INDIANAPOLIS -- When talking to scouts here at the NFL Scouting Combine, the words that often roll of their tongues when the name of Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah is mentioned are athletic and freak.
The next word is usually this one: raw.
That's what makes evaluating the BYU defensive end/outside linebacker so tough to do. He is a physical specimen, but he's still learning the game, having played football for only two years.
Can a guy that limited in terms of experience actually be a high first-round pick in the April NFL Draft?
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Three years ago, the New York Giants took an inexperienced, explosive pass rusher with little college playing time and made him their first-round pick. That player was Jason Pierre-Paul. That's worked out pretty well, and it also has the teams that passed on Pierre-Paul now taking closer looks at Ansah.
That isn't to say he's Pierre-Paul, but he has that same type of ability.
"You see future star at times from Ansah," said one AFC personnel director. "But then you see times where it looks like he has trouble even trying to line up. He is really raw."
That's because this native of Ghana, a kid who didn't even watch football until he came to BYU and this country five years ago to try and play basketball, got by on sheer athletic ability last season when he flashed onto the national radar.
He would look dominant at times, playing inside and out, and then look like the kid who was new to the game. That's why some scouts I've talked to think he will go in the top 10 of this draft. Others say he's a second-round pick.
Here's what I say: It's hard to ignore that athletic ability and that closing speed in a league starved for guys to get the quarterback on the ground. He can play both down end and standing up in a 3-4. That's valuable.
Ansah is 6-foot-5, weighs 275 pounds, has the wingspan of a condor, can run like crazy and has a burst of a first step. He is a former track athlete and basketball player who once ran the 200 in a blazing time and was so nimble he thought he'd play in the NBA.
Now he's playing an expedited game of football catch-up.
"In comparison to other people that are out there, and I have been playing only a few years, I still have a lot to do just to catch up to them," Ansah said. "I'm gonna put everything I got to do my best."
Ansah's one season of starting came last year for the Cougars. In it, he had 4 1/2 sacks and at times looked like he didn't know what he was doing. But at other times, he looked like the next coming of a pass-rush star.
"His techniques were horrible," the AFC personnel director said.
During Senior Bowl week, he had a tough time. Some of the tackles he faced ate him up. But then the game came. And that's when Ansah shined. He had 1 1/2 sacks and spent the day in the backfield.
"No doubt he was the best player on the field," an NFC coach said.
When asked about the toughest tackle he faced, he joked about one of the players he faced in that game.
"I don't think he was the toughest, but I give it to the Oregon State right tackle 'cause I got held a lot in that game and it was never called, so he did a good job," Ansah said.
Spoken like a true defensive lineman.
When Ansah first started playing, he had to explain the game to his parents and brothers and sisters, who live back in Ghana. Now he's trying to learn it better himself.
"I try to stay up late and watch NFL Network," he said. "I see some things. I have no idea who they are. This is going to be my life so I just try to suck it all in."
It's so hard to evaluate a kid based on one season and one all-star game. But it's also so scary to think you might miss on a pass-rush star.
Yes, he is new to the game. That doesn't mean he can't be special.
Football can be taught. Speed can't.
That's why Ansah might be the most scrutinized player in this draft from an on-field standpoint. Risky? Maybe. But he is worth the risk.
Pierre-Paul was worth it and 14 teams passed on him. I don't think that many will pass on Ansah.
"It's a blessing," he said. "This is a really humbling experience for me. I'm really lucky to be in my shoes."
Even if they aren't basketball shoes.