Ikem Ekwonu – Carolina Panthers OT
- No. 6 overall selection | North Carolina State Wolfpack
Outside of the quarterback, the Carolina Panthers desperately needed to find a franchise left tackle before the 2022 season. Considering the cost of acquiring one in free agency, the draft was undeniably the best option for those in power to investigate.
After thorough evaluations, Ikem Ekwonu was the top player on their board. However, there weren’t many scenarios where the Panthers envisaged he’d fall out of the top five and into the laps.
As it turned out, Carolina got a gift from the football gods. And one they were right not to waste.
Ekwonu got baptized by Myles Garrett in Week 1, which was anticipated. However, upon examining the former North Carolina State standout’s rookie campaign overall, it was hugely impressive.
The blindside presence developed encouragingly as the season went on. Ekwonu’s pass protection was a nice surprise and the player’s dominant run blocking also came to the fore as part of Carolina’s power scheme implemented by Ben McAdoo and Steve Wilks.
There were times of struggle and discipline concerns. But this was the right pick and the Panthers now have their franchise left tackle at long last.
Draft Grade: A
Ekwonu was a slam dunk pick that met expectations. He is now a core foundational piece for the Panthers to build around for future progress.