Huzzah! Hallelujah! As I said in my last mock draft, the Panthers have finally secured their franchise cornerstone at left tackle. After an early run on defensive players (4 straight), the Scott Fitterer jumped at the chance to take the former NC State tackle. While an offensive lineman was one of the safer picks for the front office to make, it was also one of the more necessary picks to make. It's important to note that only one QB went in the first round; that is, Kenny Pickett to the Pittsburgh Steelers. That just goes to show you how the class is viewed by the NFL. Anyways, let's break down the pick:
With the 6th pick, the Panthers stood pat and got their pick of the top three offensive tackles. In Ikem Ekwonu, we got a pretty well-balanced prospect, arguably the best o-lineman. However, he got his brand of football from his play in the run game. Paving the way for a great NC State rushing attack led by Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr, the offense recorded upwards of 1500 yards on the ground.
He's not too shabby as a pass protector either; According to PFF, the Charlotte native allowed 12 total pressures on 476 snaps in his college football career. That translated to a 3.4% pressure rate in 2019, 4.7% in 2020, and 2.5% in 2021. In his press conference, Ikem mentioned that he's had many conversations about his position versatility with James Campen but I'd anticipate he'll be a plug-and-play starter at left tackle come Week 1. Whoever finds themselves starting behind center should feel safe with Ickey protecting their blindside.
Fun Facts About Ikem Ekwonu:
In the draft presentation last night, Ikem mentioned that his name means that "my efforts will not be in vain." That's pretty impressive considering the position he plays.
His draft night outfit was inspired by his Nigerian roots as well as his time in NC State (red shoes).
Ekwonu grew up a Panthers fan, having worn Thomas Davis' jersey when he was young. In the press conference, he said it was surreal getting to meet the Panthers legend in Las Vegas that morning.
The NFL now turns their attention to Day 2 in which the Panthers currently hold no draft selections. Scott Fitterer did comment last night that they will be looking at any possibility to move up into the 2nd round. There are still some high-quality players available at the moment, namely Malik Willis. As mentioned previously, they are operating on the premise that CJ Henderson is their third-round pick, so I find it unlikely they trade into the third.
Again, I want to take a moment of silence for the great job Scott Fitterer has done overhauling this offensive line and improving the team as a whole without making any rash decisions. Welcome to Day 2 of the draft! Let's hope and pray I don't watch the whole thing just to see the Panthers wait till pick #137 in the fourth tomorrow 😅
What are your thoughts on the Ekwonu pick or the first round in general? Leave your comments below.