Below is a recap of what Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz had to say about their pick of defensive end Ezekiel Ansah on Thursday night. (Quotes provided by the Lions.)
LIONS EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF FOOTBALL OPERATIONS AND GENERAL MANAGER MARTIN MAYHEW
Opening Statement: "Ziggy Ansah, phenomenal athlete, a guy that fills a big need for us. A guy with tremendous athletic ability, size, speed, power, all those things. He's going to fit in well with our coaching staff and our team. I think the opportunity to coach him at the Senior Bowl really provided us with an opportunity to see what this guy's is capable of and we're really excited to have him."
On if he sees Ansah making an impact right away: "I do see him as an impactful player right away. I think a defensive end, you know, sacks come when they come, but he's going to be a guy that will play a big role for us on defense. He's got an opportunity to play left and right. Jim (Schwartz) will talk a little bit about how they plan on playing him but he'll be on the field. He'll be playing for us."
On if the Lions tried to trade up to get a tackle: "We always make calls both ways. We felt very comfortable at five. We had guys that we liked at five and we stayed there and took Ziggy so we're excited about it."
On if Ansah is a consolation prize: "I wouldn't call it that at all. We're excited about him. He's a heck of a football player."
On Ansah's unconventional path in football: "This is an amazing story. His background ... just coming over from Ghana on an academic scholarship at BYU, running track, playing basketball, going out for football and earning his way on the field. I talked to his head coach today, his former head coach Bronco Mendenhall spoke very highly of him, but talked about him when he came in not even knowing how to put his equipment on and how far he's come. And the one thing he talked about with Ziggy is how much he loves the game, how much he loves to learn about the game, how much passion he has to learn about it. We've got the right coaches here to teach him about it."
On if the lack of on-field experience was a concern: "I think if we didn't have the opportunity to coach him at the Senior Bowl, that would have been a bigger issue. But we had the opportunity to work with him and teach him and we saw the way that he could learn, how quickly he picks things up and we saw the impact that he had in the game so we felt very comfortable with him."
On if this is part of his philosophy of building from the front and investing in the defensive line: "We've been talking about that for a long time. I believe the best way to put pressure on quarterbacks and offenses is to have a great defensive front. That's a big part of the plan. As you've seen over the years, we've made a lot of moves to shore up our defensive front. This is another move in that same direction."
On if filling a need was a bigger priority than the 'best player available': "He's the best player available and he fills a need. This was an opportunity where the grade matched up with the need and it worked out great for us."
On if the Lions will try and get back in the first round later: "Time will tell."
LIONS HEAD COACH JIM SCHWARTZ
On Ansah's Senior Bowl performance aiding the team's selection: "Well, he can play anywhere across the front. You know, Ziggy's played nose, he's played five technique, he's played 4-I, he had never played nine before our game. It was an adjustment period for him. I mean, he didn't know very much at all in the beginning of the week. But every practice you saw him get better, and then the game came and he dominated the game. It wasn't just his playing ability during the week. You saw what a serious guy he was. You saw how important it was for him to do well, how he wanted to please the coaches. That was all an important part of the evaluation. It was a week well spent in Mobile."
On if a player's track record can be overrated in the Draft: "You know, no. I think that your production is always important. I don't think it's ever overrated. But I think there are some reasons for his lack of production in his career. You know, I mean, his travels to the United States were well-documented. Not a whole lot of youth football programs over in Ghana. Not a lot of opportunity for him to go. But make no mistake about it, you hear things when people talk about Ziggy. They say, "Well, he's going to need work on learning the game and instincts. Watch this guy play and he is very, very instinctive. Things like screens, reverses, things that would confuse a guy that doesn't have natural instincts for the game don't confuse him. I mean, one of the big plays he made in the Senior Bowl was a reverse."
You know, a player that doesn't have instincts wouldn't have that. We've seen a couple different players do this. I mean, Jason Pierre Paul a couple years ago went right from junior college, played one year at South Florida and next thing you know, he went on and had a great year. I think that a guy like Ziggy can do the same kind of things. He's over 6-5, he's 270 pounds, he runs fast, got very good instincts. He's tough, he's played all across the line. At some point or another this year, we saw him do everything that we need him to do in our defense and we were really excited. Like I said, that week at the Senior Bowl really helped us."
On why Ansah was not more productive in his senior year: "They used him in a lot of different roles. But again, when we gave him an opportunity the way that we play, he had one and a half sacks and had another big hit and a tackle for loss in the Senior Bowl. So, you know, we can't really worry about how he was used at BYU and what happened there. We've seen everything that we need to see from him and we think he's a very good fit for us. You know, he can play right defensive end, he can play left defensive end. We can move him around a little bit. He has that kind of skill set. He's got the speed of some of the players that we've had in the past, but you're also talking about a 270-plus pound guy. 6-5, he's got great length. You know, get a good chance to watch this guy knock passes down, watch him intercept passes, it really is amazing when you consider that he's been playing football for just a couple years."
On if Ansah is considered a "project" this season: "I think if you just looked at it from a book standpoint, I think you would have to say that. But I think when you watch the film and when you put your hands on him for a week, you know, we drafted him to be on the field for us. We didn't draft him as a project. Again, we saw everything that we needed. It wasn't like we were saying, "Hey, he really needs to work on one thing." He's inexperienced, but he is very instinctive. He has the skill set we're looking for. We think he's the right kind of guy. Again, our chance to put hands on him was a big thing. We don't think he's a project. We wouldn't take a project there. But we do think that he has even more upside than he's shown and I think there are a lot of good reasons for that."
On if his size fits him into stopping the run game: "Very strong. Really tough for tight ends to handle and you saw that in college. You know, he played a lot at the line of scrimmage. You can't fault a guy for doing what they asked him to do in their scheme. They weren't an attack team. They played at the line of scrimmage and took on blocks. He's a full-grown man. He played across that front. There are not many defensive ends that can go live in the A-gap. There are not many defensive ends that can go get in that briar patch and succeed. He was a guy that did it. You know, there are a lot of guys that are edge players that don't look the same when they get down against the guards and the centers. He played that in college. He played all across the front. We like him as a run defender, we like him as a pass rusher, also. His length is something you can't dismiss, also. His ability to get his hands up, he has a lot of tipped balls, a lot of knocked down passes. You know, you get those guys that are 6-5, we signed Jason Jones in free agency, a 6-5 plus guy with long arms. Ziggy's the same way. It changes the dynamic of where our defensive ends are right now. We're not talking about sacrificing speed because of his size. We're talking about one of the fastest defensive ends in the Draft."
On if he is disappointed that any of the left tackles were not available at No. 5: "You know, in the Draft there are always guys that, you know, fall, guys that get to you or whatever. We can't worry about what happened in front of us. The only thing we can worry about is getting a good player that we had our hands on, that we had a lot of feel for and fills a good need for us. There are a lot of other good players in the Draft and there are other players that would have fit in well for us. But none of that tempers at all the excitement that we have for Ziggy. We're very excited about having him and since we left the Senior Bowl, that's a guy that we've had in our mind being able to fit him in somewhere. At that time, you don't know how the Draft's going to go. You don't know where everybody's going to fall. Nobody's even worked out at the Combine. But we were very excited to be able to have a shot at him."
On the first time he heard of Ansah: "Week before the Senior Bowl. Coaches don't do a whole lot of scouting. I mean, you're aware of some guys, but you don't really watch a whole lot of them. But the week before the Senior Bowl we have a meeting with our scouts and our scouts give us a quick thumbnail of all the guys that are in the game. We do that whether we're coaching the game or not. You know, just little things that they saw that they'd like us to look at over the week. It's not just practice, it's not just the game. You get your chance to sit down and have dinner with them every night and do social events and everything else. That week experience with him was an important part of his evaluation."
On if at that point the scouts indicated that Ansah could be the fifth overall pick: "No, they weren't even at that point yet. I mean, the scouts, they had been on campus and they had seen him. They knew what he looked like and what he had done, but there was still a lot more information to be gained. Number one, him playing in the Senior Bowl, practicing, Combine, individual workouts, all that other stuff. It was more of a preliminary meeting that we had down there. We did the same thing with all the players. It wasn't just him."
On what impressed him about Ansah as a person: "You know, just serious about the game. He's very respectful about the game. Like I said, he's an instinctive football player. He's not a guy out there that doesn't know what he's doing. He picks it up really quickly. A natural athlete, that maturity impressed us during the week. We get to see him on game day and a lot of the scouts and coaches that go down to the game stay down there for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Most of them come home on Wednesday. But having the chance to see players get ready for the game, see them put their pads on, see what their demeanor is the day of the game, I still remember walking under those stands. He was getting taped up and he's a big man. He doesn't have his shirt on and it's the first time I saw him in that way. You know, you see him with his pads on it's like, "Holy Mackeral." Even then, it was an all-star game. He was getting ready to go play and we like that demeanor about him. We liked him on the sideline during the games. Like I said, he's been a guy that we've had our eye on since then. We were lucky enough to be able to get him."
On if he is content with the offensive line after not being able to draft a tackle: "We have a long way to go. We drafted Riley Reiff last year. We have a lot of confidence in Riley. Riley played a game for us, started a game for us last year and did a good job there. He looks better this year than he did last year. You know, we have other young players across the front line and we still got a lot of Draft to go and we still have, I don't want to steal Martin's (Mayhew) thunder, but Martin always says there's no finish line when it comes to that stuff. We're always looking to improve in things like that. That's why we drafted him (Reiff). That's why we drafted him last year and when Jeff (Backus) got hurt for that one game, that's why Riley went in and played."