Dallas Cowboys: Rookie Bradlee Anae no sure thing on final roster

Bradlee Anae #6 of the Utah Utes (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
Bradlee Anae #6 of the Utah Utes (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images) /

When the Dallas Cowboys make their final roster, there’s no guarantee DE Bradlee Anae will be on it.

Cowboys Nation collectively celebrated on nearly every pick of the 2020 NFL Draft and fifth round pick Bradley Anae, was certainly no exception. Anae, a pre-draft pet cat of many Dallas Cowboys draftniks, was never supposed to fall as far as he did.

Arguably the most accomplished edge rusher in the draft, Anae saw his stock slip when his measurables failed to live up to his production. Scouts began doubting their eyes and feared he would be unable to duplicate his success at the next level. That’s how a near top-100 player fell into the Dallas Cowboys laps at pick 179.

To say Cowboys Nation rejoiced in the value of the pick is an understatement. Anyone who saw Anae play at Utah saw a non-stop, highly physical, ball of nasty on the edge. The value of finding such an accomplished pass rusher this late into Day 3 made up for the fact Bradlee Anae had less than ideal traits.

The knock against Anae lies in his measurable. His size, speed, and length are all well below average for an NFL defensive end. And his contact-hungry brand of football could be exposed at the NFL level given his arm length (32-inch arms = 11th percentile amongst NFL DEs). Short-armed pass-rushers typically strive to avoid contact, not seek it, because offensive tackles can easily neutralize them once they lay hands on them.

Even still, this was about value and getting a productive, savvy, and hardworking playmaker. The Dallas Cowboys see him as someone who’s roughly the opposite of recently dispatched Taco Charlton. Charlton, blessed with great size and length, lacked technical skill or a desire to develop those skills. His attitude and motor was routinely questioned as well.

Dallas Cowboys DL Numbers Game

As the title of this story indicates, earning a roster spot is far from a sure thing. The Dallas Cowboys are loaded with defensive ends and making the final roster will require beating out one or two players who made the roster last season.

With DeMarcus Lawrence, Aldon Smith, and Tyrone Crawford all expected to make the cut (Randy Gregory too if he’s reinstated as we expect),  Anae’s primary competition will likely come to Dorance Armstrong and Joe Jackson.

Joe Jackson has one year under his belt and the kind of size and length that translate well into playing end in a multiple front defense (something the Dallas Cowboys are expected to do). Dorance Armstrong has two seasons of pro experience and has been the primary rotation man behind DeMarcus Lawrence on the left side.

Possibly working against Anae is his overall potential. Scouts track measurable traits because they directly affect a player’s potential. Anae’s production is largely because of his motor and hand technique, meaning his ceiling appears limited. He’s also already well over 22-years-old which is just six-months younger than 2-year vet Armstrong (yes, Armstrong was drafted ridiculously young).

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Working in his favor is his refined hand technique, non-stop motor, and years of controllability. Earlier today, Dan Ruppert discussed the impact of a cancelled preseason. He cited a few rookies who were going to miss out on the opportunity to prove themselves in those exhibition games. This reality is undeniable.

But Anae will still have training camp to endear himself to the coaching staff. And he’s not a project player like so many Day 3 picks seem to be. He’s the kinda guy who can hit the ground running right off the bat.

Mike McCarthy has indicated he only wants to keep six defensive ends this season. That means if Randy Gregory is reinstated, Bradlee Anae is going to have to beat out either Joe Jackson or Dorance Armstrong to win the job.

Why Trysten Hill may already be the odd an out in Dallas. light. Related Story

Bradlee Anae is rotational player Dallas Cowboys fans should be excited about, but he may be on the outside looking in given the numbers crunch at DE this season.

  • Published on 07/21/2020 at 12:01 PM
  • Last updated at 07/21/2020 at 11:36 AM