NC State players in way-too-early 2022 mock NFL drafts
The 2021 NFL Draft ended May 1. Naturally, a flurry of draft grades and way-too-early 2022 big boards graced the Internet not long after.
One NC State player was taken in the 2021 NFL Draft: junior defensive tackle Alim McNeill, who was selected by the Detroit Lions in the third round with the No. 72 overall pick.
Two other Wolfpack players signed with franchises as undrafted free agents: fifth-year senior offensive lineman Joe Sculthorpe (Atlanta Falcons) and fifth-year senior tight end Cary Angeline.
Several other NC State players are projected to become Pack Pros next year.
Here are a few notables that appeared in various way-too-early 2022 mock drafts:
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Payton Wilson
NBC Sports: First round, No. 29 overall to the Green Bay Packers
College Football News: Ranked No. 10 among linebacker prospects
Wilson earned first-team All-ACC honors after leading the league in tackles (108), becoming the first player from NC State to do so since Levar Fisher in 2000.
He paced NC State in tackles for loss (11.5) and interceptions (2.0) in 2020, and also produced 3.5 sacks, six quarterback hurries and one pass break up.
Sophomore offensive lineman Ikem "Ickey" Ekwonu
Bleacher Report: First round, No. 7 overall to the Philadelphia Eagles
Ekwonu earned himself a small closet full of maple syrup bottles after leading the team in pancake blocks during his sophomore campaign.
The 6-4, 320-pounder had the second-highest season run-blocking grade in the ACC according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). The only player from the league with a better run blocking grade was Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw, who was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Senior wide receiver Emeka Emezie
Pro Football Network: Second round, No. 42 overall to the Chicago Bears
Emezie was the Pack's leading receiver for the second consecutive season in 2020, finishing the year with 47 receptions for 738 yards and five touchdowns.
He also earned the highest season offensive grade among Wolfpack wide receivers according to PFF, which was good for eighth among ACC pass catchers with at least 10 targets.
Sophomore running back Zonovan "Bam" Knight
Lines.com: Fourth round, No. 122 overall to the Cleveland Browns*
Knight was NC State's leading rusher for the second straight season in 2020, finishing his sophomore campaign with 788 yards and 10 touchdowns on 143 carries. He also reeled in 20 receptions for 136 yards last fall.
After earning third-team All-ACC honors in 2020, he'll be back as the league's top returning rusher in 2021.
*This mock draft also listed Alim McNeill (who was drafted No. 72 overall in 2021) going No. 85 overall in 2022.
Other draft-eligible NC State players to monitor ahead of 2022
Fifth-year senior defensive end Daniel Joseph
Redshirt junior linebacker Isaiah Moore
Redshirt junior receiver Thayer Thomas
Junior running back Ricky Person Jr.
Junior safety Tanner Ingle
Redshirt junior center Grant Gibson
Redshirt junior defensive tackle Cory Durden (Florida State transfer)
Senior offensive lineman Chandler Zavala (Fairmont State transfer)