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2022 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: OT Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State

Nick takes an in-depth look at an offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu, a player who could be the first pick by the Giants in this month's draft.

Ikem Ekwonu, OT

Height: 6’4
Weight: 310 lbs.
Class: Junior
School: North Carolina State
Arm length: 34”
Hand size: 10 ¼”


A former three-star recruit from Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina, Ekwonu was the 36th ranked offensive guard, and the 26th North Carolina recruit during the 2019 cycle. Ekwonu is an incredibly smart young man who had offers to Harvard. He was recruited at 288 pounds and transitioned to left tackle, seeing snaps in his first-ever college game. He was the starting left tackle by week seven for the Wolfpack.

Notables

An insanely dominant run-blocking offensive tackle who packs an incredible punch in his heavy hands, Ekwonu only allowed 13 pressures and three sacks in 2021. He allowed 54 pressures and ten sacks in his three-year stint at NCST. He predominantly played left tackle (2,023 snaps) and played 239 snaps at left guard in 2020. He took one total snap at right tackle in college (2020). Ekwonu was an All-American selection in 2021.

Ekwonu’s inviting personality was on display at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine. He’s engaging, intelligent, and very personable. However, he flips a switch when on the football field and turns into one of the meanest players on the field. His wrestling background and physical nature are great assets for an offensive lineman. Here are his testing numbers from the combine:

  • 40-yard-dash: 4.93 
  • Vertical jump: 29"
  • Broad jump: 108” 
  • 3-Cone: 7.82s
  • Short Shuttle: 4.73s

 Strengths

  • Great size and good length with a thick dense frame
  • Good athlete in space with excellent short-area quickness
  • Very good initial quickness to jump defenders
  • Initial pop and power will surprise
  • Good change of direction and lateral agility
  • Well balanced with good body control - understands leverage/torque and uses them to his advantage
  • Showed good bend throughout his body - is not stiff
  • A bowling ball of physicality barreling forward to annihilate defenders
  • Heavy hands and a punch that jolts - uses second effort to embarrass defenders
  • Explodes through the ground and rolls his hips into contact to maximize his elite strength
  • One of the best overall run blockers in the draft - just moves bodies
  • Elite run blocker on the play-side of stretch zone, will floor second-level defenders and EDGEs
    • Miss State: Q1, 6:50; Q1, 6:19; Q3, 1:15
    • Florida State: Q4, 3:55
    • USF: Q3, 9:39 for a TD
  • Excellent on backside blocks to cut or to scoop and create a delightful cut-back lane
  • Elite functional strength and a devastating ability to wash defenders on down blocks
  • Excellent lower-leg drive and upper body strength to control defenders
  • Sustains blocks through violent pushes or driving defenders into the ground
  • Violent ability to kick into space in power/gap concepts as a puller
  • Scary mover in space with great control
  • Generally very smooth in COMBO situations - has a devastating chip/climb and locate skill-set
  • Wants to locate with bad intentions - playing through the whistle is an understatement
  • Eye-popping finishing ability - just mean on the football field, tosses defenders around like toys
  • Made a routine of blocking defenders 20-yards down the field
  • Punch is very strong and heavy in pass protection
  • Flashed several snatch & trap plays
    • Miss State: Q4, 0:58
    • Florida State: Q2, 13:43 vs. Jermaine Johnson
    • UNC: Q2, 12:40
  • Great anchor to absorb contact
  • Does a solid job mirroring with his feet (was beat inside a bit too much)
  • Recognized what he was seeing - good processor - wish he was more confident in his kick-slide/set
  • Does a solid job using his inside hand to defender counter moves in pass protection
  • Handles power moves well in pass protection
  • Possesses all the competitive toughness
  • Reported excellent leader in the locker room
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Can Improve

  • Better run blocker than pass protector
  • Pass sets in general need some work for a top-10 tackle
  • Wish he had more confidence in his kick-slide/set - Raw in this area
  • Oversets too often - set depth judgment is an issue
  • Oversetting led to counter moves that cleanly beat Ekwonu (Clemson, Q2, 8:37)
  • Allowed defenders into his outside shoulder too often - punch timing wasn’t always crisp to protect, was predicted by defenders (Syracuse, Q4, 7:06) (Boston College, Q3, 4:37)
  • Stutters that halt his set gave him problems when he was too predictable with his punch - beat around the edge in some of these situations
  • Misjudged a punch against Clemson that surrendered the EDGE (Clemson, Q4, 7:06)
  • Block framing up arc was exploited twice by UNC - pad level rises at hip-to-hip relationship
  • Struggled to move Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson off the EDGE (Q1, 8:16 / Q3 3:48 / Q3 2:15)
    • Johnson locked Ekwonu out and helped cause STOPs
  • Johnson also beat Ekownu with an outside spin counter move in pass protection (Q4, 6:16)
  • Hands aren’t overly refined and can be late, misplaced, or not as reactionary as they could be - usually made up for hand issues with elite strength and ability to bully
  • Had some miscommunications on play-side DEUCE combo blocks - climbed too early/late

Summary

Overall, Ikem Ekwonu is one of the more powerful offensive linemen in college football. He finishes run-blocks so well, can execute any run blocking assignment, and is an excellent overall athlete. He’s very controlled in space and has all the competitive toughness in the world. Violence and power are some of his best traits. He’s set to easily be a top ten pick, but he isn’t perfect.

Ekwonu needs to do a better job framing his blocks as a pass protector. He oversets, leaving an inside alley into the pocket, and hasn’t consistently protected his outside shoulder well; these issues happen because his hands aren’t yet refined.

His punch timing, placement, and ability to vary are a bit too predictable, and the issues were exploited a bit. He’s going to need some work as a pass protector, and he doesn’t have a lot of experience on the right side (where he’d more than likely play with the Giants).

He’s not perfect, but his strengths are translatable. Ekwonu will easily be an immediate impact player wherever he plays but would thrive in a run-heavy system that gets him on the move and allows his great location ability to eliminate defenders. He can play in zone or power/gap concepts. I believe he can be a tackle; he could easily be an elite guard in the NFL if he doesn’t develop more consistency with some of his deficiencies. He is a real option for the Giants in the draft.

GRADE: 6.84


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