Weight: 280 lbs
2017 Big Ten All-Freshman Team
2018 Polynesian Player of the Year Finalist
2018 First-Team All-Big Ten by Phil Steele
2019 Chuck Bednarik Award Watchlist
A.J. Epenesa is one of the more exciting EDGE rushers in this draft class. He has an excellent frame for the position and consistently finds his way past the line of scrimmage to disrupt the pocket. In this scouting report, we’ll breakdown his technique and evaluate his future as an NFL pass rusher.
What I Like
Diagnose and Attack
This is an elite effort from A.J. Epenesa here. Epenesa starts inside to stop the run, but is able to quickly diagnose the play and bounce back outside. From there, Epenesa is able to use his good athletic ability to outrun the lineman. Once it’s 1-on-1, Epenesa kicks it into a second gear and gets to the quarterback very quickly. Like I said, thesis just an elite effort from the EDGE rusher.
What I Dislike
A.J. Epenesa is a fantastic EDGE rusher, but still has a limited toolbox in terms of techniques to penetrate the line of scrimmage. Epenesa relies heavily on overpowering the lineman and bullrushing his way past. I’d like to see Epenesa develop further and vary his technique, which should give him more opportunities to disrupt the pocket and get to the ball.
Where I’ve Seen Improvement
High Motor and Effort
A.J. Epenesa has a fantastic high motor mentality, which comes out on this play. Epenesa does great job of diagnosing the play and keying the ball, before extending his reach and making the play. A.J. Epenesa may not be the most nimble EDGE rusher in this class, but he does a nice job of reaching out and extending his body to make the tackle.
A.J. Epenesa has a good frame for the position at 6’6 and 280 lbs. Has good athletic ability, although he’s not a shifty EDGE rusher. Has a good ability to diagnose plays quickly and key the ball. Has a good ability to neutralize blocks and show patience as the play unfolds. Has good athleticism to run stunts effectively. Has a good use of hands to shed blocks and penetrate the line of scrimmage. Shows good agility through traffic, especially through narrow lanes on stunts. He’s a high motor player that keeps his eyes up and keyed on the ball. He’s a relentless pursuer that consistently finds himself disrupting the pocket and making the quarterback uncomfortable. Has solid lateral agility to remain in position on outside runs or plays in the flat.
Has adequate change of direction and top end speed. Lacks a varied toolbox to shed blocks and penetrate the pocket. Has adequate release on blocks at the point of attack. Has adequate bend to get around the edge.
2020 NFL Draft Projection
A.J. Epenesa is one of the best EDGE rushers in this class. He’s not going to wow scouts at the NFL Combine, but his tape speaks for itself. Look for Epenesa to come off the board to a team that needs to get after opposing quarterbacks. I have him primarily as a 4-3 defensive end, although he has the athletic ability to play OLB in a traditional 3-4 defensive scheme.