Aaron Donald is on pace to post highest season grade ever

Rams DT Aaron Donald is playing at J.J. Watt's level right now.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Aaron Donald is on pace to post highest season grade ever


It’s not exactly a secret that Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is playing well right now, but how well might be surprising. Donald has posted a +18.0 grade over the first two games. That puts him on pace for a grade over +140 over a full season, which would obliterate anything we have seen since we started grading in 2007.

The next-best mark at the position is Geno Atkins at +11.6, itself a pretty ludicrous grade after two games. The highest mark among DTs after two games before this season was the +8.6 grade that Albert Haynesworth notched in Tennessee to open the 2007 season – back when he was the most dominant interior force in the game – and Donald just put up a figure that doubles it.

That kind of figure is so far past the point of comparison to other defensive tackles that we need to look instead at a new point of reference for dominance inside: J.J. Watt.

Donald’s grade after two games is better than anything Watt has yet managed (albeit much closer than the defensive tackles — in 2012, Watt notched a +17.3 grade after two games). At this point Watt is unarguably not just great, but generationally great, and right now Donald is playing at least as well if not better.

Last season was the first season that our DT rankings were topped by a rookie, and Donald looks to have kicked on to another level heading into his sophomore season. We assume that generationally great players only come along once in a generation – hence the name – but it’s just possible that Aaron Donald is about to join J.J. Watt in that realm. He is playing at a level right now that we haven’t seen matched before by anybody other than Watt, and the only question is whether he can sustain it.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Tom

    He’s so quick he beats lineman off the snap just about every play. In the redskins game he was in the backfield on almost every run play. One play in pass pro, Lauvao had him engaged when lichtensteiger came to double team him and right as lichtensteiger put his hands on him, Donald spun right off his block and sacked Cousins. This guy is nasty it seems like no one can keep their hands on him.

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  • frank

    Donald is a monster. Fast, strong, great instincts. He’s going to be in the HOF on the first ballot if he keeps this up.

  • crosseyedlemon

    Donald could probably walk on water and no one would care. St.Louis is and always will be a baseball town. The Rams current owner understands this and that is why he wants to head west and relocate at Hollywood Park in California.