Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
The Lions made the pick many of us predicted and chose Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, the raw athletic defensive end project from BYU. Ansah will start immediately at one of the defensive end spots.
Detroit became enamored with Ansah during Senior Bowl week, when they coached him on the South squad in Mobile. When I talked to a couple of different Lions coaches about Ansah after that week, both independently offered that they loved how fast he picked things up. They gave him a correction or technique to implement, and in a couple of reps he had it down. As an example, on Tuesday they asked him to do an inside spin move on Lane Johnson in individual pass rush drills. He couldn’t do it, and Johnson easily threw him aside. But Ziggy worked at it and when asked to do it the next day, he spun so fast that Johnson didn’t even have time to react to it and tried to block air. Interestingly it was just about the only individual win that Ansah had during those drills all week, but I saw that it made quite an impression at that time and that is clearly the case.
Here’s what Lions fans can expect from Ansah in 2013: a whole lot of plays where he does very little interspersed with two or three plays a game where you chest-bump your buddies and can’t believe that this is the same player who has done nothing for a quarter or two. That’s what Ansah is, a playmaker. The Lions desperately needed playmakers on defense, and they took the best available defensive playmaker. If you can learn to live with the “meh” quarters and plays where he looks out of place and relish in the forced fumbles, batted passes, and sacks where he plants Jay Cutler on his shoegazing heinie, you will love Ziggy Ansah.
This is the pick I would have made in the situation. I preferred either of the top two tackles or Dion Jordan, but they were gone. I’ll admit to letting out a huge sigh of relief when the Eagles took Lane Johnson, a player I found overrated but also one that I strongly believe Detroit would have selected in lieu of Ansah. The only other option at 5 was one of the guards, and I suspect the Lions gave more than passing consideration to taking Jonathan Cooper, the guard from North Carolina who ultimately went to Arizona at #7 overall. I never bought the Dee Milliner chatter, not even for a minute, and the vindication is sweet.
Ansah will wear #94 for the Lions, and he will be an integral part of the defense for years. His selection also shows a longer view from the front office, something we’ve discussed here earlier as well. The days of immediate gratification at the expense of long-term upside are done in Detroit. Even if Ansah ultimately flops, and there is certainly a chance he does, the Lions are a stronger organization for making a choice like this. Premium picks must be used on players who can become premium talents, not solid-but-unspectacular players with limited upside. With some luck this is the last time the Lions pick in the top 10 for some time, and they selected the player with the highest potential impact. The bust factor is inherent with that philosophy, but I’m okay with that. I would rather swing and miss than take a walk to first and have nobody who can move the runner around the bases, to cross sports metaphors. Ansah is a cleanup hitter, and the Lions defense needed someone to drive in the runs.