A.J. Epenesa may not fit the mold of a dynamic edge rusher, but his game film shows why he's one of the top defensive ends in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. Although he may not be as athletic as some of his peers, Epenesa possesses the size and power necessary to be a factor up front in the NFL. And it doesn't hurt that in three seasons at Iowa he produced as many plays behind the line of scrimmage as the likes of Yetur Gross-Matos and wasn't too far behind Chase Young.
A.J. Epenesa Draft Profile
Epenesa lived in the backfield at the collegiate level. He has an NFL-caliber blend of size and power. He has long arms and heavy hands that he puts to excellent use — he’ll get his hands on a blocker and toss him out of the way. Despite his length, he plays with excellent leverage and the ability to dominate at the point of attack. His initial get-off allows him to gain an advantage early in the down, and he can do damage as an interior rusher or off the edge. He has a plan when rushing the passer, with the ability to adjust when his first move is taken away.
Epenesa is simply not an edge bender, as he isn’t a flexible enough mover to turn the corner and get to the quarterback. He will have to prove he can get into the backfield consistently against NFL talent.
He has something of a poor man’s Cameron Jordan skill set. With his length, power and feel for working his way into the backfield, Epenesa has a chance to be an impact edge rusher lining up as a 3-, 4- or 5-technique.
Final Grade: 1st/2nd round
(Top photo by Stephen Mally, courtesy of hawkeyesports.com)