BRONXVILLE, N.Y — University of Iowa junior defensive end A.J. Epenesa was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the second round of Thursday’s NFL Draft. He was the 54th player picked overall and the 22nd selection of the second round.
The defensive MVP of the 2019 Holiday Bowl, Epenesa was named second-team All-America by Walter Camp and first-team All-Big Ten by league coaches and media.
With the 6-foot-6, 280-pound Epenesa on the defensive line last season, the Hawkeyes won 10 games and limited opponents to 308.2 yards (196 passing, 113 rushing) and 14 points per game. In 13 games, Epenesa compiled 49 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, nine quarterback hurries, and four forced fumbles.
“I like his position versatilty,” said Booger McFarland, ESPN analyst. “He can come inside to defensive tackle and also play over the tight end. This is a good, solid pick. He will play 10 years and will be a productive defensive lineman.”
Iowa has had 13 defensive linemen selected in the NFL Draft during the Kirk Ferentz era; four, including Epenesa, Adrian Clayborn, Kenny Iwebema, and Matt Roth, were selected as defensive ends.
“He has strong hands and brings that edge and inside pressure,” said Mel Kiper, Jr., ESPN analyst. “He can drive an offensive tackle into the quarterback. He did a great job against (Southern California offensive tackle) Austin Jackson, who went in the first round to the Miami Dolphins. He dominated against Minnesota. Overall, you talk about versatility, he can be a factor. The Bills are building up that defensive front.”
Buffalo finished runner-up in the AFC East last season with a 10-6 record. The Bills lost to Houston in an AFC Wild Card game, 22-19.
Buffalo was third out of 32 NFL teams in total defense, allowing 298.2 yards per game. They were fourth in pass defense (195.2 yards per game) and 10th in run defense (103.1).
Iowa has had at least one player drafted in every NFL Draft since 1978, including 10 first round selections. Epenesa is the 72nd player coached by Ferentz at Iowa to be selected in the NFL Draft.
Entering the 2020 draft, Iowa has 17 consecutive draft choices remaining in the NFL, second only to Michigan’s 19.