Bradlee Anae did not have a good showing at the NFL scouting combine.
He knows it, he is willing to admit as much, and it is clearly a primary reason why his NFL draft stock fell in the lead-up to the three-day event. On Saturday afternoon, Anae finally saw his name flash across the ESPN bottom line after he was selected in the fifth round by the Dallas Cowboys with the 179th overall pick.
Anae, an edge rusher and the University of Utah’s career sack leader with 30, was one of three Utah players taken Saturday. Defensive tackle Leki Fotu was a fourth-round selection by the Arizona Cardinals with the 114th overall pick, while another DT, John Penisini, went 197th overall in the sixth round to the Detroit Lions.
Over the course of the three-day draft, a Pac 12-high seven Utes were drafted, one shy of the program record of eight for a single draft, which occurred in 2017.
On Feb. 29, Anae ran a 4.93 40-yard dash at the combine. There was no Utah pro day thanks to COVID-19, but he got that time down to 4.79 at a pro day event in Las Vegas, which included teammate Francis Bernard. Still, the combine performance was a detriment.
“No matter how much people tell you that the 40 has nothing to do with where you get drafted, I think that’s what dropped me a lot, not running the time I wanted to run,” Anae said Saturday afternoon on a conference call with reporters. “At the combine, I wasn’t able to get around the 4.7, 4.8, so I think that contributed a lot to this wait.”
Despite the subpar combine, Anae still entered the weekend with a draft projection spanning the third and fourth rounds, potentially coming off the board early in the third round. That did not come to fruition, but Anae may have landed in an advantageous position anyway.
The NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell have yet to make a decision in reinstating Cowboys defensive ends Randy Gregory and Aldon Smith. Both players are currently suspended for violations of the league’s substance abuse policy under terms of the former collective bargaining agreement. The Cowboys also need to replace Robert Quinn, who led the team in sacks last season, opposite DeMarcus Lawrence.
“The wait was a little longer than expected, but I’m just stoked to be a part of the Cowboys franchise,” said Anae, who is home in Hawaii during the pandemic. “I’m just ready to go. It is what it is, you never know what’s going to happen with the draft.”
Fotu, a West Valley City native and 2016 graduate of Herriman High School, started all 13 games he played in at right tackle as a senior in 2019. An All-Pac-12 first-team selection, Fotu was named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press.
“These past couple of days, I’ve been with my family, anxious to know where I would end up at,” Fotu said on a conference call. “To finally get that call and also to see my teammates get called also yesterday was pretty amazing. Just to see the hard work that we put in at our school, to finally get that call today, it felt like a movie. It felt surreal. To share that moment with my family, it’s definitely something special and is something I won’t forget.”
Penisini, one of a program-record nine Utes to earn a combine invite, was twice an All-Pac-12 second-team selection. As a senior left tackle in 2019, Penisini played in all 14 games, starting 13 of them, while registering 38 tackles.
The fact Penisini was projected as a seventh-round pick, maybe even an undrafted free agent, was not lost on him.
“I was honestly preparing for the worst, just looking for an undrafted free agent [call],” Penisini said on a conference call. “To be honest, it’s a blessing to actually make it to the sixth round. I was projected to be a seventh rounder or even undrafted. Right now, I’m excited. My mom’s happy and everyone is happy, so it is shocking and it’s a blessing to be honest.”
NFL DRAFT PICKS FROM STATE OF UTAH
No. 26: Jordan Love (Utah State), Green Bay Packers
No. 50: Jaylon Johnson (Utah), Chicago Bears
No. 85: Julian Blackmon (Utah), Indianapolis Colts
No. 86: Zack Moss (Utah), Buffalo Bills
No. 104: Terrell Burgess (Utah), Los Angeles Rams
No. 114: Leki Fotu (Utah), Arizona Cardinals
No. 179: Bradlee Anae (Utah), Dallas Cowboys
No. 197: John Penisini (Utah), Detroit Lions