NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: BYU DE Ezekiel Ansah
|02.28.13 at 8:30 am ET|
WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that might be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2013 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.
Position: Defensive end
Weight: 274 pounds
Achievements: 2012 Pro Football Weekly All-America honorable mention, 2012 Phil Steele FBS All-Independent first team
What he brings: Ansah, who just starting playing football three years ago at BYU, is a raw, athletic specimen who is all upside for whatever team chooses to grab him in the first round. It’s for this reason that many analysts are making strong comparisons between Ansah and South Florida product/Giants starter Jason Pierre-Paul — that and the fact that the two have nearly identical builds.
Like JPP, Ansah enters the draft as a defensive end prospect who will require a great deal of molding from NFL coaches to produce an elite talent. However, there’s are a great deal of physical skills to work with when it comes to Ansah, who lined up everywhere from nose tackle in a light three-man front to rush linebacker all across the 3-4 during his time with the Cougars.
The speed, power, instincts, work ethic and motor are all there for Ansah. This is a guy who ran a 21.9-second 200-meter dash. What teams need to see from him before calling his name in the draft, though, is an improvement in footwork, better pass-rushing technique and the ability to not get lost when facing NFL offenses.
Don’t start getting the wrong idea, Ansah is not just a sack artist. In fact, he only tallied 4.5 sacks his senior season. Instead, Ansah’s talents were mostly on display in his 13 tackles for loss, evidence of his ability to penetrate into opposing backfields and wreak havoc. Another element Ansah brings for NFL teams is the ability to knock down passes (he broke up nine passes his senior season), an asset that’s become more in vogue for NFL teams as of late thanks to J.J. Watt.
Ansah also is fantastic in space, showing great quickness and agility to adjust to what offenses throw at him, especially when it comes to stopping screens. This will be a great asset for teams, especially when he learns enough of the game to get himself in the right position to stop plays rather than trying to catch up.
Finally, Ansah also brings great versatility on special teams — which is how the Ghana native worked his way into a starting role on the team — something that Bill Belichick is known to value highly, even drafting in the first round (See: McCourty, Devin).
Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1 (likely through trading up)
Notes: After a failed attempt to earn a spot on the BYU varsity basketball squad, Ansah eventually joined the Cougars’ track and field team, and he was encouraged by friends and teammates to try out for football. That decision began an enormous transition for Ansah, who came to the United States in 2008, as he spent the next two seasons putting on weight and learning the game. When he finally worked his way into the lineup (thanks to an injury), Ansah’s talents were plain to see.
Ansah, who’s still adjusting to his 270-pound frame, is a missile on the field, the type of hair-on-fire defender Patriots fans have wanted Belichick to acquire for years. However, he’s not without his shortfalls. The speed and strength are there, but he needs to improve coming off of the ball and can get swallowed up by blockers with his pass rush moves still in their infancy.
Grabbing a hot commodity like Ansah will be no easy task for the Patriots. Ever since Pierre-Paul burst onto the scene, it’s more likely NFL teams will reach for an incomplete defender for the sake of his upside. It’s unlikely but not unthinkable that Ansah could fall to the end of the first round, despite an up-and-down Senior Bowl showing. If Ansah does become a Patriot, it’s likely to be in a trade-up scenario similar to what occurred when the Patriots acquired Chandler Jones.
Video: Here’s a compilation of Ansah’s highlights from the 2012 season.