2022 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Erik Ezukanma (Fantasy Football)
Good luck trying to say Erik Ezukanma’s name three times fast. You might not even be able to say it once. In a draft season highlighted with the names like Garrett Wilson, Drake London, and Chris Olave, you might not have heard Ezukanma’s name very often. In late December 2021, at age 21, the Texas native, Chukwuerika “Erik” Ezukanma announced he would forego his last two years of eligibility at Texas Tech University and declare for the 2022 NFL draft. Going into draft season, it is easy to focus on those athletes constantly appearing at the tops of consensus draft boards, but these rookie profiles allow us to go a little deeper and learn about some hidden gems that might come out of the 2022 draft. Erik Ezukanma is one of those potential gems.
Let’s take a look at Ezukanma’s college production and tape to get an idea of what we can expect from him as he enters the NFL.
This article is part of our Rookie Profile series leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the UDK+ for 2022.
Ezukanma’s measurables come from the combine. He did not run the 40 or participate in the bench press.
|Vertical||Broad Jump||20 YD shuttle||Height||Weight||Wing||Hand||Arm|
|36.5||126||4.38||6″2′||209||78 1/4||9 3/8||33 1/2|
— Ben Golan (@BenjaminGolan) March 4, 2022
Ezukanma did not play much during his freshman season, only appearing in two games. Returning to Texas Tech the following year, he started to make an impact. He led the Red Raiders in receiving yards that year and continued to do so during his tenure. He also led the team with receptions during his last two years in college. His receiving yard average stayed above 14 yards a catch throughout his entire college career. He was also used in the rushing attack in his final year at Texas Tech, converting ten attempts for 138 yards and two TDs.
What’s On Tape
Games Viewed: Houston (2021), OU (2021), Iowa State (2021), Oklahoma State (2020), Baylor (2021)
The first thing that jumps out when you see Ezukanma on the field is his overall physical prowess. When Ezukanma got to Texas Tech for his first year in the fall of 2018, he was a scrawny 180 pounds. Returning the following year, he weighed in at 210 pounds after diligently focusing on filling out his 6’2” frame. He weighed in at the combine this year at 209. And the man has arms. His wingspan is 78.25”, and it looks to be even larger when he is on the field – he fully extends when he jumps up to make catches. That coupled with his large hands to help secure the football, build the foundation for what could be an impressive athlete. Due partly to his physical build, Ezukanma does not seem to shy away from contested catches. During his 2021 season, 16 of his 74 targets were contested (22%), and according to PFF, his contested catch percentage was 56%. In addition, once his fingers touch the ball, you see him clearly adjusting to protect his catch. He is not afraid of the physical contact of defenders.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 26, 2020
While only having 74 targets in his last season at Texas Tech. Ezukanma made the most of them. His average depth of target that year was 11.8, which, oddly enough, was the lowest of his entire college career. Overall, during his tenure at Tech, Ezukanma had a 12.6-yard depth of target, which puts him in the same category as players like Garrett Wilson and Jameson Williams. Not too shabby.
Perfect throw. Perfect catch.
— Texas Tech Football (@TexasTechFB) November 13, 2021
What’s Not On Tape
Although Ezukanma is an excellent physical specimen, he has things to work on if he hopes to be a receiving asset in the NFL. The first thing I noticed is he has pretty much one speed. Whether it is coming out of a route, running down the field for a pass, or pushing for yards after the catch, Ezukanma is running at what looks like the same pace. Do not hear what I am not saying; the man is a fast runner, but he is missing the variation that top-notch pass-catchers in the NFL demonstrate. He lacks the stop-and-go quick speed out of his routes, which will prohibit him from the ability to break away from defenders, and he lacks the after-burner speed that he needs to demonstrate once his long arms reach out to grab the football.
With this lack of speed differentiation comes Ezukanma’s inability to create separation. Remember when I mentioned all of his contested catches? Yea that was partly due to his inability to break away from his defenders. The defenders in the NFL are another beast compared to the ones he saw in college, and without the ability to separate, Ezukanma will find himself sitting on the bench.
Another thing Ezukanma can improve on is his presence in the rushing attack. He only made an impact rushing for the Red Raiders during his final season, clocking over 100 yards rushing with two TDs. Ezukanma has the overall athletic talent that can and should be utilized all over the field. I hope we get a chance to see it and watch him grow in the NFL.
2022 Fantasy Outlook
Ezukanma came out of the gates hot in 2021, which led to the murmurings of him moving up draft boards. These quieted quickly, partially due to the injuries and change at the QB position at Texas Tech – Ezukanma was catching passes from three different guys in an offense that struggled, and his numbers reflected this. But is he a diamond in the rough here? I think that Ezukanma could learn and grow in a pass-heavy offense in the NFL, taking note of seasoned route runners and figuring out how to make his size and physical assets work better for him. I would love to see him land in a place like Minnesota or Green Bay, where he could take advantage of the tutelage of a top WR in Jefferson or Adams and QBs that love to throw. And for your fantasy team? If he lands in a good situation, he is someone to take a late-round flyer on. At a minimum, keep an eye on him during the first weeks of the season to see if he is making a connection with his (hopefully) seasoned QB.