NAME: AJ Epenesa
POSITION: EDGE Defender
WEIGHT: 280 pounds
In today’s Chiefs draft prospect profile, we look into another prospect who’s draft stock is all over the place. Kansas City has the opportunity to go best player available, given that there are no immediate needs. Teams generally hope to have as much pass rush on top as they can. Consequently, this prospect fits the Chiefs current scheme in more than one way. Now, let’s get things started with our breakdown of Iowa’s AJ Epenesa.
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Pass Rush Moves
Does this guy fit the Steve Spagnuolo mold for pass rush moves? Almost perfectly. He wins with heavy hands and well timed rips or chops. Epenesa packs a hard nosed style of punches. This otherworldly power does not just blow opposing blockers backwards. In fact, Epenesa does a nice of playing with the mind of protectors to confuse them up front. Teams should love his timing and placement with his active hands and pass rush counters.
Furthermore, Epenesa is a much more diverse pass rusher than what some may realize. Besides the chops and rips, he weaves well from outside to in. This is a pass rush style that the Chiefs have employed under Spags. There are many different tools for which to work with here. Having the length that Epenesa has is an added bonus. Overall, he can be effective in multiple pass rush situations.
Generally, Epenesa was really impressive as a run defender. He stacks up opponents to create havoc and plays can break down when the lane disappears. Epenesa does not necessarily have tremendous first step quickness. To boot, he can struggle to keep his feet moving when popping to stand up out of his stance. Epenesa collapses the backfield so suddenly with his penetration. When you have his penetrating, downhill movement combined with his instincts and football IQ, runners just freeze and collapse back into the inside.
Obviously, Epenesa is nowhere near a bendy type of player, given the items mentioned above. His flexibility and lateral mobility are not among the top at this position. Can he still hold the edge? Yes. Does Epenesa work well when slanting down or inside? Yes. You take what you can get from him here, as Epenesa generates more pressure with his power. The lower half mobility is just not there. But, that notion can be turned down a notch, as a team like the Chiefs has the ability to rotate with the defensive line.
We talked a little bit about Epenesa’s power already. Nonetheless, it is worth mentioning how well he uses his strength and power at the point of attack. Yes, his feet can suddenly stop moving at times. Epenesa rarely gets driven back, though, if ever. His strength in the lower half is not a trait that a ton of defenders are born with. What makes Epenesa even more intriguing with these attributes, is his effort. He has a very hot and heavy motor. On the other hand, Epenesa has shown the ability to constantly be durable and reliable. If you focus on the pass rush sides of things, with counters and hands, that is fine. Yet, I believe Epenesa’s best trait lies here.
The only real question here, is does Epenesa need to work on lowering his pad level. He can become too much of an arm tackler at times. When blockers reach to alter his lane, Epenesa can become sucked inside, which leaves his edge unattended. All in all, he is a fine tackler. His finish and drive through contact is what teams will like to see.
AJ Epenesa fits the Kansas City Chiefs style of heavy handed pass rushers. His power is already given to teams on a silver platter. In addition, you have the reactionary quickness and instincts that Epenesa has. He has some variance to his game. For example, you can move him inside on the defensive line once in a while. This could happen more in early downs or run situations. As a result, Epenesa is a solid pickup for both Kansas City’s immediate and long term future.
Be on the lookout for more Chiefs offseason coverage. Included, will be our final draft prospect profiles in the leadup to next week’s NFL selections. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.