USA TODAY Sports
Ansah’s intelligence has allowed this 6-6, 270 pound athlete to rapidly learn how to play the game of football. "He has picked up just the knowledge of the game faster than anyone that I have ever been around," says outside linebacker coach and former BYU star Kelly Poppinga.
In my first of hopefully many player evaluations and breakdowns in the weeks to come, I start with Brigham Young prospect Ezekiel Ansah, a player who many have speculated to be the potential "unknown" player Tony Grossi mentioned last week. Thanks to the guys over at draftbreakdown and my trusty DVR, I have watched as much film as possible to help breakdown Ansah's 2012 season and his projection as an NFL starter.
I came away very impressed.
Recently on Twitter, Dane Brugler of CBS Sports mentioned something that I think is critical when evaluating players. Here’s what he said:
"I learned a long time ago that when you scout on production, you end up wrong. I hope you learn the same lesson… trust your eyes"
Doing this is easy with Ansah. At 6’6", 270 pounds, Ansah is a physical specimen. This season was the first he has ever started at BYU, and only the second season he has ever played football in his life. Jeremiah Jensen wrote an excellent piece about him over as ksl.com that I recommend checking out.
Ansah recorded 62 tackles this season at BYU, 13 for a loss; 4.5 sacks; and 8 QB pressures. Ansah lined up everywhere: DT/DE, NT, and LB; left, right, standing up, and in 3 and 4 point stances. Ansah is an extremely physical player at the point of contact. He uses his initial bull rush and jab strength to create space to pursue runners or rush the passer. He shows the ability to shed blocks and move across his body to stop the run with consistency. He showed the burst, discipline and strength to beat double teams then take great angles on the QB or RB and make the tackle.
I saw a trend in all of the tape when Ansah diagnoses a pass play, and may be double teamed, he adjusts very quickly, not stuck in a "bull rush" mentality, and gets into a position to use his hands in the air / jump to disrupt the passing lane. Ansah doesn't stop until the play is over and is always in pursuit of the QB or ball carrier. Showed the strength to actually pick up a running back vs. Utah St and essentially suplex him in the back field for a loss after exploding through the line.
Even though he’s strong, he’s not dominant. Offensive Linemen often grab his pads at the numbers and control him, literally freezing him at times. He needs to develop his club move to disengage their hands and gain leverage on the edge or inside rushes. He often plays up-right, which can cause him to lose leverage or balance on certain plays. His frame will allow him put on about 10 – 15 lbs of muscle, which he’ll need in the NFL. As an example, he got completely dominated and tossed to the ground at the beginning of the Utah game.
Ansah is an intriguing prospect. The more I watched of him, the more I realize that he hasn’t even reached his ceiling. He JUST picked up the game but when you watch his film like Dane Brugler suggested, you see a player that jumps of the screen. I saw an instinctive pass rusher who can beat his man and close in on the QB or RB quickly and with power; you see non stop effort and great initial use of his hands to create space; you see an athlete who’s huge strides allow him to cover a lot of ground very quickly thus making him deceptively fast. Coaching him to play lower and use his hands more effectively will help him bend the edge and get inside and behind offensive linemen, thus making Ansah a nightmare at the next level.
I could easily see the Browns falling in love with Ansah’s combination of size, power, versatility and untapped potential. I imagine the Browns asking him to play OLB but could just as easily see Horton utilizing him at the DT spot, and rotating him. The combine will certainly help to solidify his physical attributes and I have a feeling he will impress coaches and scouts alike in Indinapolis. I think Ansah is the type of player that Grossi may have been referring to in his podcast. Furthermore, Ansah certainly fits the type of player I suggested in my Banner and Lombardi Draft Trend Analysis earlier this week here at DBN. Ansah is a player who in only two years of football looks like he can become dominate at the next level.
I could easily see him @ 6 in Cleveland but I don't see him slipping outside the top 12.
Film Breakdown - Boise St. Sack
Just after the snap, we see Ansah double teamed here on the left side of the line
Next you see him get a big push on the left tackle, getting the tackles weight shifted to his right leg
That push allows Ansah to break free and split the double team with a clear shot at the QB
Notice his closing speed in the next two shots:
Sacked. Notice the distance his dive / tackle covered. Explosive.
Film Breakdown - Boise St. Goal Line Stand
Here we see Ansah lined up on the end
He's already in the backfield just as the RB is getting the ball
Boom. Tackle for a loss on the goal line.
OK, here's the last play I'll cover with this blue turf
Here we see Ansah lined up on the end
Here's where those hands show, he gains leverage and get blocker to lose balance
He slips under the block and right in sight of the RB
Tackled for a small gain. Notice the explosion and angle on the tackle, especially coming off a block.
Film Breakdown - Utah State Sack
OK, two more breakdowns. You can follow some of my more casual breakdowns on Twitter @MikeKrupka, I hope to have more thoughts on 1st and 2nd round players shortly both on twitter and here on DBN.
Here we see Ansah double teamed. But this is a designed screen play, you just don't know it yet.
You can see what I mean here, the tackle releases and Ansah seemingly cuts through with ease. Notice the RB has just released and is coming across from the very left side of this shot.
Ansah detects that the play is a screen and quickly shifts from pass rush mentality to pass defense / coverage mentality
He may have got away with a little hold here, but Ansah did a complete 180 at 6'6 270 and is now pursuing what he knows is the screen pass
Here the RB just caught the ball with Ansah in pursuit
Oh, hello . . .
That's Ezekiel not "Ziggy" !
Film Breakdown - ND
Last one folks . . . this one is fun to breakdown. Ansah is at the bottom of your screen, standing up on the edge
He attacks the edge and immediately detects the run, now watch this
He totally redirects himself and goes back inside like he would on a stunt, here's the guard attempting to block Ansah
Here he uses his hands to swim around the guard, and you can already see his foot in the ground taking an angle on the RB
A little blurry, but he delivers a punishing hit on the RB for no gain