A.J. Epenesa

Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa Enters Draft

Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa is going pro. On Tuesday, the top pass rusher announced that he’ll skip his senior season and enter the 2020 NFL Draft. 

Epenesa is widely projected to be a first-round pick and could very well land in the Top 10. Ohio State’s Chase Young ranks as everyone’s top edge rusher, but after that, Epenesa figures to be the second defensive end taken in April.

Epenesa boasts serious power and block-shedding ability at 6’6″ and 280 pounds. This year, he notched 11.5 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss, cementing his status as one of the best at his position.

The Buccaneers, who pick at No. 14 overall, could represent Epenesa’s floor. Epenesa could help the Bucs replace Shaquil Barrett if he signs a lucrative free agent deal elsewhere. Or, better yet, the Bucs could retain Barrett and slot Epenesa in at the other bookend to bolster their pass rush.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Rumors: Tua, Burrow, Fromm, Iowa

Tua Tagovailoa is not expected to return to Alabama to rebuild his stock, but said stock has taken a hit thanks to the severe hip injury he suffered last weekend. The junior Crimson Tide star can be downgraded to the No. 3 quarterback in next year’s class, per ESPN.com’s Todd McShay, who has LSU’s Joe Burrow and Oregon’s Justin Herbert ranked ahead of Tagovailoa.

If he could’ve finished healthy, I think he would’ve been the first to go, so I do think it affects things, because there’s not a safe one now,” an AFC college scouting director told SI.com’s Albert Breer. “He was the safe one—he’s gonna be smart, accurate; he’s won at a high level, been on the big stage. Now, there’s not a safe one.

Both Sam Bradford and Carson Wentz were top-two overall selections despite significant injuries occurring in their final college seasons, but the nature of Tagovailoa’s setback likely stands to ding his stock a bit more.

Here is the latest surrounding the next crop of draft-eligible prospects:

  • While Tagovailoa and Herbert were viewed as the frontrunners to be the first quarterback taken in 2020, Burrow has now ascended to the favorite to land in that position, Breer hears. The second-year LSU starter is a Heisman Trophy candidate, having throw 38 touchdown passes as a senior. Though the former Ohio State backup was not previously on the first-round radar after an unremarkable junior season, his production has swayed NFL execs this year.
  • McShay rated Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm as a second-tier quarterback prospect, and Breer adds some scouts expect the third-year Bulldogs starter to return for his senior season. Fromm plays in a run-first system, and scouts view him as more of an intangibles-geared prospect than one that will dazzle evaluators with physical ability, per Breer.
  • Herbert, however, does possess those athletic traits, and Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller would be surprised if the Ducks senior falls out of the top five next year. The Dolphins were high on Herbert last year, and NFL GMs were trekking to some of his junior-season games. Tagovailoa’s injury stands to benefit the 6-foot-6 Herbert, Miller adds, as the former was previously on track to be taken ahead of the Pac-12 standout.
  • Good news for Iowa fans. First-round tackle and defensive end prospects Tristan Wirfs and defensive end A.J. Epenesa are as of now expected to return to school for their senior seasons, Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com notes. Wirfs is viewed as one of the top tackles in the nation, with the 6-6, 280-pound Epenesa having totaled 22.5 sacks in his Hawkeyes tenure.