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Ikem Ekwonu is off the board. With the No. 6 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Carolina Panthers have selected the highly touted offensive tackle out of North Carolina State. 

Ekwonu is considered to be arguably the top offensive tackle prospect in this year's draft and was even sitting atop mock drafts as the potential No. 1 overall pick at certain points during the pre-draft process. This comes after a stellar career with the Wolfpack, where he was a unanimous All-American last season and also earned the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, an award handed out to the best blocker in the ACC. On top of his prowess as a left tackle prospect, the 6-foot-4, 320 pounder also has experience playing guard, giving him even more versatility as he takes this next step in the NFL.

With the Panthers, Ekwonu is poised to raise the ceiling for an offensive line that struggled to protect the quarterback in 2021. Last season, Carolina's O-line ranked 27th in the NFL in adjusted sack rate and was in the bottom third in the league in efficiency overall. 

Matt Rhule's team was rumored to possibly trade down at this spot or be in the quarterback market. With them officially taking Ekwonu, it'll be interesting to see if Carolina decides to jump into trade talks for veteran quarterbacks like Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo over the next few days. 

Grade: B+

Pete Prisco: They need a pass-rusher in the worst way, and they have to be thrilled that Hutchinson fell to them here. He is a polished edge rusher who will be an impact player right away. The Lions have to be able to impact the quarterback better than they did last year. Hutchinson will do that. But he might be a 12-sack guy most of his career, rather than a 16-sack guy. But that's OK.

Scouting Report

Rating: 91.03 (All-Pro)

Pro Comparison: Laremy Tunsil

Strengths: Masher with serious twitch/striking ability. Mobility pops on film, and he creates a lot of torque to move defenders, even when on the move. Power is apparent. Very capable on reach blocks. Sustains them well, too. Possesses above-average recovery skills. As a compact blocker, he naturally is well balanced. Tackle first but has elite upside as OG.

Weaknesses: Kick slide is short and well-balanced but could stand to cover more ground. Susceptible to inside moves as a pass blocker. Has some problems with longer rushers who get into his frame first.

Accolades:

  • 2021: Unanimous All-America (third in N.C. State history)
  • 2021: Three sacks allowed on 476 pass-blocking snaps