Draft Profile: Aaron Donald
Aaron Donald consistently shows incredible burst off the line of scrimmage. At least a few times per game he is able to drive the left guard deep into the pocket and cause a sack. As we all know, interior pressure is one way to win on defense, and Donald brings that each and every play. In addition to his elite quickness, Donald uses his hands very well. When coming off the ball, Donald uses his hands to resist the initial punch from the opposing blocker and then bend around the edge to get to the quarterback.
Combining Donald’s quickness with the ability to use his hands is a rare combination of skills, leading to elite production from the defensive tackle. Some said that he would struggle against some of the better guards one-on-one at the Senior Bowl. The former Panther put that narrative to rest after driving Baylor offensive guard Cyril Richardson back each and every time. Donald will be a very good three technique in the NFL right away with those two traits, but he does suffer in one aspect of the game.
Being undersized hurts a defensive tackle no matter how strong or quick he may be. At just 6’1″ and 285 pounds, Donald lacks the size to be a consistent force in the running game. If he doesn’t win on his first move, his body mass is too easy to move or contain against the run. There is an example at 2:25 in the following clip. But in Donald’s case, his hands and quickness do not fail him often. Donald’s lack of weaknesses project well to the NFL for one reason, his floor is a dominant nickel defensive tackle.
Donald won nearly every award possible in his senior season at Pittsburgh. He was able to accrue 59 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. That production is unheard of, especially for a defensive tackle. Everywhere he has gone, Donald has been dominant. He was dominant in high school at Penn Hills, dominated in college at Pittsburgh, and dominated the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. It is only a matter of time before he will try to reach the last step: dominate in the NFL.