Another day, and another scouting report with a sleeper at the wide receiver position. It seems there are nearly 20 receivers in this year’s NFL Draft that can all be selected over one another. The player in question today: Texas Tech’s Erik Ezukanma. Ezukanma started off his 2021 season on a roll. The Red Raider had 13 catches for 322 yards and a touchdown in his first two games. After some inconsistent quarterback play in Lubbock, Ezukanma’s production lowered for the rest of the year. Because of this, he has flown under the radar in the pre-draft process. However, Ezukanma has shown flashes that are worth looking at in terms of a projection in this draft.
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Name: Erik Ezukanma
Jersey: No. 13
Position: Wide Receiver
School: Texas Tech
Class: Redshirt Junior
Weight: 210 lbs
Games Watched: Oklahoma (2021), TCU (2021), Houston (2021)
Major Injury History: Broken Arm (2021)
Starting out fast and furious, Ezukanma catches everything. There were no drops in the three games watched, and it was hard for defenders to even make a play on the ball. Ezukanma’s hands are arguably the best in this draft and perhaps the best-kept secret out there. This elite trait gives him an early leg up on the other receivers he is dueling with for a higher draft position.
Contested Catch (9.75/10)
Maybe even better than the hands is Ezukanma’s contested catchability. The number of times the 22-year-old is able to go up and get the ball or simply outmuscle any receiver is off the charts. Instantly, this makes Ezukanma a deep-ball threat. The one time on film where he failed to catch a contested ball was when the Houston defensive back pinned both of Ezukanma’s arms down and got lucky to get a no-call. Aside from the jump balls, Ezukanma holds onto the ball through traffic. He’s able to ignore the oncoming defenders, no matter how hard the hit is, and secure the reception. The contested catchability cannot be stressed enough, as again, it is another trait from Ezukanma that is arguably the best in class.
Tracking/Body Control (9/10)
A big part of Ezukanma’s ability to catch the ball at an extremely high level is because of what he can do with his body. He is able to fight through contact mid-route and make the necessary adjustments for the catch. He will track in the deep ball with ease and knows exactly how close to the boundary he is at all times. These first three traits for Ezukanma are special and create a phenomenal catching ability overall.
Route Running (7.25/10)
Finally, we come back down to Earth. Ezukanma is a very long stridden route runner. He sort of glides up the field. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does show he’s not the most crisp out there. You’d like Ezukanma to be able to sell cuts harder, although it’s hard for someone his size. Another thing he could improve on is stopping quicker when tasked with curl and comeback routes. There is potential here, though, as Ezukanma has fluid hips and moves well throughout each and every route.
Erik Ezukanma’s route running is one of his underrated traits. I still think he can be more consistent there, but he has the tools.
Great hip sink for his size, and decelerates really well on deep hitches. He can be a complete WR.
— Ian Cummings (@ian_cummings_9) March 31, 2022
Bigger receivers naturally cannot separate as well as smaller ones, but Ezukanma has shown he knows how to use his frame to gain space. He will get separation at the point of catch or just by using his strength. He shrugs guys off and highpoints the ball nicely to secure it. With his route running, Ezukanma sits in zones nicely and has a knack for finding himself open against zone coverage.
While he doesn’t have the fieriest or twitchiest release in the world, but he does other things really well. When going up against the jam, Ezukanma swipes the defender’s hands away early and often. This stuns receivers out the gate and allows Ezukanma to gain a step. Again, we see strength being a featured ability, one that he takes advantage of in every play.
Run After Catch (9/10)
This could be the most underrated ability from any player, of any trait, in any position. Ezukanma has insane balance. You hit him low; he’ll spring right off it. If you think he’s going down, Ezukanma adjusts and keeps fighting for yards. He makes guys miss often, which you wouldn’t expect at first with the lack of speed. Overall, Ezukanma is a strong, incredibly balanced runner who will pick up tons of yards out in space.
Vertical Speed (6.75/10)
Whether or not he was still recovering from injury, Ezukanma did not complete all the tests at the NFL Combine. At his Pro Day, the Texas Tech product ran a 4.53 40-yard dash. All Pro Day metrics must be taken with a grain of salt; however, this is promising. In terms of what’s on film, Ezukanma needs to step it up with the long speed. Sure, he can get a step at times, but Ezukanma mostly relies on deep catches from jump balls, not burning by corners.
A 36.5-inch vertical jump at the Combine shows Ezukanma has solid explosiveness. The problem is, he just doesn’t have that speed in the first place that allows Ezukanma to kick it into second gear and accelerate down the field. Ezukanma can be explosive, but not on a consistent basis in his routes, thus leaving us wanting for a little more here.
There’s yet to be an official raw athletic score posted for Ezukanma, though it should be pretty solid. Ezukanma’s strength is the highlight here. Although he put up 10 bench reps at his Pro Day (not the greatest metric in the world), the functional, on-field strength is so much better. Furthermore, Ezukanma will be able to get away with some lack of speed because of his playing style.
Advertised as a versatile big receiver, Ezukanma fits that to a tee. The underrated RAC ability gives Ezukanma a huge boost in versatility ratings. Texas Tech gave Ezukanma screens, swings, jet touches, and end arounds, all of which he succeeded in. They also lined Ezukanma up in the slot for a good portion of reps, though he projects to be more of a boundary receiver.
With a frame like Ezukanma’s, there’s instant excitement on the blocking front. Some guys with his size come in as raw blockers, but he has nice technique. He gets his hands directly into the defender’s pads and uses his elite strength to hold any block. The one thing you’d want to see a little more of is involvement, as it varies between games; however, when Ezukanma is blocking well, it’s rare that the defender gets by.
There’s no question that Ezukanma is one of the most underrated players in this class. The way in which he can simply pluck the football out of the air is ridiculous. There will be zero issues with hands throughout Ezukanma’s career, based on what he showed on the tape. Teams can put Ezukanma in any position and let him work. His playstyle is very similar to 2021 third-rounder Nico Collins, who was also able to snag nearly every deep ball. Ezukanma is seen mostly as a Day 3 pick. If he gets there, though, a team will be getting a downright steal and a future starter in this league.
Rookie Projection: Rotational Receiver
Third-Year Projection: Mid-Tier Starting Receiver
Player Grade (82/100): Late Second-Round
Pro Comparison: Nico Collins
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