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2022 NFL Draft

Panthers select N.C. State OT Ickey Ekwonu with No. 6 pick in 2022 NFL Draft

The wait for the next new hope at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers will have to wait for a bit, but whomever he is, he'll have his backside covered.

The Panthers selected North Carolina State offensive tackle Ickey Ekwonu with the No. 6 overall pick on Thursday during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Though the search remains for a quarterback in Carolina, the Panthers filled a huge need at left tackle with the local college product. Since Jordan Gross' departure in 2013, the Panthers have had 16 players start at left tackle. Ekwonu will look to stop that turnstile emphatically.

No lineman in the 2022 draft drips with more potential than Ekwonu.

The 6-foot-4, 310-pound N.C. State product owns an extraordinary combination of size, nimble feet and a nasty demeanor that could portend a rarefied career.

Ekwonu started 31 games over three seasons with the Wolfpack, 27 at left tackle and four at left guard (in 2020). The 21-year-old sports long arms and heavy hands and displays great feet and agility on the move. In the run game, he can swallow defenders and create holes on the move. In 2021, he allowed just three sacks on 476 pass protection snaps, per Pro Football Focus.

The first-team All-ACC lineman isn't a finished product as he tends to over-set and can get too aggressive. But the talent and athleticism are there for Ekwonu to develop into a rock at left tackle.

Heading into Thursday, NFL Network's Bridget Condon reported the Panthers were hoping Ekwonu or Alabama's Evan Neal would be available for the taking. Turns out they both were and the Panthers pounced on Ekwonu before the Giants picked Neal a selection later at No. 7.

Without a pick currently on Day 2 of the draft, the Panthers, who currently have Sam Darnold as their top quarterback on the depth chart, have yet to make a move for a QB, but they've got a pillar for the offensive line no matter who's the team's signal-caller.

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