Jaren Wilkey, BYU
NEW YORK — There should be no shortage of intrigue in the 78th annual National Football League draft.
And certainly some of that intrigue involves former BYU star Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah.
While several NFL draft experts believe Ansah will be selected No. 5 overall in the first round by the Detroit Lions, nobody really knows what's going to happen when the draft begins Thursday (6 p.m. MDT, ESPN/NFL Network) at Radio City Music Hall.
"It's all going to be based on what your flavor is," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said Wednesday. "I think we're going to see some movement up top. I hold zero hope for my mock draft."
On the eve of the draft, there was speculation that a few teams, including the New York Giants, who have the No. 19 pick, could trade up for a chance to grab Ansah.
Meanwhile, the Lions are in need of a defensive end after losing both starters from a year ago. Ansah could thrive in a 4-3 defense that already boasts defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
"Most people think Ansah would do better in a 4-3 front, which is what Detroit does," Mayock said.
The Lions coaching staff coached Ansah in the Senior Bowl, where Ansah earned MVP honors. But Ansah said Wednesday he hasn't talked to them since.
What does Ansah read into that?
"I don't read anything into it," he said. "If they want to call me, they will."
Ansah added that he's not paying attention to any stories or speculation generated by reporters.
"I don't pay attention to the media," he said. "The media thinks whatever they want to think of. The GM and the teams pick who they want."
Nobody admits knowing exactly how things will unfold after the first pick (expected to be Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel), but many who have been around the game for a long time are sold on Ansah's athletic ability and potential.
Gil Brandt has seen, and drafted, some of the greatest athletes in NFL history. But none, he said, like Ansah.
Brandt, the former personnel director of the Dallas Cowboys and current analyst for NFL.com, watched Ansah assisting kids in an NFL-sponsored football clinic Wednesday in Manhattan.
"He's absolutely the most incredible athlete I've ever seen," Brandt told the Deseret News. "I tell you, he's absolutely amazing, running around out here. He's got the biggest fingers and hands. And the guy is all muscle. Out here, he made a one-handed interception. He's like a wide receiver. He's unbelievable. He's my second-ranked guy in my mock draft."
Asked if Ansah reminds him of any current or former NFL player, Brandt replied, "I don't know who he reminds me of, because I don't know if I've ever seen anyone that is that big, that strong and that fast. They talk about the seven wonders of the world. This is one of the top seven stories in sports of all time."
Ansah is poised to become one of the highest NFL draft picks in BYU history. No Cougar has gone higher than quarterback Jim McMahon, who was a No. 5 pick of the Chicago Bears in 1982.
But BYU hasn't had a first-round selection since 2000 (when Rob Morris went No. 28 overall to Indianapolis) and the Cougars haven't had a single player drafted since 2010 (when Dennis Pitta was picked in the fourth round by the Baltimore Ravens).
Many observers compare Ansah to Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, the son of Haitian emmigrants. Ansah clearly feels a kinship with Pierre-Paul.
"I've been watching the Giants defense," he said. "JPP, everybody compares my style of play to him, and he's someone I look up to and try to emulate."
Ansah said he would love the opportunity to play alongside Pierre-Paul in New York. "Impossible is nothing," he said. "I'm just keeping my fingers crossed and we'll see what happens (Thursday)."
Meanwhile, he also said, "I am willing to play anywhere."
Ansah added that he wouldn't be surprised if he ended up a Giant, or a Lion, or a member of any of the NFL's other 30 teams.
Yes, it could be an NFL draft with plenty of twists and turns — with Ansah right in the mix of it all.
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