USA TODAY Sports
BYU defensive end Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah is just beginning his football career.
The Jacksonville Jaguars could go a lot of different ways in the 2013 NFL Draft with the No. 2 overall pick, but most feel like it's going to be a defensive lineman of the pass rush variety. One player who I expect to score off the charts at the NFL combine is BYU defensive end Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, who had a ho-hum Senior Bowl week but dominated in the game, creating havoc in the backfield.
"I thought he (Ansah) had an average week of practice (at the Senior Bowl), and in the one on one pass rushing drills, defense should dominate and he didn't dominate," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said on a conference call on Monday. "He was a guy that was so long, so athletic, so gifted. I just think he's so raw sometime it's can't come out. I don't think there is anybody on the in the NFL that doesn't think he's going to be a good player."
This is the biggest knock for Ansah; how long will it take him to become a pass rushing force? Jason Pierre-Paul, whom a lot of people compare him to (incorrectly, in my opinion), wasn't the pass rushing phenom he is now until his second season in the NFL. The biggest bonus with Ansah though is, his upside is virtually limitless and he's a "build-a-DE" type prospect.
"He's so gifted, some teams are looking at him as a 3 4 outside linebacker while other teams are saying with that frame, he could be 290 (pounds) and be a 3-4 defensive end. So it's kind of interesting. Teams are looking at him a 4-3 end, a 3-4 outside linebacker, and a 3-4 end," Mayock said on his conference call. "You can't say that about many kids and it goes to his unbelievable athletic ability and huge frame. I'm willing to bet on the kid."
To me, that's one of the most attractive things with Ansah. He can virtually play three different positions at his current weight, as a rookie. He'd probably fit better as a rookie playing the five-technique role in Gus Bradley's defense, but he could also shed 10 pounds and fit the LEO or outside linebacker position in a 3-4 defense. Ansah has played all of those spots already with BYU, including nose tackle on some downs and dropping back into coverage.
One interesting nugget I saw from former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah was the fact that the Lions coaching staff lined Ansah up at the nine-technique during the Senior Bowl game, which was a big reason Ansah was able to do what he did so successfully. One thing Ansah needs to learn is creating space for himself, but lining up wide at the nine-technique creates natural space for him to work with.
Ansah can be whatever the coaches want him to be at the next level, and apologies for using a tired cliche, but he's a piece of clay that coaches can mold into what they want. He also doesn't have any bad habits yet to break, because he hasn't been doing them for 5 to 10 years like a lot of pass rushers coming out of college.
This isn't to say that if the Jaguars were to draft Ansah it wouldn't be a risky selection, because it would be, but it could also have the most payoff out of the defensive ends in the draft. He's going to have the measureables that you want in a pass rusher, he's got the size, arm length, quickness, and relentlessness rushing the passer. He just needs to grow.