This year’s draft class isn’t loaded with pass rushers, but Bradlee Anae could be the right guy to fill a huge hole in the Jets defense. Since John Abraham in the 2000 draft, the New York Jets have selected five players strictly to rush the quarterback. All five of those players are now out of football. Since Abraham’s exit in 2006, the team has failed to find that impact player through the draft to disrupt the passer.
Bradlee Anae is coming off a stellar career at Utah, racking up 40 tackles for a loss and 29.5 sacks. In his senior season alone, Anae totaled 13 sacks. Outside of Chase Young, the presumed number two overall pick, the position runs thin. This effects Anae positively as his draft stock jumps from a late 2nd to early 3rd round selection to a high 2nd, late 1st. If the Jets believe in Anae, could they use their two 3rd rounders to move up?
One thing that can’t be ignored about Anae is his constant motor. When watching the tape, it’s impossible to not see him near the ball. Lined up on the outside, Anae does a great job consistently attacking an offensive lineman. Even when he struggles, Anae never gets down and the second an offensive lineman lets up, he is bringing down the quarterback. His move of choice is an inside spin that he uses consistently but also has a very effective rip.
Anae did himself a great service by showing up big during the Senior Bowl by recording two sacks and providing constant pressure all game. His motor throughout the week of practice really showed out as well. This non-stop competitiveness comes from playing every down for Utah for the last three years. That experience of 36 straight starts in a productive defense like Utah’s will carry a lot of weight with NFL teams.
Even though Anae’s motor can’t be denied, there are times in the run game where he can get lost. Anae can struggle getting off blocks when an offensive lineman engages in run blocking which leaves him standing around looking for the ball. His relentlessness to get up field leaves him susceptible to giving up the inside on running plays at him. Anae will need to improve on his ability to stop the run and learn to take up space rather than beat his man every play.
Anae needs to also improve against an RPO style play with a mobile quarterback. When left unblocked in a read-option style play, Anae tends to get caught flat footed allowing the ball carrier to get a step on him. He was exposed of this early on in his game against Oregon. Justin Herbert was effective getting around Anae or able beat him in the open field. Anae was either too late to notice who had the ball or was in a non-athletic position to make a play. He needs to improve upon his open field tackling at the next level.
As mentioned earlier, the Jets have needed an impact edge rusher since 2006. There have been plenty of busts or free agent signings that have not lived up to expectations. With a defense coached up by Greg Williams, the defense will always be competitive and tenacious. Adding an impact player like Bradlee Anae could be just the player Williams can groom into a double-digit sack player.
Bradlee Anae is viewed as a 2nd-3rd round talent. With the limited amount of pass rushers, he may go in the early part of the 2nd round. This benefits the Jets having two 3rd round picks where trading up is possible. Giving Williams another impact player without using 1st round pick would be a home-run.