Jan 26, 2013; Mobile, AL, USA; Senior Bowl south squad defensive lineman Ezekial Ansah of Brigham Young (47) tackles Senior Bowl north squad wide receiver Denard Robinson of Michigan (16) during the first half of the Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The 2013 NFL Draft is only days away, and Tennessee Titans fans everywhere are still scratching their heads in anticipation of the 10th overall pick. The only consensus among pundits has been that the front office will draft a player to solidify the offensive line, most likely in the 1st or 2nd round. Guards Chance Warmack, Jonathan Cooper, and Larry Warford have been the most highly discussed options, but Titan Sized colleague Josh Gunnels may be on to something in his recent article about Eugene Amano: https://titansized.com/2013/04/22/tennessee-titans-dont-forget-about-eugene-amano/.
Josh highlighted a great point: ”The general public feels the urgency at the position (guard) more than the coaching staff.” The Titans organization has always been patient when drafting and cultivating talent on the offensive line. They have never drafted an offensive lineman higher than Michael Roos at 41st overall in 2005, and this year’s draft may be no exception.
So if the front office is not targeting a Guard with the 1st round pick, where are they directing their interest? After last season, it’s evident that the defense needs improvement. The most likely positions are DE, CB, and Safety, but there are only a few prospects this year that present top-10 talent at any of those positions. CB Dee Milliner is largely viewed as a top-10 talent, but he does not have the playmaking skills that last year’s top-rated CB Morris Claiborne possessed. DE/OLB Dion Jordan is also highly regarded, but he will most likely be off the board before the Titans pick.
Feb 25, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Brigham Young Cougars defensive lineman Ziggy Ansah runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
There is another intriguing, albeit inexperienced, prospect that the front office could be targeting: BYU DE Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah. A native of Accra, Ghana, Ansah had no exposure to American football as a youth. He joined the BYU football team in 2010, after previously trying out for the basketball and track teams. He only played sparingly for his sophomore and junior seasons, but in 2012 Ansah got his chance to start.
Entering the 2012 season, Ansah bulked up to 270 pounds to play DE and OLB. During the 4th game of the season, starting Nose Guard Eathyn Manumaleuna suffered a knee injury, opening the door for Ansah. For the remaining nine games, Ansah was predominantly utilized as an interior defensive lineman. It was not until the Senior Bowl that he was truly utilized as an outside pass rusher, lining up in a wide-nine scheme. He completely dominated the game, drawing surprise and attention from all NFL scouts in attendance.
Ziggy also shined in the 1-on-1 position drills during the week, displaying that he had significantly improved during his one season as a starter. He then impressed everyone at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, posting ridiculous measurables. For a comparison to a recent and similar prospect, here are his Combine numbers next to JPP’s:
|40-Yd Dash||Bench Press||Vertical Jump||Broad Jump||20-Yd Shuttle|
|Z. Ansah||4.63 s||21 reps||34.5”||118”||4.26 s|
|JPP||4.71 s||19 reps||30.5”||115”||4.67 s|
Ziggy (6’5”, 271 lbs) is also nearly the exact same size as JPP (6’5”, 278 lbs); however, the similarities run well beyond size and athletic measurables. JPP was a late bloomer in football just like Ziggy. Born to Haitian immigrants, JPP only began playing American football his junior year of high school. JPP played his first two seasons of college football at small schools, and then transferred to the University of South Florida in 2009. During his junior season, JPP posted eerily similar statistics to those of Ziggy Ansah’s senior season:
* TFL = Tackles For Loss; Pass Defs = Pass Deflections; FF = Forced Fumbles
Conclusion: Ezekiel Ansah has gone from a largely unknown prospect to a possible top-5 selection in the draft. Scouts are concerned about his lack of experience and overall passion for the game, and rightfully so. There just isn’t enough evidence to confidently predict that he will develop into an All-Pro DE, but there wasn’t absolute conviction regarding JPP either. The Giants saw a player with unlimited potential and plenty of room to grow, literally and as a player.
I still believe that the Titans were targeting JPP instead of Derrick Morgan in 2010. Not to say that they weren’t high on Morgan, but JPP presented the tremendous upside that the Titans covet. GM Ruston Webster has been adamant about adding playmakers in the 1st round, and Ziggy has the potential to become one of the dominant DEs in the league. He will undoubtedly be a project, but “with great risk comes great reward.”
You can follow me on Twitter @dfleming22