NFL draft watch: DT Aaron Donald

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
12:00
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- Aaron Donald has continued at the Senior Bowl what he did during a storied a career at Pitt.

[+] EnlargeAaron Donald
AP Photo/Johnny VyThe Steelers have the advantage of familiarity with Pitt's Aaron Donald but have to wonder whether he fits into their defensive scheme.
The Penn Hills High School graduate has been the hardest player to block during practices, according to anyone within three zip codes of Mobile, Ala. No less an NFL draft authority than the NFL Network's Mike Mayock has compared Donald to Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins.

Whoa.

ESPN's NFL draft experts on the ground are similarly impressed with Donald. Here is one item from a story that Todd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl collaborated on after watching the Senior Bowl practices: "Donald showed the ability to beat offensive linemen with quickness, power and active hands, and his ability to do it so many different ways make it that much harder to keep him off the quarterback."

Sounds like a player who will really help a team.

And the Steelers should know as much if not more about Donald than any other team by the time the NFL draft rolls around in May.

Pitt shares a practice facility with the Steelers, and general manager Kevin Colbert has said the team does more homework on local prospects because proximity provides that advantage -- and because the Steelers don't want to let a potential great player get away.

The problem with Donald: He clearly is a better fit in 4-3 defense as an attacking tackle rather than a hold-the-point-of-attack end in a 3-4 scheme.

The 6-foot, 288-pound Donald is probably too small to play nose tackle in a 3-4 defense and would likely be miscast in that role, too.

But he also seems like a classic case of player who transcends measurables and can play regardless of scheme. The Steelers, I'm guessing, would love to keep Donald in Pittsburgh but their top picks will be used on players who are better fits for them and fill a need.

And since it is unlikely that Donald lasts beyond the second round of the draft, he will probably continue his football career outside of Pittsburgh.

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.


Insider