Blog: Playing in the right system — Ziggy Ansah and Jimmer Fredette

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As the 2013 NFL Draft quickly approaches, one name seems to keep rising through the ranks of the first round — Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah. NFL experts aren’t shy about proclaiming his potential as a disruptive force for an NFL defensive line, but they are also outspoken about how raw and inexperienced the player is.

While experts continue to discuss his talent and possible landing places in the NFL, a comparison to the last sensational athlete to come out of BYU forces its way to the forefront. How do Ansah and former BYU basketball player Jimmer Fredette compare in terms of athleticism, experience and team interests in their respective sports?

There’s no doubt Ansah has a natural playmaking ability, having played football for a grand total of less than three years. He shows a knack for chasing down the ball carrier and covering every inch of the gridiron with his head-turning speed. His performance during the season and the attention-getting performance he gave in the NFL Combine has NFL analysts praising the former Cougar.

There was talk that BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah wasn’t going to participate in the 40-yard dash during Monday’s workout. Apparently, he decided at the last minute to go ahead and run. That was a wise decision. With all 32 teams in attendance, Ansah ran it in an impressive 4.63 seconds. He followed that up by putting together an excellent field workout, which included taking part in the linebacker drills. After a dominating Senior Bowl game and his performance here, I will be very surprised if he isn’t selected with one of the first 15 picks in the upcoming draft.

Daniel Jeremiah, analyst for NFL.com and NFL Network

Similar to Ansah’s performance this week, Fredette also turned heads during his pre-draft workouts with NBA teams before the NBA Draft in June 2011. Several questions surrounded Fredette’s potential as an NBA player. However, his workouts impressed NBA scouts around the league, garnering praise from many places.

Because of his fantastic 2010-2011 season with BYU and his impressive NBA workouts, Fredette was taken as the tenth overall pick, with draft rights going to the Sacramento Kings. Several NBA analysts predicted that Fredette would start from day one, making an interesting and exciting tandem in the backcourt.

With the Kings moving Beno Udrih and basically committing to Tyreke Evans off the ball at shooting guard, Jimmer will likely start from day one at point guard in Sacramento. In reality, that’s a pretty fun, dynamic backcourt in Evans and Fredette.

Royce Young, CBSsports.com

However, over his first two seasons in Sacramento, Fredette has started just seven of the 61 games in which he has played, being relegated to a backup role. During the 18.6 minutes he has averaged, he has scored 7.6 points per game and shot 36.1 percent from beyond the arc. Fredette’s success in the NBA may take a few more years and perhaps even a few more teams, as his two-year contract with the Kings expires at the end of this season.

Jimmer Fredette, Mo Williams
Jimmer Fredette playing with the Sacramento Kings (Photo Courtesy Octagon Agency)

NBA analysts have compared Jimmer to Miami Heat sharpshooter Mike Miller and have said he would have more success in Miami’s system than perhaps anywhere else in the league.

Miller is a pure shooter, like Fredette. And that’s why we need to get Jimmer to the right team… Imagine Jimmer on (the Heat). He would get a ton of open threes because opponents would be preoccupied with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The Heat are a terrific perimeter defensive team that could cover up Jimmer’s spotty defense. Wade and James can both be primary ball-handlers, so Fredette wouldn’t need to be a real point guard…Plus, the Heat would suddenly have a guy that everybody wants to succeed. Wouldn’t that soften Miami’s image a bit? Wouldn’t it be just a little harder to root for their team bus to break down?

Michael Rosenberg, INSIDE THE NBA

And perhaps that’s the case with Ansah, as well. Maybe there are specific systems in which Ansah’s talents and potential will shine through and make him an immediate rookie sensation. Teams with a draft pick in the top 10 have already spoken about what Ansah can do for their defense. In almost all cases, Ansah is compared to New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI in the 2011 season. The Detroit Lions, who have the fifth overall pick, have shown a lot of interest in the BYU star.

Ansah, in terms of pure athleticism, is a top-10 prospect. But because he’s only played the game a couple of years, teams picking in the top 10 will have to be careful about where they project him.

“I don’t think there is anybody in the NFL that doesn’t think he’s going to be a good player,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “The question is when? Is it this year, next year or three years from now?

“How quickly can he become a really good player? Can he be Aldon Smith this year? Because he’s got those kind of skills.”

Chris McCosky, The Detroit News

Ansah has been projected mainly in the 10-20 pick range by teams such as the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the aforementioned Giants. However, with his recent performance in both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine, we could see another comparison with Fredette — could Ansah be taken No. 10 as well, by the Tennessee Titans? And if so, is that the right system, and will he be able to show his talents from the outset?

BYU Football vs Utah State-10
Ziggy Ansah (47) pressures Utah State’s quarterback Chuckie Keaton in the 6-3 win at LaVell Edwards Stadium. (Photo by Chris Bunker)

Either way, there is no doubt that both Ansah and Fredette have the skills to excel in their respective sports, having shown that ability in phenomenal BYU careers. It’s just the question of getting both players into a system in which they can excel.

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