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2022 NFL mock draft: Carolina Panthers select Ikem Ekwonu

With the sixth pick in the POD Community Mock, the Panthers select...

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl - North Carolina State v Kentucky Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

It’s the Carolina Panthers’ turn in the 2022 Pride of Detroit Community Mock Draft. A few weeks ago, it looked like the Panthers had an opportunity to take a huge jump in the NFC South. The Falcons and Saints hit the reset button hard this offseason, and the Buccaneers appeared prime to reset after Tom Brady retired.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, Brady decided shuffleboard wasn’t feeding his competitive hunger like football, and now the Bucs are back in the driver’s seat—even with Bruce Arians’ semi-retirement.

Anyways, the Panthers have a lot of directions they can go with this pick. Offense, defense, quarterback, offensive tackle, safety, edge rusher. On one hand, this makes the sixth pick in the draft a can’t-miss scenario. On the other hand, having this many needs suggests this team needs a lot of help.

To pull the Panthers out of this hole is Pride of Detroit commenter BigJShaky. As temporary general manager of the Panthers, here’s the board BigJShaky is working with.

POD Community Mock Draft picks so far:

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
  2. Detroit Lions: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
  3. Houston Texans: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
  4. New York Jets: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
  5. New York Giants: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

And with the sixth pick in the 2022 Pride of Detroit Community Mock Draft, the Carolina Panthers have selected Ikem Ekwonu, offensive tackle from NC State.

Here’s BigJShaky with the explanation for the pick:

Well, the sheen has certainly come off the Matt Rhule experience, huh? The toast of the head coaching world in 2020, Rhule’s seat suddenly feels hot, particularly with an ultra-aggressive owner in David Tepper. As a Panthers organization, are we rebuilding? With no Sean Payton and Matt Ryan, are we trying to compete in a more open NFC South?

I’ve gotten together with my scouting team (the folks at Cat Scratch Reader) and come up with the following needs for our team:

  1. Quarterback – Remember when Cam Newton was baaaaaackkk and considered an upgrade over Sam Darnold? Yikes.
  2. Offensive tackle – I’ll let The Ringer’s Danny Heifetz field this one: “The Panthers have had seven different starting left tackles in the past seven seasons. Let that sink in.” Startling.
  3. Linebacker – The defense is in better shape than the offense, but this team has never really filled the void left after Luke Kuechly’s retirement.
  4. Wide receiver/Tight end – This offense is short on playmaking beyond the underrated DJ Moore, the sometimes threatening Robby Anderson, and the constantly injured CMC.

Ideally, I would be desperately fielding calls to trade down and get some of the draft capital back in the ill-fated Darnold trade. With no offers available, taking a swing on the upside of Malik Willis is tempting. That said, on behalf of the Carolina Panthers, I will be selecting Ikem Ekwonu, offensive tackle from North Carolina State University.

Getting a player that was once in play for number one at six feels like fantastic value. Ickey crushed the combine on and off the field, receiving rave reviews during interviews and posting an excellent 8.31 RAS. That athleticism and intelligence showed up on tape as PFF graded Ickey higher in 2021 than fellow top tackles Evan Neal and Charles Cross, while highlighting him as “the single most dominant run-blocking tackle in the country.” Ickey could solidify Carolina’s revamped offensive line and end the streak of constant rotation at left tackle. Knowing the Carolinas after playing college ball in Raleigh is icing on the cake.

Now … we can rekindle that early season magic when Darnold led the league in rushing TDs, right?

Erik’s thoughts:

As BigJShaky noted, the value of this pick is tremendous, so I understand the appeal of Ekwonu. The Panthers have invested in right tackle Taylor Moton and he has rewarded them with excellent play. Pairing him with Ekwonu would give them a formidable bookend duo.

That being said, they did spend a third-round pick on Brady Christiansen just last year, and he did start six games for them, playing well down the stretch. But if they’re not sold he can hold down the left tackle spot, then I’d be okay with Ekwonu as the pick, as I am a proponent of having three offensive tackles capable of starting on the roster.

If the Panthers believe in or want to give Christiansen a shot at left tackle this season, this very much feels like a potential spot for Liberty quarterback Malik Willis or Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett. As BigJShaky noted above, the Cam Newton experience is over, Sam Darnold isn’t the answer, and with an owner with an itchy trigger finger, it may be worth it for Rhule to once again try and land a quarterback.

Poll

What grade do you give this pick?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    A
    (177 votes)
  • 33%
    B
    (131 votes)
  • 14%
    C
    (58 votes)
  • 3%
    D
    (12 votes)
  • 2%
    F
    (11 votes)
389 votes total Vote Now