Now that the draft has been over for a week and we’ve watched the replay’s a couple of times (What? You don’t watch the draft again after it’s over?), let’s sit back and take an unemotional look at the Detroit Lions first pick in this extremely important make-or-break draft for the Lions front office. I have to make a confession right out of the box. Even though it would have been prudent to take an offensive tackle to protect “the franchise” Matthew Stafford, I really, really wanted Ziggy Ansah in the worst way. I think the Detroit Lions coaching staff felt the same way I did.
Ziggy’s rise to fame is the stuff of Hollywood legend. While Ansah’s story is captivating to the fans like myself, the scouts are more than a little skeptical of a guy who dominated for only one year. I just don’t think that Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz see this as much of a gamble. The entire coaching staff spent the entire Senior Bowl week working with Ziggy, and came away convinced that he’s the real deal.
The defensive line coaches are probably salivating over the possibility of teaching Ziggy the finer aspects of hand to hand combat NFL style because the kid is likely to see a lot of single coverage, as Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley demand so much attention. If the guy is all he is advertised to be, then it shouldn’t take him long to make his presence felt.
My main concern about drafting Ziggy is that we’re left with Riley Rieff as the starting left tackle. Doing some research on left tackles since the draft left me feeling better about the Lions decision to forgo taking a left tackle in the draft. It seems the importance of the left tackle position has been in decline for some time. Andy Benoit of Football Outsiders wrote a great article about how because of the evolution of the game, the left tackle position has been rendered ‘almost’ just another offensive lineman. It’s physically impossible for a defensive end to get to the quarterback on the three step drops that dominate the NFL, and the left tackle doesn’t spend that much time on a island like they used to. He’ll get help from TE’s or running backs.
Mayhew said that Ziggy was the third highest rated on his board, meaning that if Lane Johnson was there at five, the Lions STILL would have drafted Ansah. I think Mayhew’s eyes lit up when watching Ansah practice, and with Luke Joeckel likely going first, only Eric Fisher was going to keep him from drafting “The Answer”.
It really makes all the sense in the world to draft Ezekiel Ansah. Mayhew and Schwartz are gambling on the strength of their defensive line to be a difference maker and take them to the promised land. By drafting Ziggy, the’re doubling down on their bet.