With the Detroit Lions missing out on the Chase Young sweepstakes, this seems like the perfect choice with the 35th overall pick for the Detroit Lions.
The Lions need to address their pass-rush woes that haunted the defense all of last season. Trey Flowers is a wonderful edge-setter primarily on the end of the right side. The Lions need a disrupting force to complement Flowers on the opposite side, insert Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa.
He’s the perfect Matt Patricia-type edge rusher. Epenesa stands 6’5 and plays at about 275-pounds. Over his last two seasons with the Hawkeye’s Epenesa compiled a whopping 22 sacks and forced eight fumbles. He also likes to get his paws up in the passing lanes when he realized he couldn’t get to the quarterback during his rushes as he’s batted down seven balls at the line of scrimmage.
Epenesa is better suited to play with his Hand in the dirt rather than a stand-up end. The Detroit Lions currently have Da’Shawn Hand projected to be the starting end opposite Flowers next season. Last year it was a lost season for Hand due to injury, but he will undoubtedly play a role likely as a starter. Still, if not, Espenesa will immediately have a role as a rotational end and substitute for Hand as a third-down end as a rookie. Don’t forget the Detroit Lions also have Austin Bryant entering his second year as a professional, to me he’s better suited as a stand-up rusher. He, along with Hand and Epenesa, can be on the field at the same time in specific defensive alignments.
In 13 starts last season A.J. created four fumbles, made 11.5 sacks to go with his 49 tackles, 15 of which were tackles for a loss. He projects as a three-down anchor by year three. After adding Epenesa, suddenly, the Detroit Lions defensive line with Danny Shelton in the middle is starting to become something special.