Friday, May 9, 2014
Scouting 13th pick Aaron Donald
By Nick Wagoner
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams might have caught some by surprise when they chose Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald with the 13th pick in Thursday night's first round of the NFL draft.
But for those paying attention, the Rams have been in search of a certain style of defensive tackle to join the rotation, a style they don't currently have. Which is to say they wanted a 3-technique tackle capable of collapsing the pocket.
Donald's statistics strongly indicate he fills that role. This isn't about being disappointed with Michael Brockers or Kendall Langford's performance, it's about finding a complement to them. Donald had 11 sacks and led the nation with 28 1/2 tackles for loss last year. The Rams wanted someone who can come in on third down and sure passing situations to wreak havoc while Langford and Brockers handle run-stuffing duties.
It also allows the Rams to use William Hayes more at defensive end instead of having to move him around so much. That helps the defensive line rotation.
While Donald's numbers speak for themselves, let's turn it over to someone who has watched him play quite a bit. ESPN's Notre Dame/ACC reporter Matt Fortuna offered this scouting report:
"Aaron Donald was the best defensive player in college football last season. As Pitt was quick [and correct] to remind us, he may have been the game's best defensive lineman in recent memory. The school sent out graphics last season comparing Donald's campaign to that of Ndamukong Suh's famed 2009 season at Nebraska, and Donald's more than stacked up.
Donald's trophy case speaks for itself, as does the fact that he had a tackle for loss in all but one game last season (a Nov. 9 win over Notre Dame). One can argue he single-handedly took the Panthers to the postseason in their first year of ACC play, as his 3 1/2 tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries and blocked extra point in a 17-16 win at Syracuse on Nov. 23 notched win No. 6 for his team. His performance in a Nov. 2 loss at Georgia Tech may have been more impressive, with the defensive tackle notching six tackles for loss against a Yellow Jackets team that ran just 63 offensive plays — meaning nearly 10 percent of said plays ended with Donald making a stop behind the line of scrimmage.
Of course, there were other numbers that often got thrown last fall whenever someone spoke of Donald — 6-foot-1, 285 pounds. While the frame is less than ideal for an interior lineman, Donald has proven through both his play and his combine performances that the issue should be mitigated, as he possesses a strong first step and great leverage, with a work ethic that should compensate for his physical shortcomings."