The Detroit Lions are getting something of a wild card in their selection of Ziggy Ansah in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. There is no denying his physical traits but there are not guarantees that he develops into the dominating defensive end the Lions believe he can become.
Most realize that a certain level of patience will be necessary with Ansah. Nonetheless, Joe Fortenbaugh wrote today on the National Football Post that Ansah is one of ten players he feels need to have an immediate impact. He explains:
9. Ziggy Ansah, DE, Detroit Lions: A boom or bust prospect who has repeatedly been compared to Jason Pierre-Paul, Ansah needs to flash some of that high upside during his first go-round in the NFL. He’s a raw prospect in need of some polishing and as a result, will have some leeway under head coach Jim Schwartz. However, Ansah needs to make sure he shows progress on the field in 2013. Struggling to pick up defensive concepts while failing to make plays would be a very bad sign for this top-5 pick.
I wouldn’t call “showing progress” and not “struggling to pick up defensive concepts while failing to make plays” a standard to define “immediate impact” but being a top-five pick comes with added pressure to perform.
Ansah has been so frequently compared to Jason Pierre-Paul (drafted 15th overall in 2010) that the best way to set expectations for Ansah’s rookie year is to look back at JPP’s first season with the Giants.
Pierre-Paul got off to a slow start by recording only a handful of tackles and zero sacks through the Giants’ first ten games of the 2010 season. With Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyioa entrenched ahead of Pierre-Paul on the depth chart, JPP played just over 32% of the total defensive snaps through ten games.
Then a switch flipped in week 12 against Jacksonville. JPP got the first two sacks of his career and Pro Football Focus credits him with two more hits on the quarterback and two quarterback hurries. He was also strong against the run with three solo stops.
Over the last six games, Pierre-Paul increased his playing time to just over 50% of the team’s defensive snaps and brought his season totals up to 17 tackles, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. For the total season, Pierre-Paul played about 40% of the total snaps.
It is possible a scale factor will need to be applied to JPP’s rookie numbers based on playing time. The Lions’ defensive end usage a year ago ranged form about 66% of snaps for Cliff Avril to a little over 31% for Willie Young. The Lions definitely don’t have guys like Tuck and Umenyiora standing in the way of playing time for Ansah so it isn’t a stretch to suggest Ansah will play more than the 40% of snaps Pierre-Paul got as a rookie, especially with Ansah likely sitting no worse than third on the current Lions depth chart.
The 2010 Giants defense played a total of 1035 snaps compared to 1070 for the 2012 Lions. It is a small enough difference that I don’t mind ignoring it all together for the purpose of a quick cocktail napkin calculation to scale JPP’s rookie numbers up to a 50% usage rate for Ansah (incidentally, that is about what Nick Fairley was at a year ago). Based on that we can expect about 21 tackles and 5.5 sacks.
Lions fans, is that a rookie season you would be happy with?