5 Carolina Panthers players who could enter draft bust status in 2024

The Carolina Panthers need more from these potential draft busts in 2024.
Ikem Ekwonu
Ikem Ekwonu / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages
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Ikem Ekwonu - Carolina Panthers OT

  • No. 6 overall | 2022 NFL Draft

Things looked so promising for Ikem Ekwonu following his rookie campaign. It was a baptism of fire for the left tackle on his NFL debut against elite pass-rusher Myles Garrett. After that, there was a lot to like about the consistency he brought to the table.

Ekwonu went 10 straight games without conceding a sack. He looked like a franchise-caliber edge protector - something the Carolina Panthers haven't had on their blindside since the days of Jordan Gross. All signs pointed to a genuine breakout campaign from the No. 6 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft during his second campaign in the pros.

This scenario didn't come to fruition. Ekwonu looked like a deer in the headlights more often than not. He was technically flawed in pass protection and lacked discipline. This resulted in conceding 11 sacks and a whopping 12 penalties throughout a sophomore season that won't live long in the memory.

The former North Carolina State star is looking to bounce back in 2024. Dave Canales is adopting blocking concepts that look more suited to his strengths. The head coach also plans to run the football heavily as part of his expansive scheme. This is another thing working in Ekwonu's favor heading into a crucial Year 3 of his career.

However, a recent revelation from Ekwonu placed him firmly on the hot seat. The lineman admitted to getting complacent last season and thinking the hard work was done after adjusting well right out of the gate. This was the wrong attitude and he suffered accordingly.

Hopes remain high that Ekwonu's rude awakening last season can be the making of him. The Panthers are confident in his abilities. They also fortified the interior to take the pressure off after spending big sums to land Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis in free agency.

If Ekwonu cannot meet expectations, the Panthers will seek alternatives. That would firmly cement him as a draft bust given his lofty status.