The Falcons have met with a plethora of pass-rushing prospects at this year’s NFL Combine, and Utah’s career sack leader Bradlee Anae is among them. Anae may be my favorite pass-rushing prospect in this year’s class but is expected to go around the second or third round. Whichever team gets him in that range will be very, very happy in the long term.
Anae played in six contests as a freshman with the Utes and transitioned to a starter role as a sophomore. He started ten games that season and displayed his pass-rushing prowess, racking up seven sacks and also forcing three fumbles.
In his first full season as a starter, then junior Anae impressed once again, putting his name on the radar of NFL scouts. He earned all-Pac-12 recognition as he posted 47 tackles, 14 for loss, 7.5 sacks, three passes defended and one forced fumble. Perhaps the most impressive statistic is that he was able to accumulate 52 QB pressures throughout the season.
Anae ultimately made the decision to return to school as Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded Pac-12 Edge rusher to forego the draft, but he is no one-trick pony. He was also PFF’s highest-graded rush defender at the position as well.
Ultimately, the decision to stay at Utah may have been wise for Anae, as he had a legendary Senior season, rising up draft boards in the process. He anchored a strong Utah defense en route to posting 41 tackles, 14 for a loss, a ridiculous 13 sacks, and a forced fumble. Needless to say, he was once again named First-Team Pac-12 and was named third-team AP All-American.
While his production was very impressive, some still considered Anae a “tweener”, which is a big reason why he is not being viewed as a day-one pick. However, he put a lot of team’s fears to rest at this year’s Senior Bowl.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler said Anae impressed many with “his handwork and relentless energy to the quarterback” throughout the week, and that showed in the game. Paired across from Josh Uche, Anae was able to rack up three sacks, a forced interception and a ton of hurries, seemingly being in the opposing backfield all day long.
Bradlee Anae made some money in Mobile this week. The @Utah_Football All-American had 3 sacks and several hurries. One hurry forced an interception. Congrats @BradleeAnae on a great showing in the @seniorbowl #Utes #UtesInTheNFL #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/nfkai2cq6c
— Jeremiah Jensen (@JJSportsBeat) January 26, 2020
In one of the above highlights, you can see his incredible chop move on full display.
Obviously, Anae is a guy the Falcons could use on their roster. In my first edition of my mock draft this offseason, I paired him with K’Lavon Chaisson as a second-round pick in an effort to reestablish the pass rush.
Anae is a perfect fit for a 4-3 defense. He has excellent burst, hands, and instincts, and plays with a relentless motor that helps him get to the quarterback. While that natural pass rushing is what will make teams gravitate towards him with their selections, he also has incredible run-stopping ability.
Anae does not have the length or bend many dream of when selecting an EDGE rusher, but he still has enough size and strength to play standing or with a hand down. With all this being said, he is flying up draft boards for a reason.
Anae is starting to show scouts that his incredible college production was no accident and that his effort and hustle play can still help an NFL team even if he is no physical specimen.