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2020 NFL mock draft: A.J. Epenesa would give the Jaguars a versatile defensive starter

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Jacksonville’s defense can carry the team again with the Iowa defensive lineman.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 27 Holiday Bowl - USC v Iowa Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Until the New England Patriots scored 14 fourth-quarter points in the AFC Championship game, the Jacksonville Jaguars were on a Cinderella Super Bowl run in the 2017 season. That team had one of the better defenses in recent NFL history.

But now that defense is broken into pieces. With four picks in the top 75, including two first-rounders, the defense can be rebuilt.

Alfie Crow of Big Cat County is back for his second first-round pick in the SB Nation NFL writers’ mock draft to add a potential starter on defense.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa

Crow: After shoring up the offensive line with the No. 9 overall pick and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, the way the board has fallen allows the Jaguars to bolster their suddenly depleted defensive line with Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa.

The Jaguars hit with Josh Allen last season, and Epenesa would seem to be the perfect foil on the other side. With the uncertainty of the future of Yannick Ngakoue, and the loss of Calais Campbell and Marcell Dareus, the Jaguars need to inject more talent on the defensive line.

Epenesa can come in right away and start or heavily rotate as the strongside end, and also offers the versatility to move inside on passing downs, just like the Jaguars did with Campbell during his three seasons in Jacksonville. Having two young defensive ends locked up on rookie deals is also very appealing. The Jaguars need contributors right away in the first round, and just like Thomas, Epenesa offers that.

Analysis: At this time last year, many projected Epenesa as a potential top-10 pick in the 2020 draft. A middling final year at Iowa has dinged his stock as teams wonder if he’s a good enough athlete to stay on the outside in the NFL.

His best fit in the NFL might be in the description above. It would take advantage of his 6’5, 275-pound frame the best, and make him an asset on third downs from the inside. The only better fit might be on a team that runs a lot of three-man fronts with Epenesa bulking up a little. Smaller Calais Campbell is a pretty good way of describing him.

Top five remaining players:

  • 14. Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
  • 15. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
  • 18. Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
  • 19. Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
  • 20. Josh Jones, OT, Houston

Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation is coming up with the final pick of the day at 1 p.m. ET.

Poll

What grade do you give the pick of Epenesa by the Jaguars?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    A
    (272 votes)
  • 40%
    B
    (405 votes)
  • 21%
    C
    (214 votes)
  • 7%
    D
    (73 votes)
  • 4%
    F
    (43 votes)
1007 votes total Vote Now