The Buffalo Bills selected edge rusher A.J. Epenesa out of Iowa with the 54th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Epenesa, who struggled at the NFL Combine, but was a force in Iowa’s defense the last three years, leading the Big Ten in sacks his sophomore season and put up equally impressive numbers as a starter this past year as a junior.
Here’s the rundown on Epenesa:
2019 Stats: 49 tackles, 14 TFL, 11.5 sacks, 3 PD, 4 FF
Accolades: 2019 Holiday Bowl Defensive MVP; second-team AP All-American (2019); first-team All-Big Ten (2019); second-team All-Big Ten (2018); Big Ten Conference All-Freshman Team (2017)
• Combination of length and power
• Excellent variety of pass rush moves, especially push-pull
• Strong hands that can disrupt tackles
• Inside/outside rush versatility
• Lacks burst or bend around the edge
• Slow to change direction, lateral mobility
• Would not fit well in a 3-4 base if asked to stand up on the edge; lacks hip mobility to play in space; better suited for 4-3 base
"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. Epenesa possesses terrific upside and should only improve with more experience and technique training." - Tony Pauline, Pro Football Network
Player Comparison: Carlos Dunlap
Epenesa has actually drawn some comparisons to J.J. Watt for not only the similarities in size and style, but also in leadership qualities as well. If Watt is his ceiling, then his floor is more in line with Carlos Dunlap, which is what Lance Zeirlein of NFL.com pointed to as a comparison. Dunlap is another player similar in size who has had a consistent career with the Bengals, though not quite the star like Watt.