Georgia’s Travon Walker or Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson? Who will be the pick at No. 1 in the 2022 NFL Draft? That’s the question those watching the Jacksonville Jaguars are asking. However, there might a third option, and taking North Carolina State offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu shouldn’t be ruled out one week away from this year’s selection meeting.
Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson reportedly wants to go offense with the top pick and Gene Frenette of The Florida Times-Union says that a league personnel guy told him that the team prefers Ekwonu over Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal if they pass on Walker or Hutchinson. Keep in mind that there’s plenty of smoke at this time and not many outside the Jaguars’ war room know what their draft board looks like and what their strategy will be. Moreover, general manager Trent Baalke just told the media they haven’t made a decision yet.
Still, it isn’t hard to believe Jacksonville likes Ekwonu more. In fact, Bridget Condon of NFL Media was the Jags are impressed with the former Wolfpack because of “how smart he is and his willingness to understand” he has room for improvement. Ekwonu sees himself as worthy of being the No. 1 pick in the draft and is indeed aware that he must become a better pass-blocker.
The Jaguars would have a hard time fitting Ikem Ekwonu into the lineup.
The Jaguars applied the franchise tag on Cam Robinson for the second year in a row and it’s hard to envision him not being the starting left tackle in 2022 (and probably beyond). Jawaan Taylor is the incumbent at right tackle. He may need to compete with sophomore Walker Little for the starting job in training camp. This leaves left guard as the only realistic spot to plug Ekwunu in.
The North Carolina product could play guard in his rookie campaign and move to left guard in 2023. But for that to happen, the Jaguars would need to let Robinson walk away in free agency. Also, Little showed flashes in his rookie campaign and deserves a chance to compete for a job. Leaving him on the bench would be a puzzling decision.
Maybe Ekwonu is the highest-rated player on the Jags’ draft board and they should take him if they think he can become a franchise building block. Having said that, it will be hard to fit him into the offensive line, and the Jags might be better off sticking to the group they already have.
Is there a chance the Jaguars will take Ekwonu? Yes, a slight one. Should they select him? Only if they have a sound plan in place and the truth is that going defense at No. 1 may be a better strategy.