BUFFALO, N.Y. [WKBW] — A.J. Epenesa wasn't supposed to be available to the Buffalo Bills in the second round. He wasn't supposed to be available to anyone in the second-round.
Most analysts predicted the edge rusher would be drafted on Thursday. Others thought if he did fall, it would just a few picks into the second round. As it turns out, he slid pretty far, but for Bills fans, that's great news.
The 6'5", 275-pound defensive end from Iowa, had a monstrous junior season, racking up 11.5 sacks and forcing four fumbles. He was named first-team All-Big Ten in both 2018 and 2019 and earned second-team All-American honors from the Associated Press.
At the NFL Combine in February, Epenesa left a lot to be desired, which was surely one of the reasons why he slid to the 54th pick. But at Iowa, he produced with back-to-back 10 sack seasons and 36 tackles for a loss.
Bruce Feldman from FOX Sports & The Athletic tweeted " He was one of the best players I saw last year. I know he didn't run a great 40 time or wow folks in Indy. I also know he dominated some very talented dudes last season."
Epenesa's hand-work and strength off the edge are two of the traits most often pointed to when discussing the 21-year-old defensive end. If you search his name on social media, you'll find countless videos showing Epensa "swiping" his way by opposing tackles before swallowing up the seemingly helpless quarterbacks. His size and strength are the first two things you notice when watching his highlights. But some think his speed will limit his success at the next level.
Chris Simms from NBC Sports is not one of those people. "A.J. Epenesa is a hybrid defensive tackle and strong-side defensive end," Simms tweeted. "Awesome pick by the Bills. One of my favorite guys in the draft."
For the Bills, this is one of those situations where they were able to snag one of the best players available while also filling a need. With the way the Bills roster is built, they won't need to rely on Epenesa as a rookie and can let him develop into a more complete player. If he proves he needs to be on the field, the Bills have three much older edge rushers that become expendable. This is great value for Brandon Beane and in this case, his patience paid off.