Why the Slide?: Bradley Anae

Why the Slide?: Bradley Anae, DE, Utah
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Six years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. Four years ago, we started the Why the Slide? series, and this year it is back. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

Many fans and media pundits believed that Utah defensive end Bradley Anae would be an early-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Over the past three seasons, Anae was one of the most steady pass rushers in college football. After two sacks over six games as a freshman, Anae broke out in 2017 with seven sacks, 10 tackles for a loss, 39 tackles and three forced fumbles. As a junior, he improved to 51 tackles, eight sacks, 15.5 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and three passes defended. After a slow start to his senior year, Anae came alive and finished the regular season simply terrorizing the quarterback as he totaled 13 sacks with 41 tackles, one forced fumble, and one pass batted in 2019. After his senior year, he had a solid Senior Bowl performance, including a very good performance in the actual game. Thus, many observers were surprised when he slid to the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

In speaking to team sources, many had Anae graded on the last day of the 2020 NFL Draft, so they did not see a true slide for him. They believe that was an appropriate spot for Anae because of skill-set limitations. They like his effort level, but feel he is undersized and did not make up for it with rare speed or explosion. Hence, they thought he would go on the final day of the draft.

The Dallas Cowboys ended Anae’s slide in the fifth round, and that was a fantastic landing spot for him. Many thought the Cowboys could take an edge rusher in the first round, but they did not take one before Anae, so he is immediately stepping in as a competitor to fill a serious need on the roster. Demarucs Lawrence is locked in at one end spot, but the Cowboys need more pass rush across from him. They have hoped that Randy Gregory and Aldon Smith could overcome their off-the-field issues to provide that, but both of them are extremely unreliable to avoid suspension and stay eligible.

Aside from them, Anae will compete for a roster spot and playing time with veteran Tyrone Crawford and youngsters Joe Jackson and Dorance Armstrong. It is a wide-open competition, so if Anae plays well in training camp and the preseason, he could find significant playing time in the regular season. He also could be a candidate to develop on the practice squad. Dallas needs to improve its pass rush and has a new coaching staff that is not married to inherited players, so Anae should have a fair opportunity to stick with the Cowboys.

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