Another in a periodic series examining the roles of NFC North newcomers:
We have all debated the potential for Ziggy Ansah's immediate impact as a Detroit Lions defensive end in 2013. Ansah was a late arrival to football, a late bloomer on the NFL scouting scene and was drafted based on his athletic potential rather than his college body of work.
With that in mind, I thought it would be worth looking at how a few other NFL teams have approached the rookie years of pass-rushers drafted under similar circumstances. For various reasons, we can classify the New York Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul, the San Francisco 49ers' Aldon Smith and the Seattle Seahawks' Bruce Irvin in a similar category with Ansah.
Each player has his own story, but generally speaking, all three were drafted in the first half of the first round with limited résumés but extensive projections based on their physical attributes. The chart shows that none of them started a game and each played less than half of his team's defensive snaps. But even with that controlled playing time, they still combined to post 26.5 sacks between them as rookies.
The Lions have bid farewell to both of their 2012 starters at defensive end, Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch, so there is plenty of opportunity for a rookie to earn a starting job. Veterans Jason Jones and Willie Young are also in the mix, and the Lions drafted an imposing defensive end in 6-foot-7 Devin Taylor who could also compete for playing time.
If nothing else, we know a template exists for a developing pass-rusher to be used in a focused way while still having a highly productive rookie season. I wouldn't be too worried about whether Ansah will be on the field for the first play of games. More important to me is if he is out there for the most important ones -- and if he can influence them.