Ekwonu embodies everything that the NFL is looking for in terms of play demeanor and setting the tone up front.
He looks to embarrass his opponents and he piles on the pancake blocks every time he steps on the field. He constantly looks for work and his blend of power and aggressiveness is overwhelming for defenders that cross his path. He will immediately improve the toughness and physicality of an NFL offense.
Ekwonu’s overall growth as a player speaks to his football intelligence. He went from raw bully on the field to a powerful technician in a short period of time.
His feel for zone run plays is outstanding. He makes so many impact blocks on wide zone runs because of his physical gifts, but his execution is well-timed and he understands leverage points. His spatial awareness is exceptional. I also love how he understands how to maximize his physical ability when forced to recover and the awareness he has of his skill set. Simply put, he knows what clubs are in his bag but also when and how to use them.
Power At POA
The best thing about Ekwonu’s game is his power at the point of attack, which is maximized through his mauler’s mentality.
Power At POA
Ekwonu has overwhelmed opponents at the college level and that should translate to the next level. There are some moments where his desire to bury opponents presents challenges staying square and sustaining blocks but it usually comes with a notable initial jolt and movement.
Ikem Ekwonu earned the opportunity to start at left tackle for North Carolina State as a true freshman in 2019 and he quickly developed into one of the most dynamic blockers in the country. His tenacity, size, devastating power at the point of attack, and football intelligence position him well to become an entrenched starter in the NFL. The toughness and physicality of his NFL team will immediately be improved with his addition.
Ekwonu took a notable step forward in 2021 but he does have room to grow when it comes to weight distribution, taking away inside pass rush moves, and occasionally being too aggressive, which leads to blocks not being sustained long enough. Ekwonu hails from a family of athletes. His twin brother plays linebacker at Notre Dame, his father played college basketball in Nigeria, and his mother was a track star in high school. Ekwonu wrestled in high school in addition to his time on the gridiron. Ekwonu has the makings of a year-one impact starter with Pro Bowl potential by year three.
Ideal Role: Starting left tackle
Scheme Fit: Wide zone rushing attack but he’s a universal scheme fit
Written by Joe Marino
Games watched: Miami (2020), North Carolina (2020), Pittsburgh (2020), Mississippi State (2021), Clemson (2021), Miami (2021), Wake Forest (2021)
Best Game Studied: Mississippi State (2021)
Worst Game Studied: Miami (2020)
Balance: In the run game, Ekwonu creates notable movement while remaining in control of his frame despite an aggressive demeanor. He operates in space with good balance and rarely overextends himself. In pass protection, Ekwonu’s desire to latch quickly can lead to some top-heavy reps where he folds at the waist. His overall coordination took a major step forward in 2021 compared to what the 2020 tape revealed.
Pass Sets: Ekwonu thrives when he’s able to get on top of defenders quickly and set the clamps. With that said, his growth in 2021 to frame rushers with more traditional pass sets is notable. The Clemson 2021 game did present some challenges for Ekwonu shutting down the inside move, but his length, power, and tenacity often made it possible for him to recover.
Competitive Toughness: See Above.
Lateral Mobility: Ekwonu has sufficient lateral movement skills and his best moments show up on wide zone runs where his mobility, timing, and feel for widening running lanes stand out. His lateral quickness can be less impressive in pass protection when forced to quickly redirect his weight and stay connected to inside moves where his face gets crossed. He has his share of stand-out reps on longer pulls where he works outside the numbers, gets to his landmarks, and makes impact blocks in space.
Length: Ekwonu has the length needed to play offensive tackle in the NFL and he does a terrific job of maximizing his reach. His consistency with hand placement in the run game accentuates his length and he also does well to increase his radius in space by utilizing his long arms and trusting his technique. He understands and takes advantage of his opportunities to widen rush lanes and protect the width of the pocket when threatened to the outside.
Football IQ: See Above.
Hand Technique: Ekwonu has devastating power in his hands and he routinely delivers knockout blows. He does a tremendous job latching his hands in the run game and finding leverage points to exploit on his opponents. In pass protection, Ekwonu has low hand carriage which leads to elongated strikes and some instances where opponents are able to work into his frame. He does well to vary his strikes.
Anchor Ability: Ekwonu has no issues leveraging his hips and anchoring at the point of attack. Pass rushers are foolish to think they can bull rush and play through him on the edge. His power and mass make it look easy for Ekwonu to absorb power.
Power at POA: See Above.
Versatility: Ekwonu has three years of starting experience at left tackle but has also played more than 200 snaps at left guard. While I believe he can be a standout left tackle in the NFL, his projection to guard is natural and comes without notable concern. He has thrived in NC State’s wide zone rushing attack but there’s no doubt he would also fare well in a gap blocking scheme. He does need continued development with deeper sets, which is something to keep in mind if he’s tasked with playing in a vertical passing offense, although every necessary trait is present to continue the progress he’s made in his career.
TDN Consensus: 91.00/100 (Top 10 Overall Value)
Crabbs Grade: 87.50/100
Marino Grade: 92.00/100
Harris Grade: 92.00/100
Sanchez Grade: 92.00/100
Weissman Grade: 92.50/100
Parson Grade: 90.00/100