While game tape and college all-star games can tell NFL talent evaluators a lot about college prospects, nothing sheds more light on draft hopefuls more than the NFL Scouting Combine.
Starting February 20, more than 300 of the best college football players will take to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the combine. It’s the biggest event in the pre-draft process, and making a good impression on NFL personnel is the ultimate goal.
A lot is said of combine results from year to year. Players like Jason Pierre-Paul and J.J. Watt made a lot of money by putting on a show for NFL personnel, fueling their rise up the draft boards and into early first-round consideration.
There are a lot of misconceptions about the combine, though. The process isn’t just about running fast or hammering out a lot of reps on the bench press. Prospects also have an opportunity to interview with NFL personnel to showcase their personalities, intelligence and overall readiness to play at the next level.
Still, quantifiable results of a player’s physical abilities play a major role in how prospects are graded by evaluators. Some tests aren’t as important for every position, but they all give NFL personnel a better understanding of what type of player they will be getting in April.
Like Watt and Pierre-Paul, defensive end Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah has an opportunity to rise up the draft boards in April, potentially finding a landing spot in the first 10 picks. He’s very raw, but Ansah has the physical tools teams look for in a quality pass-rusher.
Ansah only has three years of football experience under his belt, and his lack of experience is potentially the only thing holding him back from being one of the most highly regarded defensive players in this draft class. Prior to the 2010 season, Ansah was trying out for BYU’s basketball team and running for the school’s track program.
The defensive end’s physical tools are astounding. At 6’6” and 270 pounds, he has the frame to flourish in either a 3-4 (at outside linebacker) or 4-3 defensive front. His speed and quickness are unmatched by many players with his frame, and he’s already drawing comparisons to the “freak athlete” that is Pierre-Paul.
Production only tells part of the story. Ansah didn’t put up huge sack totals (4.5 in 2012) or fill up the stat sheet with tackles and interceptions, but he showed in his time at BYU that he has the potential to be an explosive pass rusher in the NFL. During the combine, he’ll have a chance to further prove his athletic ability to the NFL personnel who will consider drafting him in a couple months.
Ansah ran the 200-meters in 21.9 seconds while running for the BYU track team (per CBS Sports). That kind of speed can’t be taught, especially for a player with his size and strength. There’s good reason to believe he could run the 40-yard dash in under 4.6 seconds at the combine, and his shuttle and three-cone times should be as good as any player at his position.
Bleacher Report’s own draft expert, Matt Miller, projects Ansah as a top-10 selection for the New York Jets in his latest 2013 mock draft. While it’s still early in the pre-draft process, a good showing at the combine could easily cement Ansah in that range in April. There is always a high demand for quality pass rushers, and Ansah is one of the best available.