Can ‘Ziggy’ be the new JPP?

This draft class is full of defensive talent, though some are more refined than others. One of the rawest prospects in the draft comes in the form of Brigham Young defensive end Ezekiel Ansah.

Ansah’s story will be told and retold countless times until the big day in April. Born in Accra, Ghana, Ansah was recruited by a Mormon missionary at BYU, and decided to pursue a career in basketball. But having failed to make the team in 2008 and 2009, Ansah turned his hand to the track, where he┬áran a 10.91 second 100-meter dash and a time of 21.89 seconds in the 200 meters. Finally, Ansah was convinced to try out for the football team and the rest is history.

It’s fair to say that Ansah’s size made him a prototypical football player – 6ft 6in and 270lbs with that kind of speed makes him a physical phenomenon, and it’s that raw athletic ability that has internet draftniks purring – and no doubt NFL teams will also be intrigued by his potential, especially after the Combine, where Ansah can exhibit all his natural athleticism.

The numbers aren’t much to look at – 4.5 sacks all season, and two of those came in one game against Utah State, but Ansah showed up early on in the Poinsettia Bowl, making an interception for the Cougars. Ultimately, Ansah is going to be drafted purely on his potential because he’s heavily inexperienced right now, even though he has flashed explosive ability.

He has played outside linebacker, defensive end and even nose tackle for BYU this year, showing his immense versatility which will also impress scouts. His speed and strength, combined with his long arms, creates disruption and during time, he can become a more consistent pass rusher by adding a range of moves to his repertoire, but more experience will also enable him to do a better job of recognising plays.

As things stand, Ansah is an intriguing prospect but a million miles away from being the finished product. There have been a few occasions where I’ve been watching Ansah and it appears that he “takes plays off” every now and then, but the fact remains that we’ve seen a number of raw pass rushers drafted in the first round in recent years; Jason Pierre-Paul, Aldon Smith and Chandler Jones spring to mind, and the combine will be crucial for Ansah’s draft stock.

If Ansah impresses, as expected, a team will probably bite on his potential inside the Top 15 picks – maybe even Top 10…

One thought on “Can ‘Ziggy’ be the new JPP?

  1. Watched 6 of his Ansah’s games recently and not once he did attempt what you would call a pass-rush move, he was all bull-rush and it didn’t really get him anywhere. No dip, bend, rip, swat, club, nothing of that sort, no attempt to attack or set up either side of the OT, he did try a couple of spin moves but it was a labored move that looks slow and wasn’t very successful.

    He had plenty of snaps as an edge-rusher to display some sort of feel for creating leverage to either shoulder of the OT and he treated them as if they were OG’s, just squared them up and tried to press them back and see if he could get free to chase the QB (and you’re right, he does seem to wear down near the end of halves).

    I went back and watched JPP and in one game, during one series he displayed exponentially more feel and use of pass-rush moves. Never mind that Ansah stands straight up out of his stance and offers way too much of his chest plate, he has miles and miles to go before he’s anywhere near JPP’s level coming out of USF. A true test for how important coaching is and if potential combined with coaching leads to success.

    I do think Ansah is NFL ready as a run defender, great functional strength, surprising instincts vs the run and deflecting passes, great chase player but he’s a huge risk as an edge rusher. I didn’t like Chandler Jones as an edge rusher and he ranked 25th amongst 4-3 DE’s in terms of pass-rush productivity (PFF) but his run-stopping ability graded him positively (~+10 which is a solid starter). I think Ansah has less polish as a rusher but more physical talent while being an equally effective, if not better run stopper (I feel both players are better off trying to maximize their skill sets by moving to that hybrid DT/DE role rather than being pure-edge rushers). Late 1st at best for me.

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