BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah played only one full season of college football, entering his senior year with zero career starts. After trying out for both the basketball and track teams (and even running a 21.9 in the 200-meter dash), Ansah walked on to BYU’s football team.
At 6’6’’, 270 pounds, Ansah has ideal size for either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. He has good natural strength, although his functional, in-game strength isn’t up to NFL standards just yet. The potential is there to add some bulk without decreasing quickness, so you could see big strides from Ansah after his first season in the NFL when he can go through an entire offseason routine.
Ansah can still play powerfully because he’s fast and explosive. As a pass-rusher, he has an excellent bull-rush because he can reach top speed quickly and drive offensive tackles into the backfield. His pass-rush repertoire isn’t vast at this point, and a lot of his pressure came on stunts at BYU.
Ansah also played inside at times in college, although he looks more comfortable on the outside. He doesn’t consistently win at the point-of-attack, so teams will likely run right at him in his rookie season. Ansah can still play the run well when it’s away from him; his pursuit and play recognition, in particular, are both much better than you’d think for someone without much football experience.
The biggest concern with Ansah right now might be that he appears to wear down quickly. He looks like a first-round pick to start games and a third-round pick by the end. If Ansah’s committed to becoming a great player, though, it seems unlikely that he’ll fail; he just needs a season to improve his strength and endurance.
NFL Comparison: Jason Pierre-Paul
This comparison is so easy to make that it’s almost cliché; Ansah is an explosive, powerful defensive end without much experience but with massive potential. Interestingly, neither player lit it up in college, either. Pierre-Paul’s senior-season stat line of 6.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss is quite similar to Ansah’s: 4.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.
The lack of experience and production in college will likely scare away a handful of teams, as was the case with Pierre-Paul. With either player, a normal collegiate career with big-time production might land them in the top five picks. JPP got drafted 15th overall, and you’ll probably see Ansah go around that area too, or even higher; players with his size and athleticism are extremely rare.
Fit in Dallas
With DeMarcus Ware playing the weak side defensive end position, Ansah would probably be counted on as the starting strong side defensive end if Anthony Spencer isn’t retained. The drop from Spencer to Ansah in terms of run defense would be dramatic; Ansah is going to struggle at the point to start his NFL career, but he has the athleticism and strength to grow into the role.
The tools are there to become an elite player, and his floor isn’t nearly as low as people think. Ansah’s a project, so he’ll take some time to develop. In terms of mid-first round picks, however, you aren’t going to regularly come across a player with Ansah’s upside. He’ll be great value for any team that grabs him outside of the top 10, but he probably won’t light it up as a rookie.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.