By: Eric Thomas
The Lions went defense. Does that mean there is much rejoicing? Are there a collection of popped bottles littering the area around Ford Field? No. The Detroit Lions, with their first pick in the draft, picked up Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah out of BYU. It’s been an improbable rise for Ansah, described as a practice squad oddity now picked as the number five overall player picked in the 2013 NFL Draft.
One of the more dangerous things to hear, in a player that you just picked to start next year, is the word “improbable.” Ansah didn’t even play football as a freshman at BYU, he didn’t seem to figure out the game until his senior season, specifically the second half of his senior season.
It’s an overall underwhelming draft. The cliché in football says you win in the trenches, but when three of the first four selections are offensive lineman it made the first round a wall to wall bore fest. After four hours of coverage there was only one quarterback, no running backs and a wide receiver who is under six feet tall; it was the night of not too many stars.
As for the Lions, the good news is that Ziggy Ansah has the size you want in an outside rusher. He’s a high motor guy, looking more like the replacement for KVB than Cliff Avril. Ansah has epic speed. He’s a business major who was dedicated to his studies in Provo. If he continues to improve at the current pace, he’ll be a rampaging beast for the Lions.
It’s a high risk pick with a chance to pay dividends. It’s a bit like the Pistons picking Andre Drummond last year, a section surrounded by hope. The reason it’s such a curious pick, is that it didn’t have to be that way.
The Lions aren’t in the position to take risk. Their risks have all wound up in the bust bin. They ignored the character issues on Nick Fairley and Titus Young, along with the injury concerns associated with Jahvid Best and Ryan Broyles. People might argue with placing Fairley in this category, but he hasn’t lived up to his first round status yet, especially when Ryan Kerrigan and Justin Houston have already gone to a Pro Bowl. If the Lions wanted to fill a need at DE, why not pick Barkevious Mingo from LSU?
The biggest flaw in Ansah’s resume is that the guy picked immediately after played in the toughest conference in football every game for three years. Why not take a guy who produced similar numbers against better talent for longer? Mingo wasn’t perfect, some questioned his commitment in the classroom, but that’s a minor issue when you consider the opponents he faced every week.
Ansah racked up a freakish amount of tackles in 2012, with 62. How many tackles did he have in 2011? 7. It’s impressive and it shows a certain level of commitment, but if he improved by 55 tackles through sheer grit and determination, wouldn’t the converse be true? Did he not want to play particularly well in his junior season? Are Lions fans left to hope that he wants to play well in his time with the team? There are plenty of high selections that wind up being one year wonders, Fairley has been called as much and Ansah has all the signs.
This isn’t a disaster; Ansah could be a great pick at the end. Lions fans everywhere are hoping it’s a great pick. The question remains: when a team is searching for answers, why draft a question with the overall fifth pick?