After starting the season with lofty expectations, North Carolina State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu has developed into one of the top prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. A violent game-changer whose on-field savagery belies his smiling, bespectacled demeanor, Ekwonu has lived up to his reputation as “the most feared lineman in the ACC.” How high could the NC State OT go this month? Ekwonu’s scouting report reveals why he’s being considered a top-five 2022 NFL Draft selection.
Ikem Ekwonu NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Offensive Tackle
- School: North Carolina State
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’4″
- Weight: 310 pounds
- Wingspan: 84 1/4″
- Arm: 34″
- Hand: 10 1/4″
Ikem Ekwonu Scouting Report
He might not have entered the season as a household name, but Ekwonu heads to the 2022 NFL Draft as one of the most fierce and highly respected offensive tackle prospects in the class. Not only is he considered one of the best OTs in the class, but the NC State product has also elevated his standing to being one of the top overall prospects. Ekwonu’s scouting report reveals why.
Firstly, Ekwonu has the size to play either offensive tackle or guard at the NFL level. He’s slightly shorter than several OT prospects in this 2022 NFL Draft class. However, he presents a stout presence both on the interior and on the island. More importantly, he has the length to be disruptive with 34″ arms and an 84 1/2″ wingspan.
The length is apparent in multiple facets of the game. He often is first to the punch, getting his hands inside his opponent. He can lock out his arms to manipulate his opponent, both in the ground game and as a pass protector. When he does land his punch, you know about it. Ekwonu possesses powerful and violent hands that cause maximum disruption.
The NC State OT does his best work in the ground game. Ekwonu is an old-fashioned mauler who clears out rushing lanes with exceptional power and savagery. He looks to finish every play devastatingly, and more often than not, he is successful with dramatic consequences. His athletic ability allows him to get out in front of the ground game, exploding out of his stance and getting downfield like a steam train.
Savagery, technically skilled, and scheme/positionally versatile
If you’re a linebacker or defensive back, you have to be questioning your life choices when you see the NC State OT heading your way. A play where he bulldozed Miami safety Bubba Bolden to the ground lives long in my memory. However, his tape is littered with highlight plays where he displays his physicality as a run blocker.
One area where Ekwonu has developed his scouting report this season is in pass protection. The aforementioned physicality shows up, regularly shocking with his powerful punch. When the NC State OT gets you in his grasp, there’s no shedding that block — he’ll impose his will on you. Furthermore, his athletic ability shows up here, too. Ekwonu can get into his pass sets quickly. He also has the footwork to mirror even the fastest pass rushers.
With offensive tackle and guard experience on his scouting report, Ekwonu is a versatile 2022 NFL Draft prospect. With the athletic and technical profile to translate at the position, there’s no reason to believe he can’t be a starting offensive tackle at the next level. At worst, he could transition to be an elite guard with All-Pro potential.
On the Pro Football Network Top 300 Big Board, Ekwonu grades out as the second-ranked OT in the 2022 NFL Draft class. Additionally, he’s the fourth overall prospect at this moment in time. Having played in NC State’s zone running attack, that is a natural fit for the NFL. However, he’s shown the development and football intelligence to think he can transition to any scheme fit in the NFL.
Areas for improvement
Despite being one of the top prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft, there are still areas for improvement for Ekwonu on his scouting report. That said, his development during the last three seasons would suggest that he can make those changes. Nonetheless, to fully indicate his ability, we have to address these issues.
Although Ekwonu’s aggressive nature is one of the most impressive aspects of his scouting report, he’ll need to take a slightly more measured approach at the NFL level. His desire to get out and hit people as hard as possible can lead to inconsistency with his hand placement. In the ground game, this can result in him not being able to block his man for the entirety of the play.
As a pass protector, there are some minor improvements to be made. While he gets out into his pass sets with excellent athletic ability, he can be susceptible to giving up the inside to his opponent. This is particularly apparent against faster, more agile pass rushers who can take advantage of some minor limitations in his lateral agility.
Ekwonu’s Player Profile
Although natural-born talent is somewhat of a myth, Ekwonu’s ascension to NFL Draft prospect is hardly surprising given his athletic heritage. His mother was a high school track star, while his father was a college basketball standout in Nigeria before coming to America. With such impressive influences close to home, it’s hardly surprising that both Ikem and Osita Ekwonu developed into sporting stars, with Osita being a linebacker at the University of Notre Dame.
Ikem excelled in multiple sports at Providence Day High School. Displaying incredible athleticism for his size, he held down the anchor leg of the high school relay team. Meanwhile, his strength and competitive nature allowed him to become an All-State wrestler. With wrestling prowess on his résumé, a role on the offensive line for the football team made perfect sense. As a result, he saw action at center as a high school freshman.
Although he saw some time playing time early in his high school career, Ekwonu emerged as having college football potential as a junior. He played both ways for Providence, securing 20 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a defensive lineman. Despite playing both ways, his ability to be dominant as an offensive lineman became apparent in his senior season. Ekwonu registered 28 knockdown blocks, earning first-team All-State and All-Conference honors.
At this point, the ascending offensive lineman already committed to NC State. A three-star recruit who ranked as just the 36th offensive guard in the 2019 class, he still garnered 15 offers. Those included Harvard and Yale — a testament to his intelligence on and off the field. However, NC State offered a perfect blend of athletics and academics.
Ekwonu’s career at NC State
While Ekwonu impressed NC State, head coach Dave Doeren had been even more impressed by his new guard. Doeren described the young offensive lineman’s high school performances as “one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever seen by a lineman.”
Ekwonu immediately translated his high school potential into results on the college level. Although he started the season at left guard, he became the first true freshman to start at left tackle for the program since 2010. He led the team with 37 pancakes, recording 7 in games against Louisville and Georgia Tech.
His ability was recognized both internally and outside of the NC State building. Ekwonu was named the Philip Rivers Rookie of the Year. Meanwhile, he was a co-recipient of the John Ritcher Offensive Lineman of the Year Award. Furthermore, he was named FWAA Freshman All-American and received second-team All-ACC honors.
Despite the disruption of the 2020 college football season, Ekwonu showed no signs of a sophomore slump. Following a dominant performance against Duke, he was named the co-ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week. His statistical production was outstanding. Ekwonu totaled 50 pancake blocks and 22 knockdowns. As impressive as the output was, his ability to switch between G and OT was awe-inspiring. As a result, he earned second-team All-ACC recognition at both positions.
Ekwonu’s NFL Draft ascension
Although his size, savagery, and athletic profile lend itself to elite-level play at the guard position, Ekwonu made the switch to left tackle permanent during the 2021 college football season. Protecting Devin Leary’s blind spot, the savage OT helped ensure that the NC State offensive line allowed fewer sacks per game than they had during the previous campaign.
While quantifying offensive line play statistically can be difficult, turn on the tape and it’s easy to see why Ekwonu earned first-team All-ACC honors for his performance in his junior season. He was particularly impressive against Florida State and highly rated NFL Draft EDGE Jermaine Johnson II.
Ekwonu’s stock has continued to soar through the pre-draft process. Although he didn’t partake in any of the all-star games, the NFL Combine allowed the NC State OT to showcase his athletic potential. He set one of the fastest O-line times in the 40-yard dash with a 4.93-second attempt. During on-field drills, he looked fluid in his movements, resembling a dancing bear with the lightness of his footwork.
At points in the process, Ekwonu has received first overall pick attention. With his blend of size, athleticism, and overall savagery, it’s easy to see why. With the Jacksonville Jaguars seemingly going defense, his NFL Draft ascension may fall short of the very highest peak. However, the player whose name translates to “my effort will not go in vain” should see his effort rewarded with a top-10 selection at the end of the month.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report for Ikem Ekwonu
Positives: Large, explosive, and violent lineman who is best in a smaller area. Quickly sets up off the snap, devastates opponents with a jolt of his hands, and destroys defenders at the line of scrimmage. Stays square, easily seals defenders from the action, and plays nasty football.
Patient in pass protection, flashes footwork, and makes outstanding use of blocking angles. Keeps his head on a swivel, always looks for someone to hit, and dominates opponents. Blocks down and engulfs defenders altogether.
Negatives: Not quick out to the second level and minimally effective blocking in motion. Struggles to adjust and isn’t agile. Has difficulty handling speedy, agile pass rushers.
Analysis: Ekwonu is highly regarded in many areas of the draft world after he improved his game last season. Fundamentally sound, incredibly strong, and outstanding with his hands, he consistently obliterates opponents at the point of attack.
I question his ability to hold down the left tackle spot in the NFL or even to be used in anything other than a small area. I believe Ekwonu could be an exceptional power-gap lineman at guard or possibly right tackle.