When looking at NFL prospects every night things can start to run together.
I mean, I like to watch groups of positions so I am able to jot down notes, scribble out my thoughts and produce a “grade” of sorts. My grades are where I would feel comfortable drafting a player, and as you go through you always wait to have that moment of “wow!”
Well, when you watch Ezekiel Ansah play on defense there are times you say “wow!” Now, I will say that those plays aren’t always good — in fact, a lot of them leave you scratching your head. But he’s coming to visit the Arizona Cardinals and he is a guy who can be a weapon on defense. Here’s a closer look at Brigham Young defensive end Ziggy Ansah.
Ansah the Freak
When they build a prototype defensive end, they would use Ansah’s measurements.
Ezekiel measures in at 6-foot-5, 271 pounds, with an arm length of 35″. He clocked a forty time of 4.63 seconds, but more importantly his 10-yard split in the forty was 1.56 seconds.
His frame is long, he is well put together, and shows room to add bulk that shouldn’t slow him down.
Ansah displays a first step that would rival anyone’s in the draft, and when you put the package together you see a player that could easily rival or surpass any prospect in terms of upside.
Ansah is young in his development as a football player, but shows an interesting and rare combination of power and quickness that allows him to play on the edge as either a defensive end or standing up as an outside linebacker.
When playing as a 3-4 defensive end, Ansah showed an ability to not just use his speed to rush the passer or penetrate and chase down the ball carrier, but to also consistently drop his pad level and anchor against the run.
He did that by getting into the blocker with a quick jolt and then stacking them up and using his length to keep the blocker away from his body, before shedding the block and attacking the ball carrier.
When he is asked to stand up as a 3-4 OLB he looks comfortable in changing direction — albeit a little stiff — but I attribute that to indecision more than not being flexible, and shows a good burst in the pass rushing game.
Ansah is a sound tackler in form, using his long arms to wrap up and drag down, but doesn’t always bring his lower half with him in tackles which could present a problem as he gets into the league.
When you say a player is raw, you think of a guy like Ezekiel Ansah.
He’s only played football for three years at BYU, and only started nine games in his senior season.
He needs to learn how to use his advantages outside of his speed and power. Too often he initiates contact with his body instead of his hands, and in the NFL he will be stoned more often than not when he does that.
If Ansah learns to use his arms/hands to keep blockers at bay more consistently and then shed them, he could become an unstoppable force. But he struggles disengaging from good blockers.
The biggest issue with Ansah right now is how he handles the little stuff.
He takes on blocks with the wrong shoulder, and then is taken completely out of plays unless they come back his way.
When he gets knocked out of a play he struggles to get back into proper position to make an attempt at the ball carrier or quarterback, and will often let his blocker use his own momentum to take him out of the picture.
Ansah admittedly got winded as games progressed, and when he was stoned on pass rushes would rely on standing and just trying to deflect passes, which with his long arms and good jumping ability actually worked quite well.
Where does he play?
One of the things I kept battling with as I’ve watched Ansah over the last couple of months was where would I line him up if the Cardinals drafted him?
He played as a defensive end, outside linebacker and nose tackle in the 3-4, but is built more like a 4-3 defensive end right now.
How would he fit in with the Cardinals? He doesn’t have the look of an elite pass rusher right now from the outside linebacker position and he looks uncomfortable dropping into coverage, so you aren’t drafting him to play as a situational pass rusher or as an every down linebacker in the 3-4 right away.
When I watch Ansah play, I kept trying to imagine him in Cardinal red, and admittedly was missing the fascination.
People keep talking about this athlete lining up outside as a linebacker and being the answer to the Cardinals’ missing pass rush, but I don’t see that.
I mean, he can obviously stand up at times and be effective, but in my opinion I see Ansah as something else.
There was one play that Ansah made versus Idaho that stuck with me more than any other in all the film I watched on him, and it was when he was lined up as a 3-4 defensive end.
I watched Ansah penetrate through the tackle, guard gap, move down the line and decapitate the running back. I thought to myself, “that’s what I would want Ansah to be in my defense.”
A one-gap 3-4 defensive end — that allows him to penetrate, attack and keeps his responsibility at a minimum.
I see a guy who could come in and play in a rotation at defensive end and even some time at outside linebacker, but could eventually take over the full time duties from Darnell Dockett and flourish.
Is that something fans would be happy with, though? Is the seventh pick too early for a part time 3-4 defensive end/outside linebacker until he filled out and developed into a full-time starter?