Rookies In Focus: Ezekiel Ansah
With the offseason in full gear, it’s time to review the 2013 season, particularly the rookies. After months of pre-draft drama, it’s important to look back and evaluate the success of each position group. If your favorite team was in the market for an offensive tackle, did they take the right one? Needed an edge rusher? Which one fell to your team?
This is by no means a definitive draft grade on any of these players, just a one-year look at their role and production, and perhaps a look forward to how they might improve.
Round 1, No. 5: Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit Lions
Total Snaps: 581
Defensive Right End: 537 (92.4%)
Defensive Left End: 3 (0.5%)
Linebacker: 20 (3.4%)
Defensive Tackle: 21 (3.6%)
Unlike the other four players on this list who had to battle the 4-3 defensive end/3-4 outside linebacker debate, Ansah’s potential fits centered around the 4-3/defensive end/3-4 defensive end debate, but the Lions made it clear from the get-go that he was their defensive right end. He played 92.4 percent of his snaps in that role with a sprinkling of stand-up snaps and pass rushes on the interior. As expected, Ansah rarely dropped into coverage.
Pass Rush Snaps: 359
Total Pressures: 34
Pass Rushing Productivity: 8.1
While Ansah’s nine sacks certainly stick out, many were of the clean-up variety and he was below average providing pressure elsewhere. He graded positively as a rusher in only four of his 14 games, with his best effort coming in Week 16 against the New York Giants. He hit a midseason lull that included a -2.6 grade on 35 rushes against left tackle Joe Thomas and the Cleveland Browns before finishing the season were a perfectly average 0.0 grade in his last six games after coming back from injury. It was not an embarrassing first season for Ansah by any means, but certainly not as impressive as the nine sacks might indicate.
Ansah beats LT Donald Penn to the outside to get in on the sack:
Against the Run
Run Snaps: 216
Run Stops: 13
Run Stop Percentage: 7.1
Ansah proved to be the best amongst the rookies in the running game, perhaps not surprising given some teams’ interest in him as an interior player. He was rarely taken out of plays and he showed that he’d be difficult to block early on in his Week 1 matchup with Minnesota Vikings LT Matt Kalil.
Ansah reads the run and quickly knifes inside Kalil:
Coverage Snaps: 6
Incomplete. Ansah only dropped into coverage six times.
Ansah’s impressive play in against the run gave the Lions one of the league’s most stout defensive fronts. As a pass rusher, he would probably benefit from some snaps on the interior, but with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley already entrenched on the inside, Ansah will have to expand his pass rushing repertoire in order to build upon a solid rookie season.
Follow Steve on Twitter.