The draft opened with four-straight defensive players being selected, but we finally have our first offensive pick. The Panthers have selected NC State offensive tackle Ikemefuna Ekwonu with the No. 6 pick.
In a draft that features a handful of top-level offensive tackles, “Ickey” was arguably the best. The lineman broke onto the scene during his 2020 season, and he established himself as a surefire first-round pick in 2021. Ekwonu earned the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the ACC’s best blocker and was a unanimous All-American selection en route to his top-1o draft stock.
In the NFL, Ekwonu’s main development will come via his ability to harness his aggressiveness into controlled energy. Still, he should be an immediate starter, and his athletic ability makes him scheme-diverse, so he should be a long-term fixture at his new home. Plus, for what it’s worth, he also played offensive guard in college, and that versatility could come in handy during his career.
Ekwonu was a popular name during the pre-draft circuit, with the lineman generating interest from teams throughout the top-10. The Panthers had their eye on offensive line help, but there were some who wondered if the organization would move back in pursuit of a mid-first quarterback. Instead, they stuck with No. 6, and barring a trade, we won’t hear the team’s name called again until pick No. 137.