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Will Giants’ gamble on Nigerian OT Roy Mbaeteka pay long-term dividends?

The Nigerian prospect has no football experience to his name

NFL: International Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Big Blue View’s player-by-player profiles of the New York Giants’ 90-man roster have touched on all sorts of athletes, but this is the first time we’ve looked at someone who has never played football.

Roy Mbaeteka is a developmental prospect from Nigeria who is only just know learning to play in the NFL. Will the upside his massive size and athleticism provide translate into on-field success?

By the numbers

Height: 6-foot-9
Weight: 320
Age: 22
Position: Offensive line
Experience: Rookie
Contract: Three-year, $2.56 million rookie deal | 2022 Cap hit: $705,000

Career to date

“Career to date” really doesn’t apply to Mbaeteka, because he hasn’t had one. A member of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program (IPP), Mbaeteka might just be the most intriguing player currently on the Giants roster.

Mbaeteka first made a name for himself as a standout at a Nigerian training camp led by The Uprise, a talent identification program led by Giants legend Osi Umenyiora and basketball player Ejike Ugboaja. The NFL eventually selected him as one of 13 international athletes who could compete for a roster spot in the league.

Once he arrived in America, Mbaeteka spent time training with Pro Bowl center LeCharles Bentley. That experience reportedly aided him in impressing the Giants staff with his knowledge of the game.

“When the Giants brought him in, they took him to the board and drew things and asked him all these questions and he was able to answer them, because that’s what he’s been working on this entire time,” Umenyiora said. “He’s highly intelligent. I guess they were blown away by the fact that he was able to do all that stuff.”

He and tight end Austin Allen are a full two inches taller than anyone else on the team, but Allen weighs “only” 255 pounds. Mbaeteka would be one of the tallest offensive linemen in history if he eventually cracks the starting lineup.

2022 outlook

Mbaeteka is more of a developmental player than an immediate contributor. It’s very unlikely he makes the team this year, but the Giants’ investment in him so far indicates they will probably carry him on the practice squad. Since they signed him as a free agent rather than having him assigned via the Pathway Program, there is no practice squad exemption — as there has been for Austrian running back Sandro Platzgummer.

Based on head coach Brian Daboll’s assessment, that year of acclimation is probably going to be necessary.

“The rookies out here have played a lot. We’re starting from ground zero with him and he’s trying to soak everything up,” Daboll said during rookie minicamp. “There’s a lot at that position. There’s a lot of words and a lot of communication that goes on. He’s got a great personality. Bobby (Johnson) and Tony (Sparano) have done a really good job just meeting with him, but we have a long way to go.”

The obvious comparison point is Jordan Mailata, an Australian player who became the Philadelphia Eagles’ starting left tackle in 2020. Regardless of how things turn out, Umenyiora is focused on the larger impact of Mbaeteka’s journey.

“What the Giants have done here is truly hard to put into words,” Umenyiora said. “There are so many people in Nigeria and in Africa who are going to see this and right now they’re going to have hope. Before, they were hopeless. They’re going to see this as hope and they’re going to start working and working toward something, however unrealistic it is. At least now, they will see that it is possible. They’ve changed the world, they really have.”