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Texans Rumors: Ikem Ekwonu Seen as Likely Draft Pick over Derek Stingley Jr.

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVApril 28, 2022

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While the Houston Texans are expected to consider going cornerback with the No. 3 overall draft pick Thursday night, North Carolina State tackle Ikem Ekwonu is the favorite in the clubhouse.

Peter Schrager of NFL Network reported "winds have changed" to favor Ekwonu over LSU corner Derek Stingley Jr., who had been gaining momentum as the potential selection.

Ekwonu has emerged as the top offensive tackle in this class after emerging as one of the most versatile offensive linemen in college football the last three seasons. He was recruited as a guard before earning the left tackle spot as a freshman, then moving back and forth between guard and tackle during his sophomore year and finally settling back on the left side, dominating in every facet.

The Texans could slot Ekwonu at right tackle for at least next season with Laremy Tunsil manning the left side. Houston will have to make a long-term determination about Tunsil's future with the franchise after next season. He's set to count $35.2 million against the cap in 2023 and is coming off a season when he was limited to five games because of injury.

The Texans would save around $18.5 million by releasing Tunsil next offseason. It's possible they also sign him to a restructured contract and move him to the right side of the line as the seventh-year pro approaches his 30s.

Ekwonu would be a cost-controlled asset who can potentially anchor the offensive line as the Texans continue their rebuild. Davis Mills is expected to start at quarterback in 2022 after a promising rookie season, but his status as a long-term option is up in the air. Prioritizing the line would help give Houston a better idea of whether Mills can be a starter long-term or if he projects as just a quality backup.

With the quarterback class considered much stronger in 2023 and the Texans unlikely to compete for a playoff spot next season, taking Ekwonu and then going after the best player available at No. 13 with their second first-rounder this year seems prudent. 

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