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SB Nation’s Dan Kadar mocks Iowa defensive lineman A.J. Epenesa to the Broncos

It’s mock draft season!

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

It’s mock draft season Broncos Country!

SB Nation’s Dan Kadar released his most recent first-round mock draft on Tuesday. In his mock draft, he has the Broncos bolstering their defensive line by adding Iowa defensive lineman A.J. Epenesa.

Here is Kadar’s reasoning for the selection of Epenesa.

15. Denver Broncos: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa

Denver is another team in which it will be worth monitoring what happens to the roster. If defensive lineman Derek Wolfe departs, the Broncos could find a ready-made replacement in Epenesa.

Kadar states that the potential departure of veteran Derek Wolfe will cause the Broncos to address the defensive line in the first-round. However, I believe that there is a pretty good chance that the Broncos bring back Derek Wolfe. There appears to be mutual interest from both parties and it makes sense for both sides to get it done, so I’m moving forward assuming that Wolfe will be re-signed. However, I do not feel as confident about Shelby Harris returning. He will likely price himself out of Broncos General Manager John Elway’s price range and they will need to find a replacement. This is where A.J. Epenesa comes into play.

Epenesa is listed at 6’6”, 280lbs which makes him ideal for Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense. He has a good blend of size, strength, and athleticism that gives him the potential to be an impact player along the defensive line.

Here is The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabb’s scouting report on A.J. Epenesa and what we can expect if the Broncos selected him.

PROS: Blend of length and power is pretty impressive -- have seen him rag doll left tackles against Wisconsin, Penn State and Mississippi State in ways that make your brain hurt. He’s an effective pass rusher, too. Will convert speed to power or attack with a hesi-counter or a club and drop the hands off his frame effectively. Navigates blocks well once he’s stacked them square to the line of scrimmage and shows effective discarding techniques. Holds ground well as an anchor at the point of attack and will be a reliable every down player in the pros.

CONS: He’s only got above average get-off -- teams looking for a 4.5 guy or an elite 10-yard split probably won’t find it here. He’s not super flexible in lateral tilt situations, either. Can be guilty of giving up surface area and allowing tackles to rework their hands onto his frame. Like his pass rush skills but I’d like to see him build it out with more diversity in 2019, he’s got a handful of really effective moves but adding more secondary counters will make him a complete terror to try to square up in space.

Epenesa has been one of the top defensive lineman in the country these past few years. This past season for Iowa, Apenesa totaled 49 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, and 11.5 sacks. He also had 3 pass deflections and 4 forced fumbles. This is coming off a season in 2018 where he totaled 37 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, and another 4 forced fumbles.

He would give the Broncos a playmaker along the defensive line and someone to pair with 2019 draftee Dre’Mont Jones who flashed some potential during his rookie year. It all starts in the trenches and a player like Epenesa could help keep the Broncos defense strong going into the future.

Here are Epenesa’s highlights from the 2019 season.