4 Carolina Panthers rookies with unrealistic expectations in 2022

(Calvin Mattheis/The Knoxville News-Sentinel via IMAGN Content Services) Cade Mays
(Calvin Mattheis/The Knoxville News-Sentinel via IMAGN Content Services) Cade Mays /
3 of 4
Carolina Panthers
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Ikem Ekwonu /

87. . OT. Carolina Panthers. IKEM EKWONU. 3. player

Ikem Ekwonu – Carolina Panthers OT

Ikem Ekwonu has all the makings of a stud left tackle at the next level. There is absolutely no denying that and the Carolina Panthers will be expecting big things right away after selecting the supreme physical specimen at No. 6 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Much has been made about Ekwonu’s ability in run blocking, which is NFL-ready and nothing short of exceptional. The North Carolina State product needs some fine-tuning from a technical standpoint in pass protection, but there is a lot for offensive line coach James Campen to work with.

Ekwonu has the potential to be Carolina’s long-awaited successor to Jordan Gross. But expectations surrounding the player potentially playing to an All-Pro level during his rookie season might be stretching things slightly.

Even the most elite tackle prospects tend to have some growing pains against bigger, more imposing pass rushers in the pros. Considering how tough things could be for Ekwonu from a matchup standpoint over the first six weeks, it could be a real baptism of fire when it’s all said and done.

There are some cases where rookie tackles thrive. Tristan Wirfs and Rashawn Slater are the two prime recent examples, so Ekwonu could do the same providing he comes through some stiff early challenges unscathed.