The Carolina Panthers have selected NC State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu with the No. 6 pick of the 2022 NFL Draft. The strong big man for the Wolfpack was considered to be one of the best offensive line prospects in the class and will now begin his professional career protecting Sam Darnold (presumably) for the Panthers.
The 6’4”, 310-pound lineman from Charlotte was versatile in his time at NC State, playing both left tackle and left guard at times for the Wolfpack. He led the team with 37 pancake blocks as a freshman in 2019 and earned himself FWAA All-American honors. He followed that up with 50 pancakes in 2020 and a 2021 campaign where he won the ACC’s Jacob Blocking Trophy.
How can Ikem Ekwonu impact the Panthers in 2022?
Ekwonu will start immediately and should free things up for the rest of the Panthers’ offense to operate. NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein has compared him to former All-Pro offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele and his violence at the point contact should set him up for success as a rookie and moving forward.
Ekwonu is a perfect selection for the Panthers. He is from Charlotte, North Carolina and went to NC State. He is a homegrown talent and is an instant starter for this Panthers' offensive line. Yes, quarterback is a need for Carolina to address, but it doesn’t matter who they pick if they can’t protect him. The draft fell perfectly for the Panthers to not even consider a quarterback at six and they addressed their top need with their first selection of the draft. Even if Carolina ends up with another year of Darnold under center, at least he will be more protected than last year.