Carolina Panthers 7-round 2022 mock draft: Stud OT headlines great haul

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Alex Wright
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Alex Wright /
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(Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ikem Ekwonu /

Carolina Panthers select Ikem Ekwonu

  • Offensive Tackle | North Carolina State

The Carolina Panthers have had a different starting option every season since left tackle Jordan Gross retired. Many fans have been waiting for the day when the organization has their franchise blindside protector for years to come – something that might arrive once and for all this offseason.

In this mock draft scenario, the Panthers finally tip their hand when arguably the best offensive tackle in the NFL Draft falls into their lap at No. 6 overall. One of the missing pieces to Carolina’s front five has been consistency and tenacity on the left side. Ikem Ekwonu brings both of those things to the next level.

Ekwonu progressed as a player in each of his three seasons at North Carolina State, finally emerging this past season as one of the top prospects overall in the NFL Draft. The former three-star recruit was a huge part of the Wolfpack’s recent success in the ACC and one of their leaders on offense.

When watching Ekwonu’s tape, his size, power at the point of attack, heavy hands, and movement skills stand out almost immediately. With his experience at left guard, the prospect offers tremendous versatility and football intelligence that allows him to be a potential long-term starter on the left side at either guard or tackle.

If Ekwonu were to be drafted as a guard, this would allow second-year offensive lineman Brady Christensen to slide over to the edge where he impressed during the final stretch of the 2021 season.

While passing on a quarterback hurts Matt Rhule’s chances at staying on as the Panthers’ head coach after 2022, the good news is the roster would look to be in much better shape than it did this time last season with fans happy they finally have a potential star at left tackle for the first time in eight years.

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