First Round: Fifth Pick
A 6'5", 270-pound former soccer and track athlete, Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah enters the 2013 draft as one of the most intriguing and talented players up for selection. The Ghana prodigy arrived at BYU on an academic scholarship and just discovered football three years ago. His backstory is incredible to read and he figures to be one of the first defensive players selected in April.
+ Has progressed quickly
+ Strong, heavy hands
+ Incredible athleticism
+ Enough flexibility to bend and turn the corner
- Still inexperienced
- Doesn’t understand leverage yet
- Boom/bust prospect
Tools ( + )
One of the best athletes in the entire 2013 draft class, the Ghana native arrived at BYU and walked on to the track team, where he ran a 10.91 second 100-meter dash and a 21.89 second 200-meter dash. He had one of the best workouts of any player at the Combine, running a 4.26 short shuttle (best for defensive linemen), and a 7.11 three-cone drill (10th amongst defensive linemen) at 6’5” and 271 pounds.
Ansah originally came to BYU on an academic scholarship before trying out for track and, eventually, football. His agent claimed that Ansah chose not to participate in an NFL Combine training program, preferring to train at BYU while he finished his classes.
For only having played football for three years, Ansah appears to be a quick learner as he was used in a number of different positions and roles for BYU. He was a backup and rotational player for his first two years before flourishing in a larger role as a senior. He played as both a one and two-gap player, lining up as a tight-alignment defensive end, a loose-alignment defensive end/linebacker, and even as a true zero-technique nose tackle. However, most of his snaps went to playing as a 3-4 defensive end.
Ansah is under-developed as a true edge-rusher due to having played so many different roles for the BYU defense. As a pass-rusher, he displays heavy hands and the flexibility to work a bend in his rush. Despite rarely being used this way in college, Ansah is clearly most comfortable when aligned wide, where he has a bit more time to react and can use his athleticism and heavy hands to his advantage.
According to most reports, he struggled greatly in one-on-one pass rush drills during practices at the Senior Bowl, but single-handedly took over the game (1.5 sacks and multiple pressures) when allowed to align wide and simply play. He has incredibly strong hands and is most effective off the bull rush, but needs to start learning to chain moves together or take advantage once he has the offensive tackle beat, since he too often allows the blocker to recover and re-anchor.
Against the Run
Ansah has an incredibly strong upper body and uses his length well. His leverage and poor pad-level definitely become an issue for him anchoring (especially since he’s essentially playing 3-4 defensive end), but his punch and upper body are so strong that he can usually hold his own and disengage at the point of attack. He needs some work on angles when he’s chasing running backs and quarterbacks, as he has a tendency to chase instead of cutting the runner off with a proper angle.
Use of Hands
While playing inside so much hampered Ansah’s growth as a pass rusher, playing in so much traffic forced him to develop strong, powerful, active hands. He has an incredibly powerful punch off the snap, and his length poses a problem for offensive linemen trying to sustain blocks on him. He lacks pass rush moves outside of a bull rush and needs to develop a go-to move, as he often gets stuck once initial contact is established.
Much like Aldon Smith at Mizzou, Ansah’s time served playing on the inside will go on to pay great dividends. The two share many similar traits—incredibly powerful hands and enough flexibility to work a bend. Ansah showed at the Senior Bowl that he’ll be best utilized from a wide alignment—whether it’s as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a weak-side 4-3 defensive end depends on the team that drafts him, but it’s likely he will be coveted by both and will not make it outside of the top-10 picks.
All video provided courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com