It’s 2020 NFL Draft mock season and the Baltimore Ravens are getting heavily linked to Iowa’s pass rusher A.J. Epenesa quite a bit lately.
The latest milestone in the 2020 NFL Draft process has come and gone with the 2020 NFL Combine giving us some insight into the athleticism of some of the draft’s top prospects. The Baltimore Ravens were naturally in attendance and taking notes on plenty of players, hopefully on the defensive side of the football. The most recent mock drafts around the web have the Ravens selecting a falling edge rusher in A.J. Epenesa out of the University of Iowa.
While there’s no proof that they’ve done extra research into A.J. Epenesa, it seems pretty easy to link the two together. Baltimore has a need for pass-rushing help and Epenesa would provide just that for the team. Epenesa recorded 26.5 sacks for the Hawkeyes in his three years with the team, including 22.0 over the last two years.
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Best of all is A.J. Epenesa’s versatility to line up at multiple spots along the defensive line and his heavy-hands and style of play have us thinking about his potential to be a violent disruption for the Ravens defense.
Picking 28th overall, A.J. Epenesa is beginning to be slotted to Baltimore frequently. It might seem too good to be true, but the reality is that Epenesa’s draft stock has been taking a bit of a tumble recently.
A.J. Epenesa came into the 2019 season as perhaps a top-ten prospect for the 2020 NFL Draft. A slow start to the season had many wondering about his play-speed and whether or not he can translate effectively at the next level. Epenesa finished the 2019 season hot, with 8.5 of his 11.5 sacks coming in the last six weeks of the season, but still left quite a lot to be desired.
Epenesa didn’t exactly blow up at the 2020 NFL Combine, either. The numbers across the board showed off what we had come to learn: he’s just not a top-tier athlete. That’s not to say it’s a deal-breaker for teams, but it should build some skepticism about his translation to the pros.
For the Baltimore Ravens, however, A.J. Epenesa could be exactly what they’re looking for. Measuring in at 6’5″ 275-lbs., Epenesa could be an ideal 5-tech defensive end for the team’s 3-4 defensive front. Baltimore could get sneaky with Epenesa’s size and use him as an elephant rusher on obvious passing downs; something the Ravens have had past success with, in guys like Pernell McPhee.
Baltimore can’t exactly be picky, either, as they need all the help they can get when it comes to getting after the quarterback (37 team sacks in 2019). The Ravens could also lose Matt Judon in Free Agency and the team doesn’t exactly have proven depth behind him if he leaves. The pass rush is undoubtedly the biggest need for the team and A.J. Epenesa fits the bill.
When we put all the pieces of this puzzle in place it makes sense why A.J. Epenesa has been so heavily linked to the Baltimore Ravens in several 2020 NFL Draft mocks. Getting a guy who was once considered a top-ten prospect with the 28th pick sounds like a best-case scenario for the team. If Epenesa is available that late, the Ravens should obviously consider taking him and helping their front-seven tremendously.