As the 2013 NFL Draft draws closer college pro days around the nation are winding down, but Thursday's slate included at least one player who could potentially be a top-five pick this April.
Brigham Young defensive end Ezekiel Ansah took the field in Provo for the last time on Thursday to work out in front of NFL scouts, but as Tony Pauline of Draft Insider pointed out the 6'5", 271-pound Ansah chose mostly to stand on his numbers from February's NFL Scouting Combine.
Ezekiel Ansah/DE/BYU sitting on combine numbers and just doing position drills during pro-day...— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) March 28, 2013
According to NFL.com, those numbers included a 4.63-second 40-yard dash time and 4.26-second 20-yard shuttle, which was best time in that drill by a defensive lineman in Indianapolis.
It's that rare combination of size and speed that has some scouts salivating over the potential upside of the former walk-on to the track team, who started only one season for the Cougars.
Ezekiel Ansah does not consistently win the edge, but is long, athletic, and versatile with enticing closing speed. #NFLDraft32in32— Ryan Lownes (@ryanlownes) March 28, 2013
NFL.com echoes some of those sentiments in their scouting report on Ansah, who had 62 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a senior.
Combination of size, length, and foot speed is nearly unparalleled. Delivers solid first contact that jolts opponent back. Continues to press and locate ball carriers in the backfield. Consistently sheds at the line of scrimmage, envelopes his target with a strong grasp and outstanding closing burst. Flashes the complete package, specifically when rushing from the edge on passing downs.
In fact, the team with the first pick in this year's draft has already had Ansah in for a private workout.
The Kansas City Chiefs recently worked out Brigham Young OT Braden Brown and DE Ezekiel Ansah.— Oren Shiri (@NFLorentime) March 21, 2013
However, while there's a lot of shine to "Ziggy" Ansah's game there isn't a lot of polish, and that adds an element of risk for NFL clubs considering spending a high draft pick on him.
In fact, at least one draftnik doesn't think that Ansah merits a top-10 pick, and Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel agrees.
"I wouldn't take Ezekiel Ansah in the top 10. He's too much of a risk," Charlie Casserly on Path to the Draft. LISTEN TO THE MAN.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) March 22, 2013
"Raw" is a word that's often been associated with Ansah, which is to be expected from a player who only started one season and didn't even begin playing football until 2010.
Jason Braddock of Roto Experts pointed out at least one example of just how raw Ansah is, while revealing one of his strengths in the same 140-character stretch.
My Top 10 - 34 DEs -1) Ezekiel Ansah (He's raw. He tried to soccer style tackle a guy in one game, for goodness sake.)— Jayson Braddock (@JaysonBraddock) March 28, 2013
Ansah has both the size to play with his hand down, and the speed to rush the passer as an outside linebacker, and that sort of versatility is very appealing in today's NFL of hybrid defensive fronts.
So is Ansah's considerable upside, even if it takes some time for it to show in the NFL. The new collective bargaining agreement makes it much more palatable to gamble with a high pick now. Gone are the days where that was a $25 million roll of the dice.
As NFL.com points out, that upside has Ansah's stock climbing, and nothing that happened Thursday in Utah was likely to change that.
Ansah is rough around the edges, but the number of height/weight/speed athletes with positional versatility selected in that area in recent years point to a rise up draft boards in 2013.
That rise may well culminate in a top-five landing spot, at least if mock draft polling done by The Bay City Times is any indication.
Detroit Lions mock draft roundup: BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah the trendy choice bit.ly/11khoPh— Bay City Times (@BayCityTimes) March 21, 2013
More than a few draft experts have drawn a comparison between Ansah and Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants, in that Pierre-Paul was a similarly raw yet freakishly athletic player entering the NFL.
By Pierre-Paul's second season, he was one of the best defensive ends in the NFL, and he appears set to terrorize opposing quarterbacks for many years to come.
The team that takes a chance on Ansah, be it the Detroit Lions or another club, will be hoping for a similar return on their investment.