Utah has a new star: BYU's Ezekiel Ansah may go No. 1 overall in NFL Draft

Shortly after the 2012 NFL Draft concluded, University of Utah defensive lineman Star Lotulelei was projected as the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Fast forward nine months, and there is now talk that another player from the Beehive State might be the first player taken in the NFL Draft April 25. That player is Brigham Young Cougars defensive lineman Ezekiel Ansah.

On January 15, CBS Draft Analyst Pete Prisco tweeted, "Just an early look at the draft, I'm not so sure the kid from #BYU [Ansah] shouldn't be the first pick." Prisco clarified in a follow up tweet that if NFL executives feel Ansah will end up being the next Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants then they should take him with the first overall pick. Like Ansah, Pierre-Paul didn't start playing football until a few years before being eligible for the NFL draft. He was selected 15th overall by the Giants in the 2010 draft. 

BLUE COUGAR FOOTBALL first started discussing the possibility of Ansah being drafted this year the same time Lotulelei was projected No. 1 overall. The Seattle Seahawks drafted Bruce Irvin from West Virginia with the 15th pick of last year's draft. He was not drafted to play every down, but to be a pass rushing specialist.

It may seem the idea that Ansah could be drafted with the first pick overall is more than a little far fetched. However, there is a remote chance that it will happen.

First, Ansah needs to convince NFL scouts that he can be an every-down player. If Irvin could go 15th as a specialty player, then how much higher would Ansah go if he could fit that same specialty and more? Ansah made 62 tackles this season. That is the same number that Irvin had in two seasons at West Virginia. It is also much more than Pierre-Paul had in his one season at South Florida.

Second, Ansah needs to convince NFL scouts that he is not a major project. Players taken with the first overall pick are expected to contribute immediately. With 2010 being his first football season, Ansah still has a lot to learn. In the NFL, however, every rookie has to learn a lot. If he shows that he is capable of playing effectively while he continues to learn and develop, then much of the reluctance teams will have to draft Ansah very high will dissipate.

This week Ansah is in Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl. This is an excellent environment for him to make his mark. Early reports were very positive, but the last few days those in attendance have been a little more critical. The Jacksonville Jaguars (2nd pick overall) and the Detroit Lions (5th pick overall) have shown keen interest in Ansah during Senior Bowl practices.

Third, Ansah needs to convince NFL scouts that he has enough upside. While the first overall pick is expected to make valuable contributions right away, he can't have reached his ceiling. Ansah can best show his upside at the NFL combine in late February. He could dazzle scouts with a jaw-dropping 40 time, an out-of-this-world vertical jump, and a superhuman workout in the weight room. Nothing says upside like impressive numbers at the combine.

While it is hard to imagine that Ansah will not be a first round draft pick, it will take the perfect storm for Ansah to be taken by the Kansas City Chiefs with this year's first pick. The perfect storm might already be brewing. The Chiefs just hired former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid to the same position. Reid played football for BYU from 1978-80. During his time with the Eagles, he gave several former Cougars opportunities to play in the NFL

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