1. AJ Epenesa – Iowa
A.J. Epenesa is almost certainly a first-round pick in the upcoming draft. However, it is doubtful that he is worthy of the fourth overall selection in the draft, meaning the NY Giants will likely need to trade back from the fourth pick if they are planning on drafting him.
Other than Chase Young, Epenesa and Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos are arguably the two best remaining edge rushers in the upcoming draft. Epenesa has been a standout at Iowa the past two seasons, amassing 22 sacks during that span.
At 6’6″ and 280-pounds, he represents the ideal edge rusher possessing elite length and power. While he demonstrates an excellent speed and power combination, Epenesa lacks the explosiveness and quickness of a speed rusher and instead relies on his other traits to be an excellent bull rusher.
Epenesa is a dominant bull rusher who has the tendency to wear down opposing blockers with his power and non-stop effort. In addition, he has excellent hand technique that features extremely strong hands that grip and punch opponents to effectively shed blocks.
Possessing average athleticism, Epenesa is a fluid pass rusher but lacks burst in his first step. Due to his length, he has a great tackling radius and is excellent against the run. He is a violent tackler with good finishing power and still has room to put on additional mass and strength.
Currently, Epenesa projects best as a 4-3 defensive end but has the ability to play as a five-technique end in a 3-4 defensive scheme. If the NY Giants do in fact trade back in the draft, he should be an option for them in the middle to later part of the first round.