesn’t play to their strengths, their entire career may

Crawford believes he landed in a suboptimal situation when he turned pro a decade ago. The 33-year-old, who played for the Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals since leaving Oakland, was philosophical when discussing his career and the differing situations that might unfold for prospects.

“It’s pretty important – and it’s completely out of your control,” Crawford conceded. “I was drafted to the Oakland Raiders, who hadn’t made the playoffs in a while, and it was dysfunctional organisation. Players on the team had egos, and the culture was very individualistic.

British linebacker David Ojabo was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft
British linebacker David Ojabo was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft

Which NFL team had the best draft last weekend? Let us know in the comments section.

“Once I joined the Cowboys, I got coached from a basic level that tallowed me to adapt to the game properly. If I had been drafted to the Cowboys, my career may have looked different. I don’t want to ever look back and talk about ‘what ifs’, but these are examples of how different teams and staffs can affect player development.

“It’s up to you as a player to take responsibility. I’m still friends with the coaches who I was drafted by, but I just noticed that I had to take my time with the basics of the game first.”

The NFL released the full schedule of International Series matches in London and Munich for the 2022 season this week, with the pick of the bunch coming at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium when the Green Bay Packers will face the New York Giants. The reaction online has showcased how the league’s popularity has grown immensely over the last few years as international players are entering the league at a higher rate than ever.

Michigan Wolverines edge rusher David Ojabo was born in Nigeria and moved to Aberdeen with his family in 2007. He moved to the United States to attend high school and college, and all his hard work paid off as the 21-year-old was selected 45th overall by the Baltimore Ravens despite an Achilles injury – and Crawford was thrilled.

“As far as the integration of international players in the league, there’s just not many. To have a player come from Scotland and get drafted in the second round, it’s unbelievable,” Crawford said. “I’m proud to have another player coming in from the UK, but he just speaks to the amount of talent that is out there. The more kids that are taught the sport, or have some kind of access or exposure to the sport, it will only create more of these stories.

“If I could say something to him, it would be: it’s time to get to work, man. Celebrate your accomplishment – it’s an unbelievable accomplishment – but you don’t want to be sitting 15 years from now talking about how you got drafted in the second round and that’s it.

“This is a brutal game; if you don’t stay disciplined, the league will be done with you before you know it and we’ll be talking about the next guy coming up from the UK. My goal is to hopefully see a British quarterback winning the Super Bowl one day, holding the Lombardi Trophy – that would definitely accelerate the game as far as getting more talent from the UK into the NFL.”

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