USA TODAY Sports
Our draft coverage and scouting reports finally takes focus on the 4-3 defensive ends. Kicking it off with BYU's Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah.
There may not be a more interesting player in the entire draft than Ezekiel Ansah. There is no question that Ansah is talented, but he is already receiving comparisons to former South Florida standout Jason Pierre-Paul. Both come from similar backgrounds because they lacked football experience and used their size and rare athleticism in college.
Ansah recently blew up the NFL Combine and nearly outperformed JPP in every single category. His stock is on the rise, but let's get into my scouting report and take a closer look at Ziggy's strengths and weaknesses.
Positives: Ansah has an amazing combination of size (6-5, 271) and athleticism. He has a massive wingspan and has the size to really play in any defensive scheme. What I love about Ansah's frame is that he can still add more to it. He's muscular and lean, but he could continue to bulk up and find a home in the 4-3 defense at defensive end.
Ziggy has really good strength, but he is only going to get stronger. When he executes his bull rush, he can drive lineman straight back and make a play in the backfield. While he doesn't have the best first step, he's extremely quick and explosive. I don't see the same explosiveness that I see in JPP, but Ansah can still continue to improve in that area.
BYU moved Ansah around the defense in order to create a mismatch. Ansah's versatility is a major selling point because he's played defensive end, linebacker and defensive tackle. Because of his speed, he executed his stunts to perfection. It's clear that Ansah is going to be a monster as a pass rusher, but is also very good against the run and shedding blocks. He looks very natural chasing down running backs and making the tackle. Ansah's strength allows him to overpower offensive lineman, while his quickness and closing speed allow him to make plays all over the field.
For a player who is still learning football and is at an early stage in his development, Ansah has better instincts than he is getting credit for and he is a quick learner. There were times when he didn't really know what to do and used poor technique, but as his senior season wore on he began to absorb the coaching at BYU. He's also been characterized as a high character individual, so that should sit well with Jason Garrett.
Negatives: Because of his lack of football experience, Ansah does have some technique issues. He's very smart and that allows him to learn very quickly, but he's had trouble lining up and grasping some of the football terminology thrown at him. He's what I like to call a "piece of clay" type of prospect because can be molded into the type of player you want him to be. Lack of experience and playing time means that Ansah is very raw, but good coaching can get him on the right track and install the proper techniques.
Ansah is good against the run, but he's still developing his strength and working on setting the edge. Until he becomes better at becoming more of an anchor, teams may choose to run at him and force him out of the play. He also lacks a lot of pass rushing moves and really needs to begin using his hands in a violent manner. If he learns how to use those long arms, he could become one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the NFL.
It's hard for players of his size to maintain perfect pad level throughout the game. Ansah has shown that he can get low and stay balanced, but he's still working on doing that on a consistent basis. There is some concern about his lack of stamina. Ansah fatigued early and was forced out of plays because he was out of gas. It's not something I would worry too much about because the NFL strength and conditioning program does whip players into shape and gets their stamina up.
Conclusion: Ansah looks like a prototypical 4-3 defensive end because of his size, strength, athleticism and has immense upside as a pass rusher. When you watch his game tape and highlight reels, you can see why Ansah is being compared to JPP.
It's a risky pick, but it's going to be hard to pass on an athlete like Ansah. He has all the athletic tools to grow into a special player, Ansah just needs to get down the mental part of the game. If he gets down the mental aspect, then all of the physical stuff will fall in place. Ansah is a major boom-or-bust type of pick because he's only started nine games in college.
After a strong showing at the Senior Bowl and blowing up the NFL Combine, Ansah could fly up the draft and be long gone before the Dallas Cowboys go on the clock at 18. If he does fall down the board to the Cowboys, then the war room will have to seriously consider taking the chance on Ansah.
It would be ideal for the Cowboys if they develop Ansah behind DeMarcus Ware. Who knows how much time Ware has as an elite pass rusher. Looking for his replacement may seem premature, but you can start grooming someone behind him and prepare for the point in Ware's career when he begins to take a step backwards.
Ezekiel Ansah 2012 Highlights [HD] (via ThatHighlightChannel)