It’s no secret that the Cowboys are in need of help on the offensive line. Today we take a look at an under-the-radar prospect in North Carolina’s Joshua Ezeudu.
Name: Joshua Ezeudu
Weight: 308 pounds
Combine Results: 5.19 40-yard dash, 28.5” vertical jump, 105” broad jump, 7.83 3-cone drill, 4.56 short shuttle
Headlines were made a few weeks ago when it was announced that head coach Mike McCarthy would not be attending the NFL owners meetings. Instead, McCarthy was attending North Carolina’s pro day. While some took it as another indicator of McCarthy’s precarious standing with the organization, it’s much more likely that McCarthy just wanted a closer look at a player they’ve already added to their list of 30 official pre-draft visits, offensive lineman Joshua Ezeudu.
Hello from sunny Palm Beach, home of NFL owners meetings this week.— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) March 27, 2022
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy will not attend, instead scheduled to visit UNC Pro Day tomorrow & Alabama on Wednesday, per source. I’m told we’ll talk to McCarthy virtually this week between or after those visits.
Ezeudu hasn’t been generating much hype, though that’s largely due to North Carolina having a fairly disappointing year this past season. Ezeudu is an intriguing prospect, though, in many ways. After redshirting his first year in Chapel Hill, Ezeudu became a starter right away, alternating between tackle and guard. He settled in at guard in his final two years with the Tar Heels before making the decision to enter the draft this year.
Ezeudu also turned in a fantastic combine performance last month, which undoubtedly caught more than a few eyes. He came away with a 9.12 relative athletic score (RAS), a metric that compiles a player’s athletic testing measurables and yields a score on a 10-point scale relative to their positional counterparts. Based on Ezeudu’s individual measurables, the player his RAS compares most to is Cowboys star Zack Martin. That’s not to say Ezeudu is the next Zack Martin - he’s almost definitely not - but the physical traits are very similar. Take a look for yourself:
Anchor: With a sturdy and full frame at his size, Ezeudu has a really good anchor. It’s not at the level that the top iOL prospects in this class possess, but Ezeudu more than holds his own when he drops his anchor. Bull rushes don’t often succeed against him.
Lateral Agility: Ezeudu is at his best when he’s on the move. His footwork can be a little clumsy at times, but Ezeudu is a natural mover whether it’s in zone blocking assignments or working as a puller. He’s definitely someone who knows how to build up his power as he moves, too.
Point of Attack: As mentioned above, Ezeudu builds up his power well when he’s able to get a running head start. However, he has issues at the point of attack without that head start. More physical defenders have gotten the better of him here, and that will continue to be a problem at the next level as long as he remains this inconsistent with his technique.
Balance: Ezeudu is built low to the ground, which enables him to demonstrate great balance. His inconsistent footwork is the biggest challenger to his balance as a blocker, but Ezeudu is so agile and quick that he often made up for it at North Carolina.
Hand Technique: For a three-year starter like Ezeudu, he’s really underdeveloped here. Ezeudu doesn’t seem to have a firm understanding of how to utilize his hands or length - Ezeudu has 34” arms - to gain leverage and redirect defenders. With his anchor ability and agility, improved hand technique could really unlock Ezeudu’s potential.
Run Blocking: Ezeudu shines most as a run blocker. He’s got a downhill demeanor that’s accentuated when he’s moving in zone or pulling. Ezeudu was often used as a lead blocker on running plays at North Carolina regardless of where he lined up.
Pass Blocking: Ezeudu has experience playing both tackle spots but looked more comfortable at guard in large part because he wasn’t responsible for edge rushers that took wider angles on him. At guard, Ezeudu has a better time in pass protection with his anchor ability, though there is room for improvement here.
Processing: Ezeudu’s ability to play three different positions at North Carolina - head coach Mack Brown also stated he could play center or right guard if necessary - speaks to his football IQ. Ezeudu was also named to the All-ACC Academic Team after his 2020 season.
Intangibles: Ezeudu has great length for the position and combines that with top-tier athleticism and agility. He was featured on Good Morning America discussing his lifelong challenges with a stutter and how he works to be an inspiration to others with a stutter. North Carolina head coach Mack Brown described Ezeudu as one of the team’s leaders this past season.
Joshua Ezeudu grew up with low self-esteem. Now he’s a star athlete hoping to inspire kids.@UNCFootball#GoodNewshttps://t.co/c6MKyu2dKe pic.twitter.com/yYWAtdeFOA— Good Morning America (@GMA) November 28, 2021
There’s certainly a lot to like about Ezeudu. He has some great physical talent for the position, and is a natural fit at left guard, a major need for the Cowboys. Additionally, his experience playing both tackle spots adds to his value as a positionally flexible player. From a physical standpoint, Ezeudu has everything you could want in a guard.
The issue for Ezeudu is that he’s still pretty raw in a few important areas. His hand technique isn’t there yet and his footwork needs to become more consistent. It would be appropriate to label Ezeudu as a developmental prospect, although his athleticism and length provide a much higher ceiling than most developmental linemen. Ezeudu likely isn’t someone who will be a starter in 2022, which seems to be what the Cowboys are looking for. But with Ezeudu trending toward being a Day 3 draft pick, his ceiling and potential offer great value if a team can give him a year or two to refine his techniques.