The Big Board: Still High Marks For Wirfs And Epenesa

Former Iowa offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. (USA Today Sports)

John Bohnenkamp

Sports Illustrated's Jenny Vrentas had one of the more accurate mock drafts last season.

This year, she is like many who give high marks to Iowa's Tristan Wirfs and A.J. Epenesa.

Vrentas has Wirfs, an offensive tackle, going to the New York Giants with the No. 6 pick after a trade between the Giants and the Los Angeles Chargers.

Her take:

"It’s a bit painful for a team in desperate need of defensive players not to take Isaiah Simmons here, but the priority is protecting last year’s No. 6 pick, Daniel Jones. Plus, any pain in missing a talent like Simmons is offset by the amount of joy hog mollies spark in Dave Gettleman. The Giants GM telegraphed the Saquon Barkley pick in his pre-draft press conference two years ago, and he may very well have done the same thing this year when he said they didn’t sign a top tackle in free agency because they had an eye on the draft. The question is, which tackle? There is consensus on the top four tackles in this year’s class, but not the order in which they are ranked. Here, I like Wirfs, who comes from a school that reliably produces top OL talent and was the first tackle to start as a true freshman under Kirk Ferentz, but also has the flexibility to kick inside to guard."

Vrentas also has Epenesa, a defensive end, going to the New England Patriots 

"We are resisting the urge to assign a QB to the Patriots here and instead are going with a pick that feels very much in the B.B. wheelhouse: Epenesa is from a program led by a close Belichick friend, Kirk Ferentz; he pops on tape but didn’t wow at the Combine; and plugs in nicely to the Patriots’ scheme as a 5-technique."

Other mocks

ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., has Wirfs going to the Arizona Cardinals with the No. 8 pick, but has Epenesa slipping out of the first round, going to the Houston Texans in the second round with the No. 40 overall pick.

Kiper's opinion on Epenesa:

"Epenesa has first-round tape, but he's not going to be for every team. He's not a quick-twitch edge rusher; in fact, at 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, he might be better at end in a 3-4 in the NFL. Still, I trust the tape, and I don't think he'll drop out of the first 40 picks. He'd get to learn the tricks of the trade from J.J. Watt in Houston."

NFL.com's Cynthia Frelund uses analytics to do her mock draft, using statistics to identify the pick that will help a team win the most games in 2020.

Frelund has the Giants taking Wirfs at No. 4 and the Atlanta Falcons selecting Epenesa at No. 16.

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah still likes Wirfs to go to the Giants at No. 4, and Epenesa to the Patriots at No. 23.

How about both Wirfs and Epenesa going to the same team? Mia O'Brien from First Coast News in Jacksonville, Fla. has Wirfs being selected by the Jaguars in the first round, and the Jags taking Epenesa in the second round.

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