INDIANAPOLIS — Erik Ezukanma knows exactly what he’s hoping for when he hears his name called in the NFL Draft.
It’s not a particular coaching style, nor is it a fit with his quarterback. Both of those things matter, of course, but the Texas Tech wide receiver is more concerned with the thing that he hopes will keep him employed for years to come: his health.
“(I want to) get with a team that’s going to know exactly what I need during the season in order to stay healthy,” he said. “Nicks and bruises are going to happen, but I don’t want it to alter the way I play.”
Ezukanma’s reasoning is sound, as he’s got the size to be a difficult matchup for years to come as long as he can keep himself healthy and develop his route-running abilities. In Lubbock, he proved himself a matchup nightmare for Big 12 defenses because of his combination of quick feet and a large target, allowing him to lead the Red Raiders in receiving in each of his three years with the team.
As far as he’s concerned, the only things he needs to add to the puzzle are a team that knows how to help him take care of his body and some time to build on his route-running skills.
“A guy like Justin Jefferson, I feel like we have a similar body type,” Ezukanma said. “I love the way he runs routes as well as Keenan Allen, and I want to model my game after those guys because of how they run routes as well as their size.
“That’s the biggest thing that I’m working on at this moment; I feel like I have all the other intangibles. But you can never get perfect at route running; you can always get better at that and make sure you have that ability.”
His existing abilities suggest he could bring value as a late-round draft choice. Over his three years, Ezukanma ranked in the top 10 in the Big 12 in yards per catch every time, based mostly off his ability to create additional yards after hauling in the pass.
“I can read the field very well,” he said. “I played running back from second grade to my freshman year of high school, so I have the ability to read the defense while the ball is in my hands.
“Every time I touch the ball, I’m looking to score, regardless of where I’m at on the field. At running back, when you get the ball in the backfield, you’re running downhill. At receiver, when I catch a curl or comeback, I’m turning upfield, trying to get contact as soon as I get the ball and trying to score.”
On Wednesday, Ezukanma confirmed that he had met with the Steelers and heard positive comments about his on-field performance. The Steelers are highly likely to use one or more selections on a wide receiver prospect, and Ezukanma would be eager for the chance to bring his receiving skills and more to western Pennsylvania should Pittsburgh opt to select him.
“My versatility is my biggest asset,” he said. “I’m still trying to improve as a receiver, but most guys, I feel don’t have the versatility on the field to get put anywhere and make big plays.
“Put me anywhere on the field, and I’ll get the job done for you.”