|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)
|Is Ezekiel Ansah a bigger risk than Jason Pierre-Paul?||02.23.13 at 1:52 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — Everyone wants to grab the next Jason-Pierre Paul, and the popular player for such comparisons this year is the ultra-raw, ultra-athletic Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah out of BYU.
Such comparisons make sense as far as their talent as pass-rushers, but the uncertainty surrounding Ansah, who has only known how to play football for three years, should be much greater than it was for Pierre-Paul three years ago.
Pierre-Paul declared for the draft in 2010 after his first season at South Florida, which was his only year facing FBS competition after spending his freshman and sophomore years at Canyons Junior College and Fort Scott Community College, respectively.. The reason he was so raw was because he weighed around 170 pounds coming out of high school, thus going largely unrecruited. He put on over 100 pounds over a three-year span, and by the time he made it to South Florida, he was a 6-foot-4 4/8, 270-pound sack machine. There were questions about whether the raw pass-rusher was too big a risk, but he’s answered those by being one of the best in the business since the Giants drafted him 15th overall.
The story’s a bit different for Ansah. Unlike Pierre-Paul, who had been playing football since his junior year of high school, Ansah spent his upbringing in Ghana playing soccer and basketball and admittedly watched no football. When a Mormon missionary spotted him and recruited him to BYU, Ansah went and majored in statistics, but he didn’t go straight to the field.
Instead, he tried out for the basketball team in 2008 and 2009. After not making it, he went out for and made the track team. Eventually, friends and family got him to play football.
“I never thought of playing football because I had never played the game so I didn’t know much about it, so that’s why I tried out for basketball [in the first] two years,” he admitted Saturday.
Ansah said the transition was tough — not only did he not know how to play the game, but he said he was pushed in practice as though he had been playing the game all his life. He didn’t do much at first, totaling 10 tackles over his first two seasons, but as a senior he had 62 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 13 games. An impressive showing at the Senior Bowl boosted his stock, and now the 6-foot-5, 271-pound defensive end is viewed as a major risk/reward prospect that could go in the first round despite his admitted unfamiliarity with the game.
“Obviously, in comparison to all the people that are out here, I’ve been playing for only a few years,” he said. “I’ve still got a lot to do just to catch up with them and I’m going to put everything I’ve got in and just do my best.”
As far as learning and coach ability goes, Ansah seems to have a good head on his shoulders, as he was well-spoken with the media Saturday. Additionally, English is his first language and he said his home in Ghana was very similar to an American culture.
“It was pretty much the same as out here, except it’s all Africans, black folks, and there’s a lot of white people in Utah,” he said with a smile.
Ansah is highly raw, but he has the body, strength and speed to make him an electric pass-rusher. He only figures to get better, but there’s just so much uncertainty to expect someone to learn things that the rest of the league already knows. Questions will remain until he proves he can do it, but Ansah believes he’s worth the risk.
“I like the challenge a lot,” he said. “I know most of you are here to talk to me, but then again, there’s a lot of people that have doubts in me. That’s what I love. I just want to prove you all wrong.”