With the Detroit Lions on the clock holding the 5th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, not everyone was sold on Ziggy Ansah. As an unfinished product out of BYU, he saw his stock rise quickly on draft boards with an incredible combine performance, even after it was reported that he didn’t even train for the drills. With his supreme athleticism, it was apparent that one day Ziggy Ansah would develop into a special player.
Some Lions fans (including myself) were not so quick to jump on the Ansah hype-train, and believed it was more important to draft someone who could make a bigger impact as a rookie. Eight sacks later, and it just so happens that Ansah was up to the task for the Lions, leading all rookies in that category. Kudos to our very own Braden Shackelford for being dead on when predicting Ziggy’s sack total last year.
Just how good was Ansah’s rookie year though? 8 sacks is an impressive number for a rookie, but according to PFF (Pro Football Focus), he received only a -4.7 pass rush grade, which was good for 27th out of 52 eligible 4-3 defensive ends. Ansah finished just shy of the top 10 in quarterback sacks among all traditional 4-3 defensive ends, but only had 38 total pressures (a combination of QB sacks, hits, and hurries), which put him in 32nd out of 38. This was pretty noticeable on tape, and you could see that more than just a couple of his sacks were a result of the quarterback holding onto the ball too long and falling right in Ziggy’s lap.
This is not a knock on Ansah’s rookie year, but more of a reason why we should expect to see an even better Sophomore year from him. Ansah is still developing as a defensive end, and while the coaching staff has been revamped, there is still some continuity on the defensive line with coaches like Kris Kocurek and Jim Washburn returning.
Newly hired Defensive Coordinator Teryl Austin will be looking to show some more aggressive looks on defense, and you won’t see the same telegraphed defensive four-man front like we did under Jim Schwartz. This will not only allow Ansah to generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but it will result in more pressures for the defense as a whole.
NFL.com’s Around the League writer Kevin Patra recently ranked Ansah 22nd out of 25 players that will “make the leap” this season. He gives some pretty high praise to Ansah, and says that he “made plays thanks to his freakish athleticism and a motor that a Mustang would be proud to support.”
2014 will be a big test for Ziggy Ansah, and I’m confident that we’ll see him put together a combination of his freakish athleticism with some refined technique. Provided that he stays healthy, I expect to see him have a breakout Sophomore year and wreak havoc upon opposing quarterbacks.