Round 2, 22nd pick, 54th overall
A.J. Epenesa, defensive end, University of Iowa Hawkeyes
Color me surprised. To see A.J. Epenesa fall that far into the second round the draft was unexpected. He had a poor combine in which two years of hard work and proven results went down the tubes in 5.04 seconds. Worse, he had no pro day to redeem himself. It must have been challenging for him to hear names called that only six weeks earlier were supposed to be taken after him.
When it came time to make their second-round pick, Buffalo Bills management had a choice to make with Epenesa. Do they go with what they saw at the combine or what they saw in the game films?
In the end, they went with what they saw on film instead of Epenesa’s poor combine performance. Over the past two seasons, the Iowa product had 96 tackles, 30.5 for loss, including 22 sacks and eight forced fumbles. In short, Epenesa was a wrecking ball, who caused havoc in the opponent’s backfield. Additionally, he did it against some of the toughest competition in the country as part of the Big Ten Conference.
In Epenesa, the Bills picked up a warrior who can play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 set. That’s good because Mario Addison, one of the free agents signed to replace the departed Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson, will be 33-years-old when the season starts.
The former Iowa Hawkeye can set the edge and hold it. He won’t speed rush around opposing tackles but rather get past them with strength and technique, especially with his hands. Epenesa has the arm length to keep out of tight quarters. Buffalo Bills fans will enjoy seeing him drive back offensive tackles into the quarterback.
As many have said, Epenesa may not be a consistent double-digit sack guy in the NFL, but he should have at least eight per year.
Grade: A for where he was picked, B+ overall.