Iowa Star A.J. Epenesa Declares for 2020 NFL Draft, Forgoes Senior Season

Iowa Star A.J. Epenesa Declares for 2020 NFL Draft, Forgoes Senior Season

Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa (94) warms up before a game against Northwestern an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, in Evanston, Ill. (AP Photo/David Banks)

David Banks/Associated Press

Edge rushers seemingly become more important with each passing year in the NFL, and one of the best in all of college football is headed to the pro ranks.

Iowa Hawkeyes defensive end A.J. Epenesa declared for the 2020 NFL draft on Tuesday, making the announcement on his Instagram account (h/t The Draft Network’s Jordan Reid):

Epenesa appeared destined for the next level before he even reached college. He arrived at Iowa as a 5-star recruit and the No. 1 strong-side defensive end in the class of 2017, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, with sky-high expectations for a program that isn’t always in the running for 5-star players.

He made an immediate impact with 4.5 sacks as a freshman but made an NFL-like leap from his first to second year in the Big Ten.

The Illinois native finished his sophomore season as an All-Big Ten selection with 16.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and a touchdown, officially cementing his spot on the NFL radar. He remained a force in his final season with 32 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.

The Big Ten named him Defensive Player of the Week during a November win over previously undefeated Minnesota when he finished with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. His combination of power and athleticism was on full display, and it wasn’t difficult to envision the 6’6″ and 280-pound pass-rusher wrecking opposing game plans at the next level.

Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller ranked Epenesa as the No. 12 overall player and No. 2 edge rusher behind only Ohio State’s Chase Young on his big board in November. Miller also deemed Epenesa as having the best power among all edge rushers.

That power allows the Iowa product to bull rush his way to the quarterback and break free of blocks to help stuff the rushing attack. He also has solid burst for his size and is a threat to knock the ball loose with every sack.

Epenesa figures to be someone who can slide into a pass-rush rotation right away and make quarterbacks uncomfortable on passing downs. It wouldn’t be a surprise to hear his name called in the first round come draft day.

Breaking Sports News

via Bleacher Report – Front Page

January 14, 2020 at 07:49AM

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