We are now just days away from the 2020 NFL Draft and as we approach the closest thing sports fans have to a live sporting event during this COVID-19 pandemic, sportsbooks continue to create ample markets for bettors.
According to SI’s Jaguars publisher John Shipley, A.J. Epenesa compares favorably to players like Calais Campbell or Cameron Jordan, who he believes could be the Jaguars’ choice at No. 9 over South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw. The edge rusher checks in No. 26 on the Sports Illustrated Big Board.
Sports Illustrated’s Iowa Hawkeye publisher John Bohnenkamp recently highlighted that many respected mock drafts, including that of SI’s Jenny Vrentas, have the defensive standout coming off the board in the first round. William Hill Sportsbook has set the over/under on the overall draft position for Epenesa at 29.5.
A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa
Epenesa was a five-star recruit who played early on for the Hawkeyes, totaling 4.5 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss, and one forced fumble as a freshman. His production took a big jump in 2018, as the powerful and aggressive defensive end notched 10.5 sacks (most in the Big Ten), 16.5 tackles for loss (most on the team), and four forced fumbles. As a junior, Epenesa once again turned in a dominant season in the Big Ten. In 2019, Epenesa recorded 11.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles.
Sports Illustrated’s Packers publisher Bill Huber highlighted that, “Epenesa entered the scouting season considered a top-10 draft pick but saw his draft stock plummet after a poor showing at the Combine in February.” However, it should be noted that some guys naturally perform at a higher level in actual game speed as opposed to shorts and a stopwatch. Case in point, Huber later points out that Epenesa capped his Hawkeye career with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble against USC’s Austin Jackson in the Holiday Bowl (who many project as a possible first-round selection).
William Hill currently lists Epenesa’s draft position at 29.5, which just sneaks him into the back end of the first round. I have him coming off the board to Jacksonville at No. 20 in my mock draft. Other teams rumored to be interested in the former Iowa star are the Raiders, Patriots, Ravens and Vikings. With all the talk that disgruntled Jaguars pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue could be moved, Epenesa makes total sense for Jacksonville. Despite the poor combine showing, I believe Epenesa will be among the first 29 players drafted in the first round.
The Play: UNDER 29.5 (-110)
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