Shuffling upfield, Ikem Ekwonu scanned the area, looking for an opponent to neutralize.
The North Carolina State offensive lineman, who is one of the candidates to be selected first in this year’s NFL Draft, found Wake Forest linebacker Ryan Smenda Jr. and shoved him to the ground. This cleared the way for running back Zonovan Knight to score the first touchdown of the game.
Just for good measure, as Smenda rose back up, Ekwonu shoved him back down.
His ferociousness and tenaciousness are qualities that led to him being regarded among the most feared offensive linemen in college football.
It’s also why Ekwonu is intriguing as a top-five prospect in the draft.
Maybe the most violent snatch-and-finish I’ve seen from a college blocker.
LT Ikem Ekwonu has some truly special abilities. One of the best players in the draft! pic.twitter.com/0LPGQVJx9p
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) November 8, 2021
Ikem Ekwonu Draft Odds
Ekwonu’s stock has been rising, as he has the third-best NFL Draft odds to be selected first overall at +700 as of March 15. He opened at +10000.
|Name||Position||Team||1st Pick Odds (4/28)|
|Ikem Ekwonu||OL||NC State||+400|
|Charles Cross||OL||Mississippi State||+10000|
|Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner||CB||Cincinnati||+10000|
|Derek Stingley Jr.||CB||LSU||+15000|
|Kyle Hamilton||S||Notre Dame||+15000|
|Matt Corral||QB||Ole Miss||+15000|
|Sam Howell||QB||North Carolina||+20000|
|Garrett Wilson||WR||Ohio State||+20000|
|DeMarvin Leal||DT||Texas A&M||+30000|
|Chris Olave||WR||Ohio State||+50000|
The Jacksonville Jaguars have the No. 1 overall pick. They could use help at essentially every position except quarterback after selecting Trevor Lawrence with the top pick a year ago.
— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2022
Ikem Ekwonu Draft Pick Projection
Ekwonu has a decent chance of being drafted first overall. But in a situation where the Jaguars take Neal first, there’s a good possibility Ekwonu may drop a few picks. His draft position Over/Under is 3.5.
The New York Giants could be a nice fit at No. 5 overall.
They were 14th in adjusted sack rate last year according to Football Outsiders. But as for the ground game, they were 31st in adjusted line yards.
Beyond that, the Giants have an even further need at the position group.
Starting right tackle Nate Solder, right guard Will Hernandez, center Billy Price, and left guard Matt Skura are all set to be free agents this offseason. Some may be retained, but the Giants still will likely need to add some new faces up front for 2022.
This is where Ekwonu, who can play guard or tackle, would help. Cross or Trevor Penning of Northern Iowa could be other O-linemen the Giants may consider here.
Ikem Ekwonu’s Stats
In 2021, his third year of college, Ekwonu became the third player at NC State to earn unanimous All-American accolades. He also was given the ACC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy and was named a finalist for the Outland Trophy, which goes to the top interior lineman in the country.
Playing left tackle, he allowed a mere two sacks to go with 67 pancake blocks. The year before, he was All-ACC at both guard and tackle after totaling 50 pancakes.
Only OL to rank as a top five run blocker in each of the last two seasons:
Ikem Ekwonu💪 pic.twitter.com/iWf4gWrmO4
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 4, 2022
As a freshman in 2019, he earned seven starts at left tackle. He led the team in pancakes with 37 and became a Freshman All-American.
Last year, NC State was 28th in the country in scoring offense (33.1 points per game), tied for 56th in sacks allowed (25) and was 59th in total offense (414.4 yards per game).
Ikem Ekwonu’s Draft Profile
Ekwonu is powerful at the point of attack and is quick out of his stance. He maintains a steady base, which means he’s rarely vulnerable to countermoves.
He can also rapidly recognize where pressure is coming from and adapt accordingly. He can pass blocks off to another lineman and pick up another defender smoothly.
This past season, South Florida’s defense lined up with six at the line of scrimmage on a fourth-and-2 play. Ekwonu instantly had his hands on a defender at the snap and drove him back until he was on the ground. Knight ran by Ekwonu’s left hip and raced to the end zone for a 46-yard touchdown.
#NCState OT Ikem Ekwonu
Combination of power, pliers for hands, natural athleticism, and displays non-stop playing effort at the line of scrimmage. pic.twitter.com/kW6ISfim98
— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) February 26, 2022
Ekwonu is a highly mobile offensive lineman at 6-foot-4, 310 pounds. He was seventh among O-linemen at the NFL Combine with a time of 4.93 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
He’s also fast enough to keep up with ball carriers and make key blocks well downfield. That happened often in his collegiate career.
In 2020 against No. 11-ranked Miami, the Wolfpack ran a trick play that ended with quarterback Bailey Hockman catching a pass behind the line of scrimmage on the left side of the field. Ekwonu was on the ground at the beginning of the play, but he picked himself back up and ran about 20 yards in front of Hockman.
Hockman made his way toward the goal line, and Miami safety Bubba Bolden was the last opponent who could’ve made a tackle. Ekwonu laid him out and Hockman waltzed into the end zone.
Between his athleticism and aggressiveness, Ekwonu would fit well with the Giants.