Dick Harmon: Ziggy turns some heads with his showing at NFL combine
The mass of Ziggy in motion did impress in Indianapolis on Monday.
Ezekiel Ansah, say many experts, enhanced his draft status with his performance and tests, especially when he moved his 270-pound body in a straight line and zig-zagging-around drills.
Ansah put in an average 21 reps on the 225-pound press, but his 4.63 time in the 40-yard dash, his movement around the cones and shuttle run turned a lot of heads.
"The Ziggy Ansah Express left the station in Mobile and it gained more steam in Indianapolis," said NFL Network expert Daniel Jeremiah, a former scout for the Ravens, Browns and Eagles. Of particular import was Ziggy's drop-back coverage in linebacker drills and his runs, said the analyst.
"This is a guy who was raw and now teams are starting to buy a little more stock as the days go by," said Jeremiah.
Ansah was projected to be picked between No. 15 and 17 in the first round of the 2013 draft, but Jeremiah, citing a coach with an NFL team that could pick in that range, said Ansah would not be available then — and that he'd go earlier after Monday's reviews.
"No chance," this guy said. "He'll be gone."
"You put on that Senior Bowl tape of that game, when he went up against the best college players, he was dominating. That grabbed everyone's attention."
Said Warren Sapp: "You get a guy that size who is that athletic, you want him."
The first defensive end taken in the 2012 draft was Quinton Coples out of North Carolina at No. 16 by the New York Jets. Coples ran a 4.78 at 284 pounds. Ansah's 4.63 was slower than the fastest defensive end Monday, a 4.53 time by Dion Jordan of Oregon, Corey Lemonier from Auburn and Barkevious Mingo of LSU. But Ansah is 20 to 25 pounds heavier that those athletes.
To put in perspective Ansah's 40-yard time compared with other Cougars who made NFL rosters, here are some 40 times: Brandon Doman (4.81), Doug Jolley (4.60), Brett Keisel (4.89), Rob Morris (4.77) Aaron Francisco (4.74), Jonny Harline (4.74), Daniel Coats (4.94), Bryan Kehl (4.67), Reno Mahe (4.68), Gabe Reid (4.82), Ryan Denny (4.86), and Super Bowl tight end Dennis Pitta (4.68). BYU's all-time NFL Combine 40-yard dash king was receiver Todd Watkins (4.40).
And some Utes? Ansah's time virtually tied former receiver Steve Savoy (4.62). Other times include Paul Kruger (4.83), Koa Misi (4.75), Dameon Hunter (4.68) and Stevenson Sylvester (4.71). Of course, the Utes have had some blazers at receiver and cornerback run below 4.5s into the 4.4s. In this combine, Ute defensive end Joe Kruger ran the same time as Manti Te'o, the Notre Dame linebacker, (4.82).
I think both Ziggy and Kruger can run faster at their pro days. Experts say Te'o's time was a big disappointment.
Ziggy's teammates said before the combine they thought he could run in the 4.5s. Both Ansah and Kruger underachieved in the bench, with Ziggy at 21 reps and Kruger at 24. Kruger has done this lift at 28 during training and Ziggy can do better, although his arm length makes it tougher than the other linemen tested who will end up being outside linebackers.
Utah's pro day is March 20 and BYU's is a week later. This gives both plenty of time to train and work on their numbers.
Sometimes there is so much prodding, poking, standing around and mental testing going on during the combine that optimum athletic performance is tough to reach. Just a little thing like getting the right food or energy in your system right before a lift or a run can impact the measurement or time. The regular schedule for all these athletes has been turned upside down since Saturday.
Interestingly enough, three players from outside the United States made plenty of ripples this weekend at the combine, and one of them was Ziggy.
Florida State's Bjoern Werner, working with Ansah, was very impressive in drills. Some, as the best defensive end prospect in the draft, list the native of Germany. He didn't pick up football until age 12 and made his early impact in sports on the soccer field.
The other guy is SMU defensive end Margus Hunt, who ran a sizzling 4.6 and is 6-foot-8. Hunt is from Estonia.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock described Ansah as a blank canvas that some NFL team can mold into what they want, but his inexperience is a negative factor and risk.
"This is an interesting defensive end/outside linebacker class because a lot of them you are betting on the upside, and Ansah is certainly one of them," said Mayock.
"There are a lot of questions about the guy, but you can't question his movement skills, his size and his motor. When people try and compare him to (the N.Y. Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul), I would take a step back. Even when he was raw, he was further along. Ziggy Ansah has that kind of ability but he's even more raw than (Pierre-Paul), so when do you pull the trigger?"
Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said comparisons with Pierre-Paul and Ansah are fair.
"Ansah is a guy who has been playing football for two years who is a freak athletically," said Mayhew. "I just think he has tremendous upside. What this guy will be able to do in three or four years … you get a guy like that and the sky's the limit."
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