Jaguars can’t rule out taking OL Ikem Ekwonu in the 2022 NFL Draft

Jaguars, OL, Ikem Ekwonu (Photo by Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Jaguars, OL, Ikem Ekwonu (Photo by Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) /

Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal is one of the top collegiate prospects ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft. He’s also a favorite to be the Jacksonville Jaguars’ choice at No. 1 but faces competition from Oregon’s Kavyon Thibodeaux, Michigan’s Adian Hutchison, and even Ikem Ekwonu, who recently told Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports that he believes “he has a strong case to go No. 1

Edholm recently wrote a lengthy profile on Ekwonu and touched on several topics, including his family background and his decision to play at North Carolina State. In Edholm’s article, Ekwonu praises and thanks strength coach Dantonio “Thunder” Burnette for playing a key role in his development. Furthermore, Ekwonu took advantage of the opportunity to make his case to be the first overall pick.

"I just feel like when you turn the film on, there’s nobody in the class that you can see as dominant as me,” he said. “I take pride in that. I feel like the refinement in my game in pass pro, especially from the 2020 season to the 2021 season, you can see it on film."

Ekwonu acknowledges that he needs to improve in pass protection but believes that he has a strong case to be the Jaguars’ pick at No. 1 and says that he’s willing to put in the work to become a more complete player. Heading into the draft, Evan Neal looks like the better prospect of the two and a better bet to go first overall but Ekwonu’s untapped potential could intrigue the Jaguars enough to make him their choice or give it a serious thought at least.

The Jaguars could trade down in the 2022 NFL Draft to land Ikem Ekwonu.

Nobody outside the Jaguars’ HQs knows what their draft board looks like and how the team’s brass see Neal and Ekwonu. In the end, they’re going to select whoever they think is going to become the better player down the road whether it’s Ekwonu, Neal, or a pass rusher like Kayvon Thibodeaux or Aidan Hutchinson.

Keep in mind that the Jaguars could trade down a few spots to acquire extra selections, maybe to No. 4 or No. 5, and still end with Ekwonu. If they like him more than Neal, they could work the phones and see who’s interesting in moving up a few spots. Of course, that could be the difficult part, as there is no consensus top prospect in this year’s draft the way Trevor Lawrence was last offseason.

The Jaguars need to ensure Lawrence has good protection and revamping their offensive line should be one of the top priorities this offseason. That’s why it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Jaguars use the top pick on an offensive lineman. The issue with taking Ekwonu so high is that they would most likely make the pick based on potential talent and a projection. You could argue that he would be a high-risk, high-reward prospect and that’s not what you would want with the first overall pick.

Drafting Neal would lack flash but he would be the Jaguars’ offensive line a boost. On the other hand, Ekwonu’s ceiling as a player is high but is it high enough to pass on Neal? That’s something Jacksonville’s front office will probably discuss in the next few weeks.

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