Just how much will Ikem Ekwonu manage to transform the Carolina Panthers’ offensive line during a crucial 2022 season for the franchise?
After constant speculation, false rumors, and various smokescreens, the Carolina Panthers got their guy when Ikem Ekwonu fell out of the top five and into their hands at No. 6 overall. With no quarterback providing enough confidence they could be taken early in the draft process, the decision-makers made the correct call to potentially solve their ongoing complications at left tackle that became an increasing concern in 2021.
This is such a cool story. Ekwonu grew up supporting the Panthers, watching games at Bank of America Stadium and now the North Carolina State product will fulfill a childhood ambition to take the field and help the team grow into a potential contender in the coming years.
A recent article published by Darin Gantt over at Panthers.com detailed the fact general manager Scott Fitterer would have taken Ekwonu at No. 1 overall if they had the chance. So it was clearly an opportunity they were not going to pass up from slightly lower down the pecking order.
Expectations are high for Ekwonu. Not exactly breaking news when one considers how desperate the Panthers are for blindside improvements and where the player was drafted.
But just how much can Ekwonu transform Carolina’s fortunes in 2022?
Ikem Ekwonu can be a revelation for the Carolina Panthers
In truth, no one player can improve things all by himself. Just take a look at Taylor Moton’s elite consistency over the last three years in comparison to what’s transpired elsewhere on the offensive line.
Fortunately for Ekwonu, he is not the only new arrival in Carolina this offseason.
Bradley Bozeman and Austin Corbett were acquired in free agency. Both players come with strong reputations and proven performances on the interior – which will be a significant upgrade from the likes of John Miller and Pat Elflein in no uncertain terms.
Much will depend on who the Panthers put alongside Ekwonu. Smart money indicates that could be Brady Christensen, who Carolina graded higher as a guard during his evaluation before completely mismanaging the player throughout a turbulent rookie campaign.
Ekwonu has the energy, violence, physicality, and explosiveness that is sure to go down well right out of the gate. His run blocking is completely overwhelming more often than not and even though there are some technical issues in pass protection, having offensive line coach James Campen to learn from is something that should benefit his transition an untold amount.
This is an exciting time for fans, who now have what should be a productive offensive line for whoever is under center. There is even a chance someone new might be manning the plate if third-round selection Matt Corral adjusts quickly to the NFL.
Simply put, the sky is the limit for Ekwonu.
A player that has Pro Bowl or better upside providing he stays clear of injury.
The bar isn’t exactly high for an upturn in production given how much instability there’s been in Carolina since All-Pro Jordan Gross retired. Ekwonu not only has the chance to make a significant impression early – but he could also become a team leader and tone-setter that inspires those around him and in the stands.
And that should be music to everyone’s ears.