2022 first-round pick Ikem Ekwonu gives the Carolina Panthers help on a depleted offensive line that plagued the team in an abysmal season and is a hometown kid fans can root for.
The NC State OT helps the Panthers fill in a vital need that hindered the team on the offensive side of the ball and is a local kid that creates a hometown narrative fans love.
The offensive line for Carolina ranked near the bottom at 31, as most of the tackles received subpar efficiency ratings. On a scale to 100, Carolina possessed only one lineman that graded above a 70 as right tackle Taylor Moton received a 77.8 rating.
John Miller and Michael Jordan, who combined for 21 games this season allowed 13 sacks. It is safe to say that Carolina needed the best OT in the draft, and it got Ekwonu as a gift in the draft because he was not projected to fall that far to Carolina.
He will not instantly turn the offensive line around, but he is projected to be a starter, and that might help the team enough if he performs as well as he did in college.
Ekwonu also played at Providence Day School, in Charlotte N.C. before becoming a member of The Wolfpack, so his journey appeals to the fans here. He is a hometown kid who played at a D1 school in North Carolina and is now playing for the pro team.
This narrative arc makes the season more compelling because if the Panthers do not perform well there is still a local kid on the team starting.
It rarely happens, much less to a new team like Panthers where the team is less than 30 years old. He also is someone who fills an immediate need for Carolina.
It will be an interesting season for the Carolina Panthers and Ikem Ekwonu adds intrigue to the team as a star and locally produced talent.