The Detroit Lions have selected BYU DE Ezekiel Ansah with the fifth overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
Pros: Ridiculous athlete. Outstanding chase defender upfield and to either sideline -- disengages quickly from blocks to move and make plays away from his original spot. Will grind through the play, sift through bodies, and continue to move to the ballcarrier. Gets in the backfield and makes things happen, as evidenced by improved tackle for loss totals. Has the reverse speed to become an excellent zone-dropper over time. Ability to engage double teams consistently increases his play-to-play value. Is developing an impressive ability to shoot through gaps, and will occasionally flash scary speed through blockers and into the pocket. For all the talk about Ansah's athleticism, perhaps the most intriguing (and most immediately NFL-transferable) aspect of his play is his power inline when he wins the leverage battle, and sometimes when he doesn't -- there's enough pure upper-body strength to push through technique flaws at times.
Cons: Has some pretty serious issues with leverage -- this showed up on his game tape, and was very obvious in Senior Bowl practices against dominant blockers. Comes off the snap too high far too often and loses a great deal of his forward power and momentum as a result. Can be bulled back and walled off in ways he shouldn't, given his size and athleticism. Doesn't yet have an array of useful and consistent hand moves, which leads to him wrestling with blockers at times when he should be disengaging. Falls for fake snap counts far too easily and will burst forward and back pre-snap. Still learning to diagnose more advanced run keys and gets in his own way sometimes.
What he brings to the team: Potential. Scary potential. As with most athletic marvels who still struggle with the finer points of the game, Ansah will need the help of his NFL team to make that transition smoothly and over time. He is frequently compared to New York Giants pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul -- not just because he has a similar build and potential explosive ability, but because Pierre-Paul was also a raw prospect coming out of South Florida. He spent one year there after two seasons in junior college, and the Giants worked him into one of the NFL's best defensive lines after selecting him with the 15th overall pick in 2010. Pierre-Paul played in all 16 games that first season, but didn't start a game until his second year, when he blew up with 16.5 sacks and his current well-deserved reputation as one of the toughest matchups in the game. Under a wise and patient coaching staff, Ansah could have the same career curve.
Was it the right pick? Yes. With all the best tackles off the board and Cliff Avril off to Seattle, Ansah fits Jim Washburn's line concepts very, very well. He's a raw kid, but he's better than people think, and the stats don't tell the whole story. Ferocious upside.