Pro Football Focus tabs A.J. Epenesa as 'massive value' player if he drops below first round of NFL Draft
Former Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa has become one of the biggest question marks in this year’s NFL Draft. After a subpar showing at the scouting combine in Indianapolis nearly two months ago, the ex-Hawkeye has seen his stock fluctuate quite a bit.
Some still peg Epenesa as a first-round talent, while some project him to stumble to the second round, or perhaps even further. But Pro Football Focus writer Ben Linsey still believes that Epenesa has a bright future in the league and can be a major value to essentially any team.
“Epenesa’s lack of athleticism may have him falling into the second round come later this week, and he would be a massive value to any potential suitors should he fall that far. As the PFF Draft Guide says, Epenesa has the length, power and versatility to be an every-down player in basically any scheme,” Linsey says. “The Combine numbers certainly don’t help his case to win on the edge against NFL tackles, but it’s hard to ignore his history of production at Iowa. After earning a PFF grade of 90.1 in 2018, notching 46 pressures in just 229 pass-rushing snaps, Epenesa kept up the production in a larger role last season with an overall grade of 84.3. He doesn’t have to win with his burst off the edge because of the kind of power and hand usage he employs. It remains to be seen where his best role is at the NFL level, but we’ll have to sell the idea that he is no longer a first-round talent.”
Coming into the 2019 college football season, Epenesa was expected to be a top five selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. A sluggish start to the season dropped the Hawkeye’s stock and he wasn’t quite able to recover.
Epenesa ended the year in strong fashion, collecting 33 tackles, 8.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in Iowa’s final six contests. Once he got adjusted to seeing more double teams on the field, he began to thrive in his role.
Whether or not Epenesa’s poor combine performance knocks him out of the first round will be seen on Thursday, but Pro Football Focus believes that, if he is a later selection, he’ll be a massive value.