Will the Lions find their next Ziggy Ansah in the 2021 draft?

Penn State Nittany Lions defensive end Jayson Oweh (Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports)
Penn State Nittany Lions defensive end Jayson Oweh (Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports) /

Will the Detroit Lions find an Ezekiel Ansah 2.0 in the 2021 NFL Draft?

One of the biggest areas of concern for the Detroit Lions entering this season was their lack of pass rush. That’s primarily due to the fact the team opted to do very little to upgrade their pass rushers.

Through the first seven games, the Lions’ defense has only been able to record 10 total sacks as a unit. That’s tied for the fifth-lowest amount in the NFL so far this season. Defensive end Romeo Okwara is responsible for 5.0 of those sacks, leading the team by far. The next closest defender is Trey Flowers, who has just 2.0 sacks.

Last week, the Lions shipped a conditional sixth-round draft pick in 2021 to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for pass rusher Everson Griffen. The 32-year old posted 2.5 sacks and six QB hits during his seven-game stint with the Cowboys.

Griffen is expected to make his Lions’ debut against his former team, the Minnesota Vikings, this Sunday. Before joining Dallas, the four-time Pro Bowler spent 10 years with the Vikings. Griffen is expected to fill-in for Flowers, who was recently placed on Injured Reserve due to a wrist injury.

While Griffen appears to be a temporary solution to the Lions’ pass-rushing woes, Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus believes Detroit will use its top selection in the 2021 draft to address it more permanently. Renner recently mocked Penn State EDGE rusher Jayson Oweh to the Motor City with the 13th overall pick in the first round. Here’s what he wrote about the selection.

"“At 6-foot-5 and 252 pounds with a reported sub-4.4 40, Oweh personifies the term ‘freak’. That gets drafted highly at the edge position regardless of how you perform on the football field. Oweh has improved in the latter, as he had a breakout 10-pressure performance in Penn State’s Big Ten opener against Indiana.”"

Oweh seems to have a near-identical draft profile as a former Lions’ first-rounder, Ezekiel Ansah. The fifth overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, the similarly sized 6-foot-5, 275-pound Ansah was described by Walter Football as a rare athlete with elite speed and a huge upside but who was also very raw coming out of BYU.

It took three seasons for Ansah to post double-digit sack totals for the Lions. Unfortunately, injuries limited his impact and Ziggy ended up missing a total of 14 games over his final three years in Detroit. Will the Lions find their next Ansah in Oweh?

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Jayson Oweh recorded 21 total tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, and two forced fumbles in 11 games last season for Penn State. This year, he’s posted eight tackles and no sacks through two games.