PROVO — Whatever Ziggy Ansah did during the NFL Combine in Indianapolis a few weeks ago, he’ll do it better during his pro day in Provo, according to those who know the athlete better than anybody.
Ansah is expected to make an appearance around BYU’s football facilities this Friday. At present, he has captured the imagination of NFL draft experts, who have a tough time painting the BYU defensive lineman in a box.
The latest mock draft boards floating around have Ansah making a ridiculous leap in the draft. Before the NFL Combine, he was projected to be a first-round pick. He quickly became a possible No. 17 to 15 pick. Now Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com, Pat Kirwin of CBSSports.com, ESPN’s Todd McShay and the guru himself, Mel Kiper of ESPN, has Ziggy going No. 5 to the Detroit Lions.
Pete Prisco, the senior NFL columnist for CBSSports.com, came out with a projection that lists Ziggy as the No. 2 overall pick to Jacksonville. Folks in Provo say Kansas City’s new coach, Andy Reid, would love to take Ansah with the No. 1 pick but will go with Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel.
So, what do these folks know that is pushing Ziggy to the top of the NFL draft?
He has gone from mystery man to an athlete with a potential quotient that cannot be limited. In short, he is an athletic freak of nature.
Ziggy ran a 4.63 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Considering his size, at 6-foot-6 and over 270 pounds, that was very impressive.
But that time and his vertical leap of 34.5 inches could be better, and those in Provo expect him to post better numbers on pro day in 15 days.
BYU head conditioning coach Jay Omer measured Ansah’s vertical leap in Provo this past year at 39.5 inches. No smoke, no mirrors, just a plain old standing jump at the twirling tiles.
When NFL scouts have interviewed Omer, doing research on the Cougar senior, they’ve asked him what he can run in the 40, and he’s confidently told them 4.6 flat. Ziggy’s teammates have said for more than a month that he will run a 4.59.
This could happen, if one takes a reasonable look at the situation.
Ansah had a very poor vertical at the combine, and in his attempts at the 40, he did what many big men do, including the most dominating Olympic sprinter of our time, Usain Bolt: He got off to a slow start.
Ansah is a 200-meter sprinter. If he ran the 100 meters instead of the 40-yard dash, his stride length, like that of Bolt, is a long gait that eats up meters. Omer believes Ziggy would have beat all the defensive ends if they’d been running 100 meters.
Since the NFL Combine in mid-February, Ziggy has been able to dedicate more to his training than he did prior to Indianapolis due to time he took to practice and perform in the Senior Bowl, where he was the defensive MVP.
Consider Provo’s altitude, the fact Ansah will be cheered on by his teammates on his home turf, plus the extra training time, and his numbers should improve.
BYU’s pro day will be the most attended situation the Cougars have seen in some time, perhaps ever. Ansah should be bolstered by the knowledge he can help his senior teammates in front of what is expected to be an army of NFL general managers, personnel directors, coaches and chief scouts.
That setting, say BYU football folks, is bound to increase his adrenaline level on his home turf.
Another factor could come into play. The NFL Combine is a play pen of mind games for participants. It is designed to see how mentally tough potential draftees really are. Thus, the prodding, poking, and endless examinations. Participants are purposely led to believe they’ll do one thing at a certain place, then it is switched up. They don’t get food when their bodies are expected to be fed.
If a guy is a tough, but a mental midget with emotional issues, he’s probably going to mess up. Even guys who are pretty tough mentally can simply get frustrated or distracted and underperform. This is all by design.
None of that should happen at an on campus pro day.
In Indianapolis, Ziggy was sensational. But if you just take the discrepancy in his vertical alone, he should improve all his numbers if uninjured and prepared.
So, I’m just saying, whatever buzz is going around these days about Ansah, it is expected it will get a bump on March 28 when he posts a new set of numbers.
Will that make a difference in his draft status?
Maybe not, since all these so-called experts are already hyping him to the upper limits of what appears to be sanity.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.