The pre-draft process is always interesting, particularly for teams picking high in the draft. We’ve heard the Atlanta Falcons connected to seemingly every first-round receiver, along with the vast majority of the top quarterback prospects—and that’s just scratching the surface. Outside the top guys, however, the team is doing extensive work on a huge number of potential Day 3 picks and priority UDFAs to attempt to find “diamonds in the rough” in the later rounds of the draft.
I had a chance to talk with one such player a few weeks back, EDGE Charles Wiley from UTSA, and you can find that interview here. Last week, I sat down for an interview with another rising Day 3 edge rusher: Houston’s David Anenih. A versatile 3-4 OLB with a prototypical build for the position, Anenih certainly fits the mold the Falcons will look for in the mid-to-late rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft. The Falcons attended Anenih’s Pro Day, and OLBs coach Ted Monachino did some additional work with him after his testing—so there’s clear interest there.
Anenih is currently projected in the mid-to-late Day 3 range, but is rising up draft boards a bit after his impressive Pro Day testing. At 6’2, 245, he tested out with a very good 7.57 RAS due in large part to some elite jumps and a very good 4.74s 40-yard dash. While the height is a little low, the length is absolutely not a concern: Anenih measured in with over 34” arms.
Anenih spent five seasons at Houston, and has been a remarkably consistent producer in both the run and pass game. In his four seasons as a starter, Anenih posted at least 6.5 TFL and 4.0 sacks each year—including the shortened 2020 COVID season. That all culminated in his best season yet in 2021, with career highs of 30 total tackles (16 solo), 10.0 TFL, and 5.0 sacks along with 2 PD and 1 FF. Anenih is a versatile 3-4 OLB who can play on all three downs and also offers surprisingly good zone coverage ability.
Here are some of the best quotes from my interview with Anenih, but I definitely encourage you to watch it for yourself.
Kevin Knight: The Falcons showed interest in you at your Pro Day, I believe [Falcons OLBs coach] Ted Monachino was working with you. How was that experience for you?
David Anenih: It was a good experience for me. I met [Ted Monachino] right before the Pro Day started. We did some drills—that went well, I showed that I could move around in space, was really fluid. After the Pro Day was over, we talked for about 30-40 minutes about the Falcons, the defense, and what I could potentially bring to the table.
Kevin Knight: I know you played a versatile role at Houston. Where do you see your best role going forward: more EDGE, more off-ball?
David Anenih: I definitely see myself as an edge rusher. At Houston, I played in a 4-3 and in a 3-4. I think that’s what makes me a special player, I can play in any front. What I think I do best is play OLB in a 3-4 defense, where I can drop in coverage and also rush the passer on long-and-late downs.
Kevin Knight: I know you’ve had a very busy offseason. Anything in particular you’ve been doing to prepare for the draft?
David Anenih: Since my Pro Day, I’ve been having a lot of meetings with coaches. I’ve also been having a lot of top-30 visits to facilities. It’s funny, after my Pro Day, I thought I might have a little bit of a break until the draft. But instead I’ve been hopping on a plane every other day or so. But it’s a blessing, and I thank God for this opportunity that he has given me.
Kevin Knight: Have you always wanted to play pro football, or is that something that has grown over the years?
David Anenih: I didn’t really start playing football until my junior year of high school. That was my first full year of football. Before that I was a soccer player—I played club soccer my whole life. From the minute I started taking football seriously, I knew it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Kevin Knight: Are there any NFL or college players you model your game after?
David Anenih: I would say Von Miller, for sure. For me I like to watch guys who are similar to my body type and size, 6’2-6’3, 250 pound range. Miller is a perfect example of that. He’s a speed rusher, he can bend with the best of them.
Kevin Knight: Over the past four years at Houston, including the 7-game COVID season in 2020, you’ve managed to produce at least 4.0 sacks and 6.5 TFL in each year. How have you been able to be so consistent with your production, year after year?
David Anenih: I take pride in my work ethic, and my ability to stay healthy. That’s the main thing. Staying in the training room, getting your body right. Of course, God is always helping me. I can’t do anything without him. But just my work ethic, the pride I take in getting ready for games. Since I was a freshman, I’ve always been that way.
Kevin Knight: What do you feel is your best trait as a football player, your calling card?
David Anenih: I would say my explosiveness, my ability to get off the ball. I don’t think there’s anybody in this draft that can get off the ball and turn the corner like I do. That’s what I do best.
Kevin Knight: Anything outside of the football field that fans should know about you?
David Anenih: I’m a big anime guy. My favorite anime is Dragon Ball Z. The Dragon Ball manga and Dragon Ball Super are also some of my favorites.