The 2023 NFL season is finally here! And though Latino NFL players are severely underrepresented in the league, there are still some players to keep an eye out for as the 2023-2024 season gets underway.
According to a report by the Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sport, there were just 12 players in the NFL who identified as Latino in 2021. The NFL reported that the number went up to about 20 in 2022. But that’s still less than 1% of the league. As a reminder, 19% of the US population identifies as Latino.
Still, we’ve rounded up the top 5 Latino NFL players to watch in the new season, so fans can know what teams to follow if they want to support the talent from our communities. And who knows, by the end of the season, maybe they’ll all become household names and open the door for more Latino representation in the NFL.
Chris Olave — Wide Reciever, New Orleans Saints
The only Latino player picked in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, Chris Olave is one of the most exciting young wider receivers in the NFL. He had 72 receptions for over a thousand yards and 4 TDs in 2022, already very good numbers, and he is expected to take a leap into elite status this year. Some analyses are even projecting him as a first-time Pro Bowl selection.
Olave, who has Mexican roots, is only 23, so he is only just starting and the Saints are certainly hoping he becomes the next Latino superstar.
Isiah Pacheco — Running Back, Kansas City Chiefs
Isiah Pacheco, who was drafted by the Chiefs in the 7th round of the 2022 NFL draft, wasn’t expected to contribute the way he did to a Super Bowl-winning team like the Kansas City Chiefs. However, Pachecho, who was the starting RB for the Chiefs in the Super Bowl, had the kind of season rookies dream about, with 830 rushing yards and 130 receiving yards alongside 5 TDs. He also returned 29 kickoffs for 597 yards.
And with the team now fighting to defend their crown, expect 24-year-old Pachecho, of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent, to get plenty of chances to contribute.
Malcolm Rodriguez — Linebacker, Detroit Lions
Malcolm Rodriguez, who is also a member of the 2022 Draft class, quickly impressed the Detroit Lions in his rookie year, appearing in 16 games and starting 15 of those. He finished the season with one sack, 87 tackles, two passes defended, and one forced fumble. Those are good numbers for anyone, but great numbers for someone picked in the sixth round of the draft and that no one really expected to excel.
Going into his second season, Rodriguez, who comes from Mexican heritage, is expected to be a mainstay in the Lion’s defense, even if there is a little more competition in the linebacker position. But, if he continues the way he started last season, he could turn into one of the premier linebackers in the NFL in the next few years.
Rigoberto Sanchez — Punter, Indianapolis Colts
Rigoberto Sanchez, who missed all of last season with a torn Achilles, is healthy and ready to go back to being one of the most consistent punters in the NFL.
The player, of Mexican heritage, has been with the Colts since 2017 and has multiple AFC Special Teams Player of the Week recognitions in his resume. He also owns the record for the longest punt in Colts history, a 79-yard kick he hit in a win over the 49ers in 2021.
The position might not be a high-profile one, but Sanchez is very good at his job, and renowned for it.
Matt Corral — Quarterback, New England Patriots
The season looks a little uncertain for Matt Corral, who was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the third round of the 2022 draft, and then waived by the team after he lost the competition for Panthers backup QB.
But Corral, who was recently claimed off waivers by the New England Patriots, is only 24. Quarterbacks usually take at least a couple of years to truly find their footing, and Corral, of Mexican heritage, now gets to do it in one of the friendliest places for QB learning in the NFL, New England.