Broke Leg as a High School Freshman
2019 Vs: Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Rutgers
Possesses great power and strength. Ideal size for an NFL edge rusher. Has a nice repertoire of moves for beating his man to get to the QB and fits in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. Plays with good length that helps him combat offensive tackles and has the power to beat them at the LOS. Shows a high football IQ and has a good motor.
Not an overly agile player and is sometimes not able to make quick changes in direction in pursuit of the QB. Not an overly flexible player. Needs to try to include speed rushes as well as power.
AJ Espenesa has a very high ceiling as a player. He posted 16.5 TFL and 10.5 sacks in a backup role in 2018 and was selected to the All-Big 10 Second Team. He is a leader for the Iowa defense and is seen as a wrecking ball to opposing offensive lineman. Epenesa is a disruptor first and foremost, constantly making his presence felt in the offensive backfield. He has an array of moves but especially a bull rush that allows him to beat his man and get to the quarterback. You could make a case that he could move the interior of the defensive line. He's quick off the jump and has exceptional power in his frame. He is a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. PRO COMPARISON: Derek Wolfe Projected Draft Position: Early 2nd/Mid 2nd Round
Displays good quickness and agility in his game. Overall flexibility is decent especially in his hips and is a very explosive player. Explodes off the line and meets lineman abruptly with force and power. Playing speed is tricky. This player is seen as more of a quick than fast athlete that plays with excellent coordination.
Pass Rush Ability:
Use of Hands
Pass Rush Moves
Big Play Ability
Initial quickness off of the line is excellent. Timing off the snap is consistently great and displays excellent power at the point of attack. Powerful hands are used perfectly to fight off offensive lineman and move his man where he wants them. Plays with very good leverage which allows him to have the advantage in most situations. Has a wide variety of pass-rushing moves that is displayed game in and game out. Uses push-pull and bull rush most frequently with bull rush almost being unmatched in this class. Finishes plays consistently and usually will not give up on a play until it is over.
Against The Run:
Leverage against the run is again consistently very good with helps him with the stack and shed technique. He is able to stack and shed with ease due to his great use of power and leverage. Can shoot gaps due to his positioning and quickness but at times seems to have a hard time "getting skinny". Displays excellent ability to wrap up and is a heavy hitter. Tackling technique is good. Hands are very strong, if he gets his hands on a player, he usually makes the tackle. Film shows great closing speed in pursuit of ball carriers. Closes the distance quickly and knows how to position himself to make a play.
Set the Edge
Stack and Shed
Gap Shooting Ability
Plays with a fantastic motor and comes to compete every game. Displays excellent toughness that is visible on tape. Production is consistent but got better over time in college. In three years, Epenesa totaled 101 tackles, 26.5 sacks, and 8 forced fumbles.
Excellent instincts are something that show on tape. Knows where to be and knows where the play is going. His game has elevated each year which shows the ability to learn and make improvements to his game. Has excellent leadership skills and is said to be a great teammate.