WT: 275 lbs
High School: Edwardsville (Glen Carbon, IL)
Accolades: 2019 Holiday Bowl MVP. 2019 All-Bowl Team. 2019 2nd Team All-American. 2019 1st Team All-Big Ten. 2018 1st Team All-Big Ten. 2017 All-Freshman Big Ten.
3 Cone: 7.34
20 Shtl: 4.46
Scouting Report: EDGE AJ Epenesa, Iowa
Speed/Athleticism: AJ Epenesa has powerful athletic ability. He’s by far a power rusher, someone who will work better as a seven or a five-tech as opposed to a nine-tech. He’s not a speed rusher. Epenesa doesn’t have the straight-line speed to consistently be rushing around the edge. He saves that move for very select moments where he catches tackles by surprise. Epenesa isn’t going to blow away anyone with his combine numbers, but he’s going to perform just well enough to re-enforce all of the things we already know about him from tape. 10/15.
Burst/Bend: Epenesa has powerful burst off the line of scrimmage. Hard for linemen to contain without extra help. Oftentimes was chipped by other players at the line of scrimmage (tight end, H-Back, etc) to help slow him down. Bend isn’t the strongest in the class, but it’s adequate. When Epenesa can work around tackles, he creates the opportunity to use his bend. A rush around the edge just isn’t generally his first move. 16/20.
Power/Strength: Epenesa’s strength in his game is his power. An absolute monster, Epenesa uses his power to condense the pocket, rip past people, and throw blockers out of his way. Very strong, can often time gain control of the blocker even through their plants. 22/25.
Finesse/Handwork: Finesse isn’t nearly as much of a part of Epenesa’s game, but his handwork is pretty good. He knows how to use his hands against blockers. Fights through the initial contact by pushing hands down and away from the play. He doesn’t do too well when the blocker gets leverage by getting both hands on him. 14/20.
Tackling/Pursuit: Excellent tackler across the field. Shows good form in his wrap-up technique. He swings his body and uses it as a full-on weight to complete his wrap-up. Pursuit angles are good too, you don’t see him under pursuing tackle opportunities. 17/20.
Leadership/Personality: Epenesa is a good man from a football family background. Shows incredible maturity beyond his years in interviews and interactions with the media. Has a clean slate. He’s a solid professional. 5/5.
Overall: AJ Epenesa is a monster. He collected 22 sacks in the last two seasons and 30.5 tackles for loss. He lives in the opposition’s backfield. Epenesa isn’t going to fit every scheme in the NFL, but the ones that he does fit that prefers power over speed (Pittsburgh, New England, Tennessee, etc) he’s going to be a monster in. A good defensive coordinator will use him as a quick stunt expert as well, moving from seven-tech to five-tech, or nine-tech to seven-tech. Epenesa is a top-ten pick in my opinion, but a top-five prospect as well.
Injury Rating: (3)
Ceiling Rating: (2)
Overall Grade: 89