A.J. Epenesa | EDGE | Iowa
Epenesa did a fantastic job building on his breakout sophomore season to have another great season as a junior in 2019. He’s making the jump to the next level after totaling career highs in sacks (11.5) and total tackles (49).
Epenesa may be the most powerful defender in this edge class. He’s technically refined well beyond his years. His hands feature devastating power at the point of attack and he has an advanced understanding of how to use them. He has the ability to “shock” would-be blockers with his strength. He measured in at the combine with 34.5-inch arms and the length really pops on tape. The aforementioned strength and length really come through in the run game, where his stoutness allows him to consistently set the edge and his length allows him to have an incredibly impressive tackle radius.
As a pass rusher, it’s no surprise that Epenesa heavily leans on that power to present offensive tackles with a powerful bull rush. While the bull rush may be his best move, Epenesa has done a good job developing as a more complete rusher. His push-pull move often lead to impressive results and he features a pretty decent club move as well. Epenesa never takes a play off, playing with a consistently hot motor all throughout the game.
The athletic limitations that pop up on tape were put under a microscope at the NFL Scouting Combine. Epenesa isn’t the speedy or bendy type of pass rusher, but some of his combine results were a tough pill to swallow. The 40-yard dash time of 5.04 seconds was especially poor. The 3-cone time of 7.34 was equally as disappointing, as was the 20-yard shuttle time of 4.46. Epenesa didn’t handle himself much better in the explosion drills, posting a 32.5-inch vertical. To put things in perspective, none of those numbers would place him higher than the 43rd percentile among all EDGE defenders since 1999. Epenesa is going to be the ultimate “tape versus testing” assessment. That lack of athleticism may limit the role Epenesa can handle at the next level. I wouldn’t advise you to play him in space.
Does he fit the Titans?
Well, that depends. Jon Robinson has placed an emphasis on adding speedy and bendy pass rushers such as Harold Landry and Derick Roberson who tested well. With that said, he’s also placed an emphasis on acquiring good football players (duh) and Epenesa is a very good football player on tape. The Titans desperately need to add some EDGE talent opposite Landry this off-season, and Epenesa’s powerful skill-set may actually be the perfect compliment to Landry’s speed on the other side. If Epenesa’s poor combine results lead to a draft day slide that sees him still available at 29th overall, Robinson’s true evaluation of what Epenesa could be at the next level could play a critical role when the Titans come on the clock.