2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Ikem Ekwonu

2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Ikem Ekwonu

by December 24, 2021 4 comments

Ikem Ekwonu, the former three-star recruit, has had an outstanding career at NC State. Even though he was the 612th-ranked player in his class, he started immediately and made a name for himself. Ekwonu is also one of the more intriguing prospects in this class because of the ongoing debate over what position he should play at the next level.

There’s no doubt that Ekwonu is incredibly strong, a true mauler in fact, or that he can be great in the NFL. His length makes people wonder if he should man the interior or bump out to offensive tackle and perhaps become a cornerstone for a franchise. We will grade Ekwonu as a guard because of the traits he’s shown on film and his length. 

Make sure to check out all of our other NFL Draft Scouting Reports.

Player Bio

Name: Ikem Ekwonu

Jersey: No. 79

Position: Offensive Line

School: North Carolina State

Class: Junior 

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 320 lbs

Games Watched: Mississippi State (2021), Miami (2021), Clemson (2021)

Major Injury History: None

Player Breakdown 

Pass Blocking (12.75/15)

Ekwonu has shown a solid ability in the pass blocking game, but some inconsistencies. The Clemson game was probably his worst here, but then again, there were just so many flashes of a great pass blocking lineman. He can dominate the rusher with power and drive him right back at times. The move he struggles most with is speed on the inside or out, but we’ll never see Ekwonu get overpowered.

Run Blocking (14.75/15)

This is Ekwonu’s strongest area, and he is probably the best pure run blocker in the entire class. The amount of times where Ekwonu creates a gap and opens a hole for his back is insane. In all three games watched, Ekwonu moves guys out of the way and creates space for the running back to exploit and get into the second level.

Anchor (14.5/15)

Another great area for Ekwonu. We’ve mentioned the power and strength quite a bit, and all of that plays into his anchor. Ekwonu is never getting driven back and can knock linemen on their backs. There’s no issue for him in this area, and the cleanliness at which he operates here is what causes so much intrigue from NFL scouts.

Footwork (8/10)

There’s still a little bit for Ekwonu to learn in this aspect of his game. Against the run, it’s hard to see any mistakes made, but against the pass, there’s room to improve. Ekwonu’s overall foot speed is not quick enough to handle speed rushers if he were to play tackle at the next level, and he sometimes lunges too early into the lineman, which causes a loss in the rep.

Mechanics (8.5/10)

One could say Ekwonu has elite mechanics, and he sure does, but he still may be a step behind Alabama’s Evan Neal in this area, and that could be what sets these two linemen apart. Ekwonu’s mechanics are all about the flashes he has shown. There are times where he’s allowed lineman to get inside his frame, which always causes problems. There are many other examples where he extends his very long arms and keeps the lineman outside, and doesn’t let them get anywhere close to the backfield.

Athleticism (9.75/10)

The more you watch, the more you like about Ekwonu’s athleticism. Now, let’s keep in mind that a lineman’s athleticism isn’t all about how fast they can move if they can pull successfully at the next level or what their 40-time will be. While Ekwonu does have all of that and then some, athleticism is also about strength, and that’s where Ekwonu thrives. His hand power is lethal and a joy to watch. Ekwonu is a true mauler, and it’s something that won’t change in the league.

Versatility (9.5/10)

Here’s where we get to talk about the tackle verse guard debate centered around Ekwonu. Look, the media has been hyping him as a tackle for weeks now, but he will not succeed at that position early on in his career. If Ekwonu turns out to be the lineman he has the potential to be, sure you can put him outside later on, but off the bat, he has to play guard.

It’s not just about his semi-subpar 6’4″ frame, as much as it is the foot speed on the outside. All of his reps at tackle, you can see he doesn’t have the same dominance against speed rushers that he does against others, and it kills him at times. All in all, play the kid at guard early, and if he’s needed at tackle, he can defiantly be serviceable and can be a full-time starter at tackle later on in his career.

Length (9/10)

This trait is being graded on Ekwonu playing guard. If he was graded as a tackle, the length would probably sit around 7-8, but inside he can be dominant. The arms are just so long, and he’s constantly extending them, keeping the defender away and easily winning the rep. If we put Ekwonu at tackle he won’t be bad in terms of length, but there would be more negative plays because of his length than there would be at guard.

Control (4.5/5)

Overall, Ekwonu’s control is outstanding, but we do see some small details that you’d love for him to clean up a tad. First, more patience. Everyone loves watching Ekwonu as he runs through a guy, but sometimes, the over aggression can kill him. This happens on very rare occasions, but it still is a thing that he has and needs to be mentioned.

Player Summary

Ekwonu is a fascinating prospect. From the beginning, he brings controversy over the position at which he should play and provides film that is super fun to watch. If teams believe Ekwonu can be a tackle right out the gate, he should warrant a top 10-12 pick in this year’s draft. If the consensus around the league comes that he is a guard, the positional value may drop him to the late first round. Either way, this player will be a competitive one at the next level and a guy that any general manager will love to have.

Rookie Projection: Starting Offensive Guard

Three-Year Projection: Top-12 Guard/ Starting Tackle

Final Grade (91.25/100): Potential Top-10 Pick

Player Comp: Richie Incognito 

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