The first pick of the 2020 NFL Draft for the Buffalo Bills is Iowa EDGE A.J. Epenesa! The 54th overall pick comes to the Bills after a stellar career in Iowa City and with it, brings an incredibly healthy pedigree. During his three years at Iowa, he appeared in 39 games racking up 101 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss, and 26.5 sacks. He also contributed nine forced fumbles, eight pass deflections along with Big Ten and All-American honors. Many if not all publications indicated that Epenesa was a first-round draft prospect, which indicates that the Bills may have lucked into a top talent while not giving up draft capital.
Below is Epenesa’s injury history at Iowa:
Bills Injury Impact:
As seen above, Epenesa was incredibly healthy during his time at Iowa. In fact, the only hint of injury that I can find at all is a broken leg during his freshman year of high school, which would have been in 2014. It cost him half of his freshman year, playing only five games. Other than that injury from six years ago, information simply doesn’t exist that he suffered any injuries in college.
While he lacks much of an injury history, this doesn’t translate to an injury-free NFL career. It is impossible to predict injuries but Epenesa’s availability playing in 39 games over the past three years indicates that he is durable. He did come out as a junior and that can be risky at times especially only having one full year as a starter, but even as a second-round pick, he can parlay his talents in a stellar Bills defense.
Thankfully, Epenesa can sit and learn behind the veteran defensive ends on the team, while not being relied upon to start immediately. This will allow the Bills to slowly rotate him in and acclimate him to the NFL game while reducing his injury risk.