With nearly all the Pro Days completed, most teams are beginning their final Draft meetings within the next week, so for the next four weeks we are going to compare and contrast two players who play the same position. This will give you the insight into the small things that can separate top prospects. We start this week comparing our top two defensive ends, Ezekiel Ansah and Bjoern Werner.
While I believe that both players are worthy of being selected in the top ten, they are different players who bring differing skill sets and risk factors to the field. To start with, it is incredible that two premier NFL prospects in the same draft class were born outside the United States, but have developed so quickly since taking up the sport they will be first round selections. Although Ansah is an elite athlete and no doubt special in that respect, I believe that Werner is being drastically under-rated athletically. His efficiency, technique and effort over-shadow his athleticism on film, which was confirmed by my sources at Florida State’s Pro Day who told me that he worked out like a star and displayed elite athleticism throughout.
US PRESSWIREBYU's Ezekiel Ansah makes a tackle against Utah State.
Right off the bat, Ansah and Werner’s physiques are drastically different. Ansah is long at 6052 with 35 1/8 inch arms at 271 pounds and ripped up like a body builder, while Werner is “only” 6032 with 33 ¼ inch arms and weighs in at 266 pounds. Their differences in length are apparent in their style of play against the run. Ansah is quick to get his hands on run blocker, gets arm extension to lock-out blocker and maintains good position, but his tendency to do this after popping upright and losing leverage at the snap leads to him struggling to consistently shed the block in time to make the play on runs at him.
On the other hand, Werner keeps his knees bent and uses his hands to aggressively take on the run blocker and is able to torque or shed the blocker to free up and make the tackle on plays to his side of the field. Both Ansah and Werner have excellent playing speed chasing down running backs along the LOS in pursuit, although Werner is smoother and moves easier through tight quarters.
As pass rushers the differences between the two are even more apparent. Werner has good, but not rare, initial quickness and is usually able to beat the OT to the turn point and that is where he separates himself from most college defensive ends. His ability to maintain leverage while rushing the passer combined with excellent hand-use/technique allows him to consistently jolt OT and then can defeat him inside, outside or through with a variety of pass rush moves. In the games evaluated, Werner was effective rushing the passer lined up from many alignments, tight DE, wide DE and OLB. Once he clears the pass blocker he has an explosive burst to the QB to finish the sack and reminds me a lot of current Rams’ defensive end Chris Long in his warrior type pass rush attitude.
Unlike Werner, Ansah’s production as a pass rusher is almost exclusively dependent on his rare physical talent and not his technique. When he lines up as a five or seven technique he is not consistently effective rushing the passer as the OT can get their hands on him quick enough to slow his pass rush. Additionally, his tendency to pop upright at the snap causes him to lose leverage too often, which lets pass blocker get their hands on him first to tie him up too easily. Where he shines is when he is able to line up in a wide nine type alignment. His explosive first step gets the OT to start sliding out, which gives Ansah a “two way go” on the edge, although he almost always either goes for the outside edge or bull rushes. When he pass rushes with leverage and uses his hands aggressively, he can be a dominant bull rusher because of his rare combination of explosiveness, long arms and excellent strength. In order to become an elite pass rusher in the NFL, Ansah will need to rush with leverage and aggressiveness more consistently and develop a wider variety of pass rush moves.
US PRESSWIREFlorida State DE Bjoern Werner closes in for the sack against Miami.
Lastly, while Werner is viewed as a versatile player who can play down as a 43 defensive end or up as an OLB in a 34 scheme, compared to Ansah his versatility is not as impressive. Ansah’s height, long arms, natural strength, explosiveness and intelligence give him the tools to be effective playing DE in a 43 scheme, OLB and DE in a 34 scheme and even possibly as a DT in a 43 alignment. Remarkably, both Ansah and Werner display instincts and awareness beyond their playing experience, which makes me more confident that they both will become elite NFL players. Although Ansah has more potential and the upside to be a better NFL player, Werner is the safer bet in my view as he was an impact player in every game, while Ansah would disappear for stretches in nearly every game due to playing upright and without aggression.
Email Russ at Russelllande@yahoo.com and Follow Russ on Twitter @RUSSLANDE