PROS: Features exceptional length and overwhelming power. Hands are heavy and he does well to place and time his moves. Can be devastating bull rushing off the edge, getting on the same level of the passer, shucking the block and finishing. Pass rush counters developed nicely in 2019, showcasing a variety of hand swipes. His push-pull is deadly. Exceptional ability to convert speed to power and he often plays right through blockers. Generally does well to play with extension and his length enables him to consistently finish outside his frame. Will put considerable stress on his opponents anchor to maintain the pocket width. Draws opponents out their sets with his power. Isn’t easily moved off his spot when setting the edge and he can make gaps disappear with his ability to squeeze down. Found impressive production across his last two seasons at Iowa. Has inside/outside rush versatility.
CONS: He’s smooth and fluid but he isn’t bursty or bendy. Rush angles must be greased. Won’t be much of an asset playing in space. Needs to recognize reach/hook blocks more consistently to avoid giving up outside leverage. Generally does well but he’ll need to be intentional about keeping his pads low given his height at the next level.
BEST TRAIT - Power at the Point
WORST TRAIT - Lateral Mobility
RED FLAGS - None
NFL COMP - Trey Flowers
AJ Epenesa has been a dynamic defensive playmaker across his last two seasons at Iowa, racking up 30.5 tackles for loss, 22 sacks, eight forced fumbles and seven pass deflections. His blend of length, devastating power, technique and urgency gives him a chance to do the same in the NFL. Epenesa is a tailor-made fit for the New England Patriots style of defensive linemen where length and heavy hands to control at the point of attack are required. Overall, Epenesa is an ascending prospect with exciting physical tools, production and technical refinement that project him to be an early starter in a 4-3 alignment but he has the extension skills needed for two-gaping duties as a five-technique. Epenesa has the upside to become a pillar of an outstanding front seven at the next level.