With the Cowboys still needing some help at EDGE after losing Randy Gregory in free agency, we take a look at Houston’s David Anenih, one of the team’s 30 official pre-draft visits.
Name: David Anenih
Weight: 251 pounds
Combine Results: N/A
Last week we looked at Houston’s star edge rusher Logan Hall after learning that Cowboys defensive line coach Aden Durde had been in attendance at the Cougars’ pro day. But Hall wasn’t the only one Durde was there to see, as David Anenih has already found himself as one of the Cowboys’ top 30 visits. In addition to having an exceptional first name, Anenih is a very intriguing prospect.
Anenih grew up in Arlington, Texas just a few minutes away from where the Cowboys now play their games. He committed to Houston as a lightly-recruited prospect but saw playing time right away as a true freshman. Anenih’s first two years at Houston saw him playing in a 3-4 outside linebacker type of role as a rotational player. When a new coaching regime changed their defensive scheme heading into 2019, Anenih took on a more prominent and consistent EDGE role.
Anenih enters the draft with five years of playing time due to the COVID-19 eligibility freeze, and in Anenih’s final four seasons he tallied at least four sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss each year, showing consistent production despite never becoming a fixture like Hall or others did. While Anenih didn’t make a combine appearance, he put on a show at Houston’s pro day, which is why he’ll start to climb draft boards.
Burst: Anenih is an athlete first and foremost, and it shows in his burst. He’s super quick out of his stance and has great length that allows him to take huge strides. Those two traits combine for a player who explodes off the snap almost every play.
Footwork: In a word, sloppy. Anenih has a lot of fluidity to his game that comes from his athleticism, but it only makes you wonder how much better he could be with more precise footwork. It’s definitely concerning that his footwork is this below-average after a five-year playing career.
Hand Technique: Anenih is very active with his hands and does a great job of using his length to initiate contact and keep himself clean. He’s not overly powerful with his hands, though, and as a result struggled against some of the longer, more agile linemen he went up against.
Pass Rush Moves: Anenih has a few pass rush moves that work very well for him, and he did a great job of utilizing those exact moves. The problem is he didn’t seem to really add too much to his arsenal here over the years. No one will confuse him with a jack-of-all-trades in this regard, as Anenih is a bit of a master of one.
Lateral Agility: Here’s where Anenih’s athleticism really shows up. When Anenih has to flip his hips and move laterally, he’s really, really good. He moves with the fluidity of a defensive back despite his large frame.
Athleticism: Just in case you haven’t caught on by now, Anenih is a great athlete. It’s a shame he wasn’t in Indianapolis; Anenih’s pro day 40-time of 4.66 seconds would’ve ranked ninth among EDGEs at the combine, and his 37.5” vertical would’ve tied for fifth. Athleticism is the biggest positive about Anenih and it’s going to make a lot of scouts and defensive coaches fall in love with him.
Run Defense: Anenih was never an elite run defender - his profile makes for a much better pass rusher anyway - but the traits are there. He’s never going to be a team’s best run defender on the line of scrimmage, but his combination of length, athleticism, lateral agility, and pure effort make him a plus defender against the run. He’s got room to grow in terms of block deconstruction and angles in tackling, but he’s far from a liability against the run.
Processing: Anenih seems to still be putting things together mentally. His rush plans aren’t always completely thought out and he can get a little too stuck on one pass rush move. Misdirection plays can freeze him up a little too. That’s not uncommon for soon-to-be-rookies, but Anenih’s breadth of experience in college does make it somewhat concerning.
Intangibles: Anenih came in and played right away at Houston, first as a rotational contributor and then as a starter. His ability to grasp the playbook so quickly and then continue to be a consistent contributor during a scheme change is admirable. Anenih is a relentless player whose motor runs hot, never giving up on a play.
The best way to describe Anenih is close; he’s so close to being something incredible. On the plays where he puts everything together, Anenih looks like a surefire star edge rusher. But there are still too many plays where he doesn’t, and after five years of burn at one of the best non-Power 5 programs in the country, his lack of development can be a red flag.
Anenih appeals to the Cowboys for very obvious reasons. Physically, he’s got every trait down pat. He’s long, explosive, twitchy, bendy, and versatile. But he’s also extremely raw and unrefined. While some teams will pair that with his experience and assume he’ll never get there, Durde and Dan Quinn (former a defensive line coach himself) will relish the opportunity to take such a high-upside player and mold him exactly the way they want to.
To make things even better, Anenih is expected to be a Day 3 pick, likely in the fifth or sixth round, although it wouldn’t be absurd to see him sneak into the fourth. If Anenih can reach his ceiling, he could fill the kind of role Quinn was using Gregory in this past year. That’s setting a high bar, but it’s how high Anenih’s ceiling is. He’s also starting with a very low floor, which is why he’ll be a Day 3 pick.