It's not often a team finds themselves in the fifth round of the NFL Draft with an opportunity to draft a player who had 27 sacks over the final three seasons of his collegiate career with 13 of those coming in his senior season. However, that's where the Dallas Cowboys found themselves when they selected Defensive End Bradlee Anae as the 179th player off the board in the 2020 NFL draft.
The Cowboys were able to select one of the most productive defensive ends in college football in the fifth round. The reason Anae fell was related to his athletic testing. However, Anae is a polished rusher, who displays an array of pass rush moves and excellent hand usage on his way to the quarterback. Anae is also a good run defender.
Because of COVID-19, Anae and the other rookies come into training camp behind the eight ball. Though they've participated in virtual meetings with their position groups and the coordinators, they haven't had a chance to get on the field and show the coaches what they can do yet. In a typical offseason, the rookies would have had a dozen or more practice sessions to impress the coaching staff.
Bradlee Anae comes in with the reputation of being a hard worker, so those practice sessions would have helped him to stand out among his veteran peers at the position.
With the signing of Aldon Smith and the return of Tyrone Crawford from injury, Anae has a bit of a hill to climb if he is going to find some snaps on the defense. And that doesn't begin to include Dorance Armstrong, Jalen Jelks, or Joe Jackson who will be vying for reps in practice hoping to make the 53-man roster out of training camp.
Aldon Smith and Tyrone Crawford figure to be first in line for the snaps at right defensive end and when the Cowboys are in 3-4 looks, it should be Smith getting most of the early snaps. However, Anae has the ability and the productivity to earn a role as a stand-up or hand in the ground rusher.
His refined pass rush skills should give him a leg up in the rest of the young edge players on the roster. In order to have a place in the edge rotation, he'll have to have an excellent training camp to rise above one of the more established veterans. Bradlee Anae's ability is intriguing. That combined with his motor and work ethic give him the opportunity to be the steal of the 2020 NFL Draft. For the Cowboys' sake, hopefully he proves ready to take significant snaps in 2020 with sights on being a starter in 2021.