Image Credit: Iowa Athletics
Considered one of the NFL Draft’s best defensive ends, Iowa defensive end AJ Epenesa was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the 2nd round.
In 2019, Epenesa set a career-high in sacks (11.5) while recording 14.5 tackles for loss and forcing four fumbles. At the end of the season, Epenesa was named a Third-Team All-American by Phil Steele.
At 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds, Epenesa isn’t an athletic freak of nature, which was shown by his NFL Combine. Despite this, Epenesa’s talent is undeniable.
With Epenesa’s strong power at the point of attack, he is more than capable against the run and the pass. His football IQ, which developed throughout his college career, makes him an intriguing prospect.
Epenesa won’t ever be a capable stand-up EDGE rusher but has plenty of versatility to play across the defensive line in particular situations.
Epenesa compares closely to Trey Flowers, who currently plays for the Detroit Lions.
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What the Analysts Say
Epenesa presented himself as an overwhelming force at times over the past two years. He’s a well-rounded defensive end rather than a pure edge rusher and could grow into a starter in either a three or four-man line. –Tony Pauline, Pro Football Network
The size and production should force all evaluators to dial their focus in on what he’s best at rather than any perceived areas of concern. He has average instincts against the run and is a step slow to shed, but he’s strong at the point and he does his job. Epenesa won’t just out-run tackles to the edge, but he’s a skilled rusher whose diversity of attack, skilled hands and unique bull-rushing instincts could help him deliver his college sack production in the pros. He can play end in a 4-3 or 3-4 and could leap from good to great with additional work on technique and explosiveness. -Lance Zierlein, NFL.com
A.J. Epenesa might have taken a tumble because of his lack of exceptional traits, but the talent is there. He won’t dominate the field like others, but five years down the road, the potential for Epenesa to be a solid and consistent player at the next level is impressive.
Epenesa is an immediate contributor on an already good defense. After losing Shaq Lawson to the Miami Dolphins, Epenesa will immediately make an impact on the defense.