What should the Patriots do with their top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft?
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has a player in mind.
“For me, it’s A.J. Epenesa,” Jeremiah said Thursday during a conference call.
Jeremiah — who previously worked as a scout for the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and Philadelphia Eagles — said that Epenesa, a 6-foot-5 junior defensive end out of Iowa, is a good fit for coach Bill Belichick. During Jeremiah’s time with the Ravens, a fellow scout who had worked with Belichick shared a presentation on what Belichick values at each position.
The description for edge rushers included players that can “hold the point of attack in the run game” and “collapse the pocket.”
“When it talked about edge rushers, it talked about his preference for size over speed out there,” Jeremiah said. “They’re power players. That to me, if you’re drawing up a description of A.J. Epenesa, that’s who they were looking for.”
Jeremiah acknowledged the presentation was from 1991, so it’s possible Belichick’s preferences have changed over time. But he also views Epenesa as a possibility because his college coach, Kirk Ferentz, was on Belichick’s coaching staff for two seasons in Cleveland. Ferentz’s oldest son, Brian, was also a member of Belichick’s coaching staff for three seasons in New England, and his other son, James, is currently one of two centers on the Patriots’ roster.
“Those Patriot defenses all seem to feature this type of a player,” Jeremiah said. “Then you add in the fact that he played for Kirk Ferentz and Kirk Ferentz having a relationship with Coach Belichick, all this seemed like this guy was meant to be a New England Patriot. It just makes too much sense.”
Jeremiah isn’t the only draft expert to see the connection. ESPN’s Todd McShay, too, projected the Patriots to use their top pick on Epenesa.
As for what the Patriots plan to do with the rest of their 12 picks, Jeremiah noted the team is “always tough to get a read on” when it comes to identifying which prospects may be of interest.
“To say they keep things close to the vest would be an understatement,” he said.
Jeremiah does expect Belichick to make a few trades, though.
“I would just say that the one thing I would be confident in is they have a bunch of extra picks like in the third and the fifth and the sixth rounds,” Jeremiah said. “I’d be very confident they will spin off some of this excess for picks next year because they seem to do that on a yearly basis.”