The Jets recently signed edge rusher Bradlee Anae to a futures deal. Today we break him down in detail.
The 24-year old Anae is listed at 6’3” and 260 pounds and was a fifth round pick out of Utah in 2020. He has played in 11 regular season games and recorded two tackles and one quarterback hit.
Anae was a three-star high school prospect and opted to play for Utah at the college level. He was buried on the depth chart as a freshman and only had four tackles in six games, although this did include two sacks.
Over the next three years, he moved into a starting role and led the team in sacks for three straight seasons as he was a two-time first-team all-Pac-12 selection.
Anae started 10 of 13 games in 2017 and racked up seven tackles and three forced fumbles, then had a career high 47 tackles and 7.5 sacks in 2018. He won the Morris Trophy for the Pac-12’s top defensive lineman after racking up a career-high 13 sacks in his senior year.
After being invited to the scouting combine, Anae was eventually drafted in the fifth round by the Dallas Cowboys. However, he only played six defensive snaps in a frustrating rookie season.
In 2021, he played a bit more, recording two tackles, but was waived in November and placed on the practice squad for the rest of the season.
The Jets signed Anae to a futures deal once his practice squad contract lapsed at the end of the season.
Now let’s take a look at what Anae brings to the table, divided into categories.
Anae has decent size but lacks ideal length. However, he does have an above average hand size.
Although he displays a quick first step on film, Anae’s speed and explosiveness numbers at the combine were poor. He ran a 4.93 in the 40-yard dash and posted a 31-inch vertical. His agility numbers were also below average but he did post a solid 25 bench press reps.
Anae has played primarily on the edge, both with his hand in the dirt and standing up, but he will rush the B-gap from time to time.
In college, he sometimes played inside and very occasionally dropped into the box or matched up in the slot, but this hasn’t happened much at the pro level.
Anae has a reputation as a high motor player and will battle hard in the trenches. Here’s a botched play where he shows good hustle to run it down and blow it up.
He’s capable of handling a starter’s workload having averaged over 50 snaps per game in his three years as a starter at Utah. He also played over 50 snaps for Dallas in a 2021 preseason game.
Anae’s sack numbers and pressure rates were both solid in his college career, peaking in his senior year as he had 58 total pressures, including 13 sacks.
As noted, he has a quick first step and, although he’s not regarded as a natural bender, he has shown an ability to bend the edge at times. On this play, he got past pro bowler Rashawn Slater on a rip move.
Since moving up to the NFL level, he doesn’t have a sack in his limited preseason and regular season action, although he got close on a couple that he helped to bottle up. He had one quarterback hit in regular season action, as he beat the tight end on an inside move.
The word out of Dallas was that it was Anae’s inability to hold up against the run that was keeping him off the field in the regular season.
On this play, a tight end seals him on the inside too easily enabling the runner to get a big gain off the edge.
Here, he is easily kicked out and driven upfield, failing to hold his ground and again allowing the runner to get around the edge.
When not blocked, Anae’s play recognition and hustle can allow him to make some positive contributions against the run.
Although he lacks the kind of quick-twitch athletic profile of many top pass rushers, Anae has some good technique which allowed him to be productive at the college level. He’s showed flashes of this in the pros.
One of his best traits is his hand usage and he displays a good ability to get a blocker’s hands off him when rushing the passer.
There are even signs that Anae is improving in some areas. Scouting reports indicated his spin move was ineffective in college, but he made a impressive one here (although he ended up getting called for roughing the passer).
Despite his struggles against the run, he did show some promise in preseason, setting the edge here by driving his man upfield and shedding the block to make the tackle for loss.
Anae didn’t make many special teams contributions in college, with most of his reps coming on the field goal rush unit.
The Cowboys used him in multiple roles, including rushing punts, blocking on return units and covering kicks. He made this tackle in punt coverage during preseason.
His biggest contribution on special teams was a negative one though, as he jumped offside on 4th-and-5. This led to him being released from the active roster in November.
Anae has been a relatively productive tackler, although he will lunge after ball carriers rather than getting his feet in position first and this led him to miss several tackles in each of his seasons as starter in college.
As a pass rusher, he has displayed an ability to strip the ball loose off the edge with three forced fumbles in his sophomore year. However, he’s only had two since, including none at the NFL level.
Anae hasn’t had much experience of dropping into coverage very often and lacks the natural athleticism to be effective in this role at the NFL level. He can handle dropping off into a shallow zone from time to time but doesn’t look particularly comfortable in doing so.
In college, Anae got torched by Myles Gaskin on a wheel route for a 76-yard touchdown, although one of his teammates was also at fault on the play and he didn’t otherwise give up any big plays.
He had three passes defensed in college, all in his junior year on passes batted down at the line.
Anae shows decent instincts as a pass rusher in terms of his approach and how he reacts to his blocker. However, he doesn’t look particularly comfortable in coverage and has mixed results in terms of reading and reacting to play action fakes.
In regular season action, he’s jumped offside three times, including on the key 4th down play mentioned earlier.
Anae is a player who has been praised for his work ethic, leadership and dedication and was a team captain in his senior year at Utah.
On the field he has an aggressive attitude and plays with a chip on his shoulder. In one Dallas game, he drew a taunting penalty after getting into a jawing match with a receiver.
Anae played in 41 games over his last three seasons at Utah, so injuries clearly weren’t an issue for him in college.
At the NFL level, he’s been inactive in 12 of his 23 games on the Cowboys’ roster, but most of those were as a healthy scratch. He did, however, spend time on Covid-19 reserve in September and was dealing with an ankle injury in October. He was also bothered by an ankle issue in camp and missed the first preseason game with that.
Anae’s versatility in terms of being able to play with his hand in the dirt of standing up might help him to fit into a defense like Robert Saleh’s, but some of his limitations might hold him back.
He clearly needs to develop as a run defender and in terms of his coverage drops but could have a chance to be a situational pass rusher. The Jets didn’t really employ one last year despite having a few linemen who specialize against the run, though.
Joe Douglas has brought in a number of players who were drafted recently but failed to live up to their potential for a variety of reasons, so Anae is the latest addition to that list.
As for the reasons that Anae himself hasn’t thrived yet, part of that is opportunity and he might find himself in a better situation with the Jets. However, if Carl Lawson returns and the Jets draft a pass rusher with a high pick as many expect, then there might not be as much of a chance to crack the rotation after all.
At 24, Anae still has some untapped potential and the Jets will seek to nurture this during the offseason and see whether he can make an impact in camp.