When the Detroit Lions selected Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah with the fifth overall pick in this past April’s 2013 NFL Draft there were plenty of mixed reactions to the choice. Some believe the Ansah is the next Jason Pierre-Paul due to his extreme athletic gifts and inexperience with football while others feel that there isn’t nearly enough of a track record to warrant the lofty selection.
There are no do-overs and the Lions are officially married to Ansah as their defensive end for the foreseeable future. Given the fact that the team turned the page on former veteran end Kyle Vanden Bosch this offseason due to salary cap reasons, Ndamukong Suh has become the veteran leader of the defensive line group. He has certainly led by example thus far during his NFL career, but Suh has to take on a more vocal approach now with the youth around him.
As far as Ansah is concerned Suh said:
“Ziggy, I mean he’s learning our defense so fast and so quick. He’s obviously running with the ones in and out. It’s having that good communication. So with you seeing me speak up, we’re all just communicating and having a good time and understanding where we’re supposed to be.”
The fact that a veteran like Suh is impressed enough with Ansah’s ability to pick up the defense is encouraging for the Lions. At 6’5” 271lbs. and a ridiculous 4.26 time in the 20-yard shuttle that led all prospects at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, Ansah has all of the raw tools to become a force. With the other pieces on the defensive front including Suh, now third-year man Nick Fairley, and recent signee Jason Jones at the other defensive end spot, the Lions have the makings of a dominating front four.
There really won’t be much of a battle for a starting job with Ansah as he is currently penciled in to start from day one. His development during camp in refining his techniques and learning the subtle nuances of the game will dictate just how effective he will ultimately be as a rookie.
The boom-or-bust factor on Ansah is certainly high, but the Lions are optimistic at this point about his potential development. With Head Coach Jim Schwartz as a defensive-minded guy from his days with the Tennessee Titans in his ear, don’t be surprised if Ansah does more than just flash potential in year one. He could be a legitimate Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate this season as getting to the quarterback is something that tends to translate pretty quickly no matter the level of competition.