Combine 'Fallers' Who Could Benefit the Ravens

Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa and Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. run the 40-yard dash during the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine.

The oohhs and aahhs delivered by the many athletic marvels at the Combine can certainly push a player up draft boards – the "risers".

But it's sometimes the players on the other side of the conversation – the Combine "fallers" – that are equally as intriguing once that actual draft rolls around.

There's no better evidence than Orlando Brown Jr., who had one of the worst Combine showings in history and is now a Pro Bowler in just his second season. The Ravens got him as a steal in the third round.

Two players who don't exactly compare to Brown, but could become a bargain after tougher Combine showings are Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa and Colorado wide receiver Lataviska Shenault Jr., and both could interest the Ravens.

Epenesa ran the 40-yard dash in 5.04 seconds – not a good time for an elite defensive line prospect. There were already some questions about his athleticism, and that only added to them.

However, the Ravens have always been a team that values the tape, and Epenesa has the stats to prove he's an effective player. He had 61 tackles, 26.5 sacks and 36 tackles for loss in 37 career games with the Hawkeyes.

Standing in at 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, Epenesa could be best suited for a defensive end spot rather than edge linebacker. In either role, he could help the Ravens, who are looking to generate more interior pass rush and always love a strong, heavy-handed edge setter against the run.

"He didn't have a great workout at the Combine, but he's a better football player than tester," ESPN's Todd McShay said Tuesday. "We knew that going in. He reminds me of Trey Flowers, the former pass rusher out of Arkansas. Epenesa has strong hands. He can move around a little bit and do different things."

Once widely considered a top-15 pick, Epenesa could slide. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller projected Baltimore to take Epenesa at No. 28 following the Combine. McShay has him going to the New England Patriots at No. 23, saying he's a "high-value" first-round pick. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah dropped Epenesa out of the first round altogether.

Shenault may not have as much of a drop as Epenesa because the reason why he didn't test as well – running the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds – is temporary. That's slower than expected for one of college football's top playmakers.

Shenault has been dealing with a core muscle injury that he will now get surgery to repair, which will reportedly sideline him for four to six weeks. It adds to surgeries he had on his shoulder and toe after the 2018 season, and possibly raises more medical concerns.

Sheanult played through the injury last season, which contributed to depressed stats, and it didn't stop him from participating in the Combine either. McShay doesn't believe the slower time will hurt him much.

"I think it speaks to how competitive he is and how willing he is to go out and show what he can do," McShay said.

"That's the guy that, when you talk to coaches on that staff that have been with him, that's what they know about him is that he'll do anything. 'Put me on a reverse? Fine. Put me in the backfield? Great. Put me in the slot, put me out as X, Y, Z. Wherever you want me, Coach, I'll go and compete.' Sometimes, and we see it with a lot of players, is what makes you great can be your demise sometimes."

Shenault finished his career at Colorado with 149 catches for 1,943 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had seven rushing touchdowns on 42 attempts, and returned the only kickoff return of his college career for 54 yards.

As the Ravens look to bolster their wide receiver corps, Shenault would add a run-after-catch ability that would complement Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, and the Colorado prospect could potentially be found in the second round.

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