Over the weekend, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com said on Twitter that he didn’t think the Eagles would have interest in Ziggy Ansah. The specific question was in regard to the #4 pick so maybe he just meant at that spot. Or, maybe he meant at all. I would be very disappointed if the Eagles didn’t think long and hard about taking Ansah.
Ziggy Ansah is one of the most interesting draft prospects I’ve ever seen. I remember watching Brian Urlacher at New Mexico. He was a S/LB hybrid, even at 240 pounds. He lined up 15 yards back and then exploded downhill on run plays. Sure enough, he was so fast that he got to the ball before anyone else and he blew the play up. Urlacher was big, fast, athletic, and highly unusual. Urlacher was a Top 10 pick and has had a stellar career. Ansah is similar in that when you watch most BYU games, he is the most athletic player on the field and he just jumps out at you. You’re seeing something unconventional, but incredibly impressive.
To many people the biggest problem with Ansah is that he’s raw. Ansah has only been playing football for a couple of years and only was a starter in 2012. According to Phil Steele’s College Preview magazine, Ansah was the third string SAM LB. By late August, Ansah had moved to backup DE, but even that was helped by Ian Dulan having back problems. Once the season got going and Ansah got on the field, things changed for good. He was a special talent. What he lacked in polished skills, he made up for in size/speed/power. There is no question that Ansah needs coaching. I think a key point to remember is that it isn’t as if he hasn’t learned. Ziggy is just new to the game. Some guys have played football for a decade and they’re raw because they rely on athleticism and don’t listen to coaches. Ansah needs time.
Scouts have talked at great length with the BYU coaching staff. Scouts played close attention in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. They will write up detailed reports for the Eagles on Ansah’s work habits and coachability. Does he want to learn? Does he listen well? Does he have good practice habits? If Ansah is weak in any of those areas, you pass on him. When a player is raw, you need to feel that there is a likelihood that he’ll work hard to get better and learn the little things.
My biggest concern for Ansah is where to play him. Is he a SAM LB or DE? 4-3 teams will put him at DE and that’s perfect. In the 3-4, things are more complicated. Let’s look at his size:
6-5, 271 … with 35 1/8 arms and 10 1/4 hands
3-4 LB Willie McGinest – 6-5, 270
3-4 DE JJ Watt – 6-5, 290
3-4 LB Calvin Pace – 6-4, 265
3-4 DE Justin Smith 6-4, 285
3-4 DE Quinton Coples 6-6, 285
4-3 DE Chandler Jones – 6-5, 266
3-4 LB Ryan Kerrigan – 6-4, 267
Studying the 2012 game tape doesn’t provide great answers on how to use Ansah. BYU moved him all over the place. He was a 3-4 DE, 4-3 DE, DT, NT, and he stood up on some plays. He played 7-tech, 5-tech, 3-tech, 1-tech, and 0-tech. And he didn’t do this over the course of a season. He did all of this in a game… almost every game. That’s why I say he’s one of the most interesting guys I’ve ever seen.
In the Dime defense, Ziggy was the NT. He would try to push the pocket. If he got blocked, he would stop and mirror the QB. If the guy ran, Ziggy would chase him down. If he threw, Ziggy would jump. He finished the season with 9 deflected passes. That wasn’t luck,. That was by design.
No matter what you do with Ziggy, you’re projecting. We’ve seen him play the various positions, but not so much that you can feel definitively about him there. You know the old saying…jack of all trades, master of none. That’s Ziggy. The Eagles could look at him as a LB. They could look at him as a DE. To play DE, he’d need to gain 10 pounds, but I don’t see that as a big deal. He carries 270 pounds very naturally. This isn’t a guy who has had to bulk up for football.
Watch him play against Ga Tech and see what you think. This actually was a game where he didn’t move around much. GT runs the triple option so teams play the same base look against them a lot. I do think Ansah showed really good ability in this game.
As I watched that, he really looked like a LB to me. Ziggy is so good when he’s on his feet and chasing the ball. He has excellent speed for a guy his size. Dion Jordan ran 4.60 at the Combine at 248 pounds. Ziggy ran 4.63 at 271 pounds. He can really cover some ground. I think one of his best attributes is closing speed. When Ziggy sees the RB or QB near him, he closes to the ball better than anyone else in the draft.
Although Ansah has a limited football background, he is a naturally physical player. He likes contact. Some guys that are new to the game struggle with that side of things. They want to run around blocks. Ziggy will run into blockers and fight them with his hands. He is athletic enough to play in space, but is comfortable playing in traffic. NFL football is as physical as it gets (aside from mud wrestling with Dewey Oxberger), but I don’t think that will be a problem for Ansah.
Chip says he likes big guys because they can beat up on little guys. Putting a 270-pound guy at LB would seem to make a lot of sense, then. He can hold the point of attack on run plays. He’s plenty big and strong for battling OTs. In Nickel and Dime packages, Ziggy could play DE or DT. The thought of him and Fletcher Cox rushing up the middle is actually pretty intriguing.
With all this talk of the Eagles wanting to run a hybrid defense, don’t you need some hybrid players? That’s Ansah. You could use him at 3-4 DE in some looks. He can play in the 4-3. He can basically do it all. The other benefit with him is that he gives you some flexibility with the current set of LBs. If Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin blow us away, then you can shift Ziggy to DE. If they struggle, you’ve got Ziggy as a LB.
I don’t know if the Eagles have any interest in Ansah. If they do, I don’t know for a fact whether it would be at DE or LB. DL coach Jerry Azzinaro went to BYU to work Ansah out. That would lead me to think the Eagles see him as a DE, but that isn’t 100 percent fact. Maybe the Eagles already like Ansah at LB and wanted Coach Azz to see what he thought of him as a DE. There are other reasons to do that, but we’re just playing the guessing game so trying to figure out what/why isn’t a good use of time.
There is some question as to how much of a project Ansah is. People look back to Danny Watkins and get scared to death. Huge, huge difference. Players on offense are part of a group that must work in sync and execute precisely. Defense is more about the individual. You have your gap or gaps to cover. That lasts for a second or two and then you chase the ball. Offense is about precision and honed football skills. Defense is about athleticism and effort. Ansah is athletic and he plays hard. He would have a lot of learning to do, but I think his natural ability would get him on the field right away. You can’t coach size/speed. That doesn’t mean he would start right away, but he would play in some packages or as a backup. And he could play on STs as well.
Here is a great piece from ESPN on Ansah and the impressions he made on people. Funny, entertaining stories.
I do think Ansah has big time potential. Some people bring up JPP, but they were used so differently that it is hard to compare them. I would say that Ansah isn’t going to be as good of a pass rusher, but is more versatile and could impact the game in different ways. I think McGinest and Kerrigan might be better comparisons for Ansah. If he goes to DL, the guy you would want him to become is Justin Smith. Ansah doesn’t have the dynamic athleticism to be JJ Watt, but he could develop along the lines of someone like Smith that is more a mixture of talent and effort. Watt is just a freak.
Ansah is far from a sure thing, but as we see all the time…there are no sure things. Aaron Curry was an incredibly safe pick that busted. There have been some questions about his age, but so far as we can tell Ansah will turn 24 next month. He would be entering his 7th NFL season when he turned 30 so that’s not a big deal. Younger is better, but 24 is fine.
I know plenty of you hate the idea of Ansah. Les Bowen thinks it is a reach. Go back and read my own words from a few months ago and I said that Ansah wasn’t Top 10 material. The more I studied him and the more I studied this bizarre draft class, I changed my mind. We’ll find out soon enough if the Eagles have any interest or if Daniel Jeremiah is right and they’re looking elsewhere.
Personally, I think we have to draft Ansah as a LB. Then we’d have the story line that once finally rid of Andy Reid, the Eagles spent a 1st round pick on a LB…and a BYU LB at that.
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The closer we get to the draft, the less we can believe about what we hear. Daniel Jeremiah heard we were going for Geno Smith just 10 days ago. Now he’s got us with different players. He said on Twitter the other day that he’s had Dion Jordan going to the Jags, but the talk out there now is JAX going for an OT.
Teams are spreading rumors. There is a mixture of truth and lies. If you only lie, no one will believe you so you need to mix in some true stuff. The Jags have leaked that they’re deciding between Jordan and an OT. The Jordan part has got to be true. The OT part…that’s a question. We don’t know. Good work by them.
The Eagles have spread so many rumors that we’ve been associated with any number of guys.
You must listen to everything out there, but knowing what to believe…impossible. And probably 85 percent of what you hear is hooey. Finding the 15 percent to believe is oh so hard, but oh so fun.