Could Ikem Ekwonu be in the mix for the Detroit Lions with the second overall pick?
With the second overall pick in April’s draft the Detroit Lions have a lot of options, at least theoretically. Liberty quarterback Malik Willis is getting most of the current buzz, but there’s an angle where Ikem Ekwonu would be on the radar.
NC State’s powerful left tackle was the pick for the Lions at No. 2 in the most recent three-round mock draft from Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus. Here’s part of his rationale:
"Ekwonu can slot in at guard immediately while developing to be Taylor Decker’s eventual replacement at left tackle. The Power Five leader in big-time blocks would create a juggernaut offensive line in Detroit."
I love this idea, in theory. Brad Holmes solidifies the Lions’ offensive line as a young, talented group for the next several seasons. To Renner’s point, it also gives the team a succession plan should they decide to move on from Decker when his contract is up after the 2024 season (or sooner). If Decker or Sewell go down with an injury, there’s a solid backup option too.
Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus added fuel to the Ekwonu-Lions fire, answering a mailbag question about who Detroit would take at No. 2 if Aidan Hutchinson was gone.
"I’ve been saying this for nearly a month now, but I still think there’s a strong possibility that it will be Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. If it’s not, however, then I wouldn’t write off the possibility of the Lions taking an offensive lineman — whether that’s Ikem Ekwonu or Evan Neal. A league source I spoke to recently raised that possibility.Yes, the Lions just took Penei Sewell with the seventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and they still have Taylor Decker at left tackle. Nonetheless, Ekwonu and Neal both have the ability to play guard in the interim, and they could slide over to offensive tackle once Decker, who will be 29 years old this season, parts with the team."
It’s easy to bristle at the notion Ekwonu would pick up and switch positions at the drop of a hat (queue the meme: One does not simply [switch from tackle to guard]), but he played a small, yet meaningful share of snaps at left guard in 2020, according to PFF. So guard is not completely foreign territory for him. Consider players like Brandon Scherff and T.J. Lang successfully made the transition from college tackle to very good NFL guard after being drafted, and there’s precedent.
Does taking Ikem Ekwonu at No. 2 make sense for the Lions?
As tantalizing as it may be, the answer for Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell has to be “not right now.” The Lions’ offensive line is pretty set right now, with the only possible spot that could use a youthful upgrade is right guard. But Halapoulivaati Vaitai was solid in 2021, while serving as a mentor to Penei Sewell throughout the young tackle’s rookie season. Disrupting that chemistry wouldn’t be ideal.
More importantly, with the available talent at other positions of need at the top of the draft, especially on the defensive side of the ball, makes the idea of going with an offensive lineman in the top-10 of back-to-back drafts a non-starter.
From the moment they arrived, Holmes and Campbell have sought to build a team of “football players”–guys who, in their eyes, play with a chip on their shoulder and won’t back down from a fight. While Ekwonu certainly seems to fit that mold as a mauler along the offensive line, there are other players who make more sense for the Lions with the second overall pick.