With Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril both gone this past offseason, the Lions chose to address the defensive end position by selection Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah out of BYU with the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft.
This past season with the Cougars, Ansah had 62 total tackles, 13 going for a loss with 4.5 sacks and just three total years of football experience.
Yes you heard that right, Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz opted for a project player in the top five of the Draft.
Ansah, who is originally from Ghana in West Africa originally went to BYU looking to play basketball. However when that didn’t work out, Ziggy decided to try his hand in football and it stuck as he’s now a first round selection in the NFL.
But don’t tell Schwartz Ansah is a project player…
“I think if you just looked at it from a book standpoint, I think you would have to say that (Ansah is a project),” Schwartz said. “I think when you watch the film, and when you put your hands on him for a week, we drafted him to be on the field for us. We didn’t draft him as a project. We saw everything we needed. It wasn’t like we were saying he really needs to work on one thing. He’s inexperienced, but he’s every instinctive, and has the skill set we’re looking for.
“We think he’s the right kind of guy. Again, our chance to put hands on him was a big thing. We don’t think he’s a project. We wouldn’t take a project there, but we do think he has even more upside than he’s shown.”
Mayhew also agreed with Schwartz’s assessment on Ansah…
“I do see him as an impactful player right away,” Mayehw said. “I think at defensive end, sacks come when they come. He’s going to be a guy that will play a big role for us on defense. He’s got an opportunity to play left and right. He’ll be on the field. He’ll be playing for us.”
Ansah appeared to be the safe pick for both Schwartz and Mayhew after getting a good look coaching him during the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
“Your production is always important,” Schwartz said. “I don’t think it’s ever overrated. I think there’s some reasons for his lack of production in his career. His travels to the United States were well-documented. Not a whole lot of youth football programs over in Ghana. Not a lot of opportunity for him to go, but make no mistake about it. Here’s the thing. When people talk about Ziggy, well, he’s going to need work on learning the game and instincts. Watch this guy. He’s very, very instinctive. Things like screens, reverses, things that would confuse a guy that doesn’t have natural instincts for the game don’t confuse him. One of the big plays he made in the Senior Bowl was a reverse. A player that doesn’t have instincts wouldn’t have that.
“We’ve seen a couple of different players do this. Jason Pierre Paul (New York Giants) a couple of years ago went from junior college, played one year at South Florida, and next thing you know he went on and had a great year. I think a guy like Ziggy can do the same kind of things. He’s over 6-foot-5. He’s 270 pounds. He runs fast, he’s got very good instincts, he’s tough, he plays all across the line. At some or another this year, we saw him doing everything we needed him to do in our defense, and we were really excited.”
The Ansah pick also though comes after three offensive tackles when during the first four picks of the draft. Michigan native and Central Michigan standout Eric Fisher ended up going first overall to the Chiefs while Luke Joeckel went second overall to the Jaguars. Lane Johnson out of Oklahoma went fourth overall to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Heading into the season, Ziggy becomes a high risk, high reward type guy who is going to be expected to step in right away and start on a line that already consist of two very good tackles in Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Still though you wonder if the Martin Mayhew and the Lions could really afford to take a project guy like Ansah (Schwartz can deny it all he want’s this is exactly what Ziggy is) at this spot? Especially with more established guys like Barkevious Mingo still siting there. I guess time will tell.