With their first round pick, number five overall, the Detroit Lions opted to select the Ghanaian native, Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah out of BYU. Originally, Ansah migrated to the United States on an academic scholarship. Not long afterwards, he was rejected by the BYU basketball team, yet successfully walked on to the university’s track team in 2009. As a sophomore at BYU, Ansah was persuaded to try out for the football team due to his massive stature and incredible speed, even though he had little to no knowledge of how the sport is played. Miraculously, Ansah made the team as a defensive lineman and special teams player, though he did not see significant playing time for the majority of his college career.
Four weeks into Ansah’s senior season, BYU’s starting defensive tackle suffered a season ending knee injury, and Ansah took his place. In the final eight games of the season, the speedy Ghanaian became the anchor of the defense at outside linebacker (in a 3-4 scheme) and defensive end (in a 4-3 scheme), totaling 62 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Ansah led the defense on BYU’s journey to a bowl win, while helping them rank first in the nation in red zone defense.
At the NFL Combine, teams marveled at Ansah’s perfect combination of freakish athleticism and incredible size. Measuring in at 6’5’’ and 270 pounds, he showed that he could be a disrupting presence on the defensive line, as his size will allow him the ability to take down anyone on the field with a single hit. In addition to his above average size, Ansah displayed jaw dropping athletic ability and agility at the combine. The 40 yard dash was a huge success for Ansah, as the former track star ran an astounding 4.56 second time in the drill.
Such integration of size and athleticism made scouts reminiscent of a young Justin Tuck, a now two-time All Pro defensive end for the New York Giants. In addition to Ansah’s astonishing size and speed, his tackling skills were commonly thought of as among the best in college football during his senior season. When taking down his opponent, Ansah delivers a striking blow, followed by a grasp that could hold down some of the NFL’s best. Though proving his capabilities in front of hundreds of NFL scouts, teams considered Ansah a boom or bust prospect. This was mainly because he has little football experience, starting only eight games in his college career.
Due to his unbelievable performance at the combine, the Lions jumped at the opportunity to take Ansah with their first round pick, as they could not resist his incredibly high ceiling.
Lions already have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. However, the Lions decided Ansah was still the best option for their team, and that they could plug other holes later in the draft. Lions starting defensive end Cliff Avril left for the Seattle Seahawks just weeks before the draft, opening up a hole that can now be filled by their first round selection. \
Detroit’s coaching staff has a sterling track record for developing defensive lineman, as can be seen in recent first round picks, Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, who have combined for 186 tackles and 28.5 sacks over a total of five seasons. Ansah fits perfectly with the Lions, as he has several experienced lineman who can aid him in his NFL journey, as well as his comfort in lining up in the 4-3 defensive zone, which Detroit runs consistently. In light of his boom or bust title, five years from now Ansah could very well be playing in his fifth Pro Bowl, or if his critics were correct about the significance of his lack of football experience, he could be out of the league completely. For the sake of GM Martin Mayhew’s job and Lions fans everywhere, the former will most likely be the more accurate depiction of Ansah’s future.