With the 54th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills selected A.J. Epenesa out of Iowa.
During his time with the Hawkeyes, the Glen Carbon, Ill., native was a force to be reckoned with. Standing at 6’6″, 280 pounds, the defensive end recorded 101 career tackles in just 39 games along with adding 26.5 sacks in the process. In his senior year, Epenesa was named to Associated Press All-Bowl team for his play in the Holiday Bowl where he was named MVP, was one of five finalists for the Polynesian Player of the Year and was named to the first-team All-America by The Athletic.
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After the Buffalo Bills traded out of the first round with the acquisition of Stefon Diggs, who you could say is who they got with their first rounder, it was a surprise that Epensa was there for the taking at 54. With many mock drafts having the edge rusher coming off the board within the first round, the Bills get a serious talent that can play immediately.
Though the Bills have tinkered with their defense this offseason, signing Mario Addison, Quinton Jefferson, and Josh Norman to name a few, they still needed one piece to push them over the edge. An edge rusher.
NFL.com draft analyst, Lance Zierlein has linked the collegiate play of Epenesa to current NFL current Cincinnati Bengals defensive end, Carlos Dunap. Zierlein notes that “He has average instincts against the run and is a step slow to shed, but he’s strong at the point and he does his job. Epenesa won’t just out-run tackles to the edge, but he’s a skilled rusher whose diversity of attack, skilled hands and unique bull-rushing instincts could help him deliver his college sack production in the pros.”
With the acquisition of Epenesa, the current Bills roster now certainly has the pieces to mimic the prolific cold front defensive four of the Bills past. With two dominate interior linemen in Ed Oliver and Harrison Phillips with Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison at edge, plus the incredible depth, this group should have no problem getting after the quarterback.