Carolina Panthers hit a major home run with Ikem Ekwonu at No. 6

(Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ikem Ekwonu
(Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) Ikem Ekwonu /

The Carolina Panthers made the right call by selecting North Carolina State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu at No. 6 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. 

After months of waiting and wondering, the Carolina Panthers finally revealed their hand in the 2022 NFL Draft. There was a multitude of different ways those in power could have gone with their pick at No. 6 overall, which is their only selection in the first 136 unless a trade was agreed.

As it turned out, the Panthers got themselves a foundational piece with Ikem Ekwonu. This was in an area of some significant need for Carolina, who has not had a consistent presence at the left tackle position since Jordan Gross retired following the 2013 campaign.

There is a lot to like about the traits Ekwonu brings to the table. Something that really stood out during his time at North Carolina State and the Panthers clearly felt like this was the sort of player that can help them make the strides needed when competitive action resumes once again in 2022.

Carolina has been relying on journeymen and failed draft picks for too long. Ekwonu has the scope to come in and completely transform the position and this also allows the Panthers to solidify the left guard position by permanently shifting Brady Christensen onto the interior.

Of course, the Panthers still have a need at quarterback.

And this pick will be scrutinized heavily if the likes of Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett turn into superstars.

Ikem Ekwonu could be an exceptional player for the Carolina Panthers

But picking Ekwonu gives them a problem-solver for the next decade providing expectations are met and the player manages to stay clear of injury.

That might be all she wrote for the Panthers until Day 3. The organization is without a second or third-round pick after trades for Sam Darnold and C.J. Henderson, but the influential figures in the front office can relax safe in the knowledge they’ve acquired one of the best prospects entering the league this year.

Ekwonu’s arrival in Carolina only whets the appetite further about what this revamped offensive line can accomplish next season. Austin Corbett and Bradley Bozeman were two fantastic signings in free agency, with Taylor Moton’s consistency there for all to see almost from the moment he was taken in the second round back in 2017.

No pick is guaranteed to come off, obviously. But Ekwonu represents a core piece that the Panthers can add to a roster that is already stacked with young talent.

Hitting the ground running will be important for Ekwonu, but there is absolutely nothing to suggest he isn’t more than capable of this based on his exceptional skill set and high level of competition in college.

The Panthers were never going to please everybody. That’s just the way it goes at this time of year when fans become attached to certain prospects and what they could offer.

That should not detract from what a smart pick Ekwonu is. An elite player that can come in right out of the gate and become a true force at the next level.

It’s taken a while for the Panthers to find a worthy successor to Gross – an All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler who was phenomenal throughout his 167 games in Carolina.

In Ekwonu, they might have finally found their guy.

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If they have, then nobody will be complaining at all when it’s all said and done.