Do they pick up the top defensive back to help their woeful secondary? Should they add offensive line help? What about a pass-rusher to complement the strength of their interior defensive line?
As we approach April and the draft, we'll be taking a closer look at the various players the Lions can draft. Today, we break down a defensive end prospect who has some question marks, but a lot of upside.
Name: Ezekial "Ziggy" Ansah
40-yard Dash: 4.63 seconds
Bench: 21 reps
Vertical: 34.5 inches
Broad: 118 inches
3 Cone: 7.11 seconds
Short Shuttle: 4.26 seconds *Top Overall Performer
Ansah is a raw but impressive athlete who hasn't been playing football long, especially in contrast to his fellow defensive linemen.
"Ziggy" Ansah has only been playing football since 2010 and has only started one season. Originally brought in as a track star, with hopes of turning his freakish athleticism into a pro NBA career, Ansah is an athlete who has still not reached his football peak.
That he has risen so high in such a short time is a testament to his athleticism.
Ansah is a phenomenal combination of speed, size and pure natural strength and agility. Despite having a long frame and plenty of muscle, he doesn't sacrifice quickness for size—he's a great mash-up of both.
While his technique is still shaky (remember, he's been playing only a grand total of two years), he shows great explosiveness and a quick initial punch to knock a lineman back and gain space for another move.
His speed and agility allow him to slip blocks and get around or inside pass blockers, and his ability to sniff out a play and get to where the ball will be took huge strides forward in 2012.
If it develops at the same rate in the NFL, Ansah is going to be very, very scary.
Ansah is a high-motor athlete who will follow a play from whistle to whistle and uses his track speed to run players down. He also started to get his hands up to block passes as the 2012 season progressed.
Again, this is a player whose best football appears to be ahead of him.
Of course, the counter to that statement is that maybe it isn't. Plenty of freakish athletes appear to have a lot of potential (that sometimes dirty word) which they never reach. Athleticism is all well and good—it's technique to go along with it which makes a player great.
For all his speed, Ansah lacks a top-shelf first step. His speed is also a trap, and as a raw player he can rely on it too much. Since he can be physically overpowering, when that physicality doesn't immediately work, Ansah can get caught up in blocks and not be able to shed them.
Again, though, this is a developmental issue. Ansah reminds me of the bigger kids on my son's Pop Warner team—they are physically so overwhelming that they don't concentrate on technique as much as they should, and when other children catch up to them physically, they become far less effective.
That is to once again point out how far behind his peers Ansah is and could serve as a warning that his athleticism and strength may not stand out in the pros (among the biggest and most athletic) like it did at the college level.
Ansah's hand technique—shedding blocks and chopping offensive lineman's hands away, for example—is still very rough, and he will have to work hard to hone those techniques at the NFL level.
One last note. Recently, reports have surfaced that Ansah didn't work with an outside trainer for the combine. Dan Pompei of the National Football Post says that according to Ansah's agent, the 40 he ran at the combine was the first he ever ran.
As Pompei points out, this is a bit of a misleading blurb. First of all, Ansah was a track athlete, and while he primarily ran the 100- and 200-meter dash, the techniques he learned then are very similar to what football players use to get a fast start at the 40-yard dash.
He didn't have to train for the 40 because he had been training to run for years of his life.
Some have taken the lack of an outside trainer as an indication he "doesn't love football" or "wasn't taking it seriously."
This a straw man argument if I ever heard one. First of all, just because he didn't use an outside trainer doesn't mean he wasn't training. Yes, he focused on class, but that doesn't mean he sat around playing his X-Box.
Not using an outside trainer simply means not using an outside trainer. Taking that to mean he doesn't care is foolish.
First of all, an outside trainer can cost a minimum of $750 a week. Not every athlete has that or wants to pay for that. Secondly, Ansah may have felt his BYU staff was more than able to help him get ready if he needed it.
It used to be the norm, folks, to train at school rather than travel all over the country to a "Training Complex." The combine-focused preparation we see now is a new trend, and while it is unusual to not take part in it, it's not a huge red flag.
It's neither an indicator of his commitment nor of his desire to play football.
Remember, we are trained at this point to see the combine and its preparation in only one way. Maybe Ansah will not ever peak the way one hopes, maybe he will.
Not having an outside trainer won't be the cause of it, though.
Ansah has tremendous potential (there's that word again) but also tremendous bust potential. A raw, developing player, you're betting on him reaching his perceived upside.
For a young, inexperienced player, he has all the physical tools, but we've seen players like this implode.
The tape on Ansah shows an athlete becoming a football player. Down the road, Ansah will be a very good player in the NFL—the question is whether he will be worth the fifth overall pick.
I'm not sold—yet. There are a lot of very good pass-rushing alternatives, as well as Dee Milliner (who everyone knows I have a huge crush on) and a good chance that either Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher could be available to lock down the left tackle spot.
With the caveat that we're early on in the process and a lot can change, I'm not sure I take him over guys like Bjoern Werner, Dion Jordan on the defensive line or Barkevious Mingo at linebacker.
I know what I have in them, and it's very, very good.
On the other hand, I know what I could have in Ansah, and if he reaches his potential, he could be tremendous.
All measurables from NFL.com