Miami Dolphins 2014 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Aaron Donald
Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald Scouting Report
The Miami Dolphins and GM Dennis Hickey may be prepping for the opening of free agency, which begins on March 11, but they're also discussing their plans for the upcoming draft on a daily basis.
So much can change between now and the draft, especially considering the Dolphins are expected to address a few of their most pressing needs with veteran players from the open market. But there are certain draft prospects who will likely remain a possibility for the team regardless of which free agents Hickey, along with cap specialist Dawn Aponte, come to terms with.
One player who the Dolphins are bound to consider if he's still around with the No. 19 overall pick is Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Paul Soliai and Randy Starks are both expected to test the market next week, and even if the Dolphins retain one of the two, a need for an interior lineman will persist.
If both walk, like many expect, Hickey will likely pursue a free agent from a group that includes Tony McDaniel, Henry Melton, Linval Joseph and Pat Sims. But with only three defensive tackles currently on the roster, the Dolphins will still be in need for another come May if they make a splash in free agency by signing one of the aforementioned tackles.
Donald is quickly rising up draft boards after draw-dropping performances at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. Once considered to be a day-two pick at best, it would be shocking if he fell out of the first round.
Should he be the Dolphins' selection if he's still around at pick No. 19? The following slideshow analyzes Donald's measurables, strength, weaknesses, film and potential fit in Miami.
Cody Strahm is a Miami Dolphins contributor for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @CodyJStrahm.
Collegiate Production and Measurables
2013 (Senior): Produced 59 tackles, 11.0 sacks, 28.5 tackles for loss, three defensed passes and four forced fumbles. Was one of the nation's most decorated players after winning the Outland Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award and Bronko Nagurski Award. Also, a first-team All-American and first-team All-ACC selection.
2012 (Junior): Registered 64 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss, two defensed passes and one forced fumble. Was a first-team All-Big East selection.
2011 (Sophomore): Tallied 47 tackles, 11.0 sacks, 16.0 tackles for loss, four defensed passes and one forced fumble. Took home second-team All-Big East honors.
2010 (Freshman): Made 11 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 3.0 tackles for loss and broke up two passes.
Weight: 285 pounds
Arm length: 32 5/8''
40-yard dash: 4.68
Bench press reps: 35
Vertical jump: 32.0
Broad jump: 116.0
Three-cone drill: 7.11
Donald's quickness off the snap is elite. He shoots out of his stance like he was fired out of a cannon, which allowed him to wreak havoc in the backfield at the collegiate level. There were occasions when Donald met the ball-carrier as he was receiving the hand off, and others when he was able to register a sack before the quarterback even finished his drop back. This ability to beat offensive linemen off the snap will enable Donald to routinely pressure the quarterback and disrupt running plays.
Donald is a very good athlete with quick feet. He plays with great awareness, allowing him to timely locate the ball in pursuit, and possesses ideal closing speed. Donald obtains the leverage advantage in many one-on-one battles thanks to his stature, and he works hard to finish in the trenches with an outstanding motor.
He was incredibly productive at Pittsburgh, racking up 27.5 sacks and 63 tackles for loss during his final three seasons -- insane numbers for an interior rusher. Donald has the potential to become one of the NFL's most prolific interior pass rushers, and comparisons to Geno Atkins are fair.
When Donald doesn't blow by his matchup off the snap, his undersized stature becomes a concern. Short arms, less-than-ideal height and a light frame for the position all could negatively affect Donald's ability to win battles in the trenches. When his first step is contained, some of the league's larger offensive linemen may stonewall him.
Donald is strong for his size, but doesn't have the power to anchor a defensive line, which requires the ability to consistently eat up double teams. He'll disrupt some running plays with penetration, but could be detrimental to a team's run defense when his quickness is mirrored properly.
There is some concern that his dominance at Pittsburgh won't translate to the NFL, seeing as though most pro linemen are stronger and quicker than the competition he often abused.
Potential Fit in Miami
Just because Donald is considered a first-round defensive tackle prospect and the Dolphins will need a defensive tackle or two if Soliai and Starks walk in free agency, doesn't mean he's the perfect fit for Kevin Coyle's defense.
Donald could be a dominant pass rusher at the next level, but the Dolphins already have a very good interior pass rusher in Jared Odrick. A team can never have too many pass rushers, especially in an increasingly pass happy league, but what the Dolphins must find this offseason is a run-stuffing defensive tackle who can anchor the team's defensive line on early downs.
Essentially, Miami should be in the market for a younger Soliai if they hope to improve on their 24th standing against the run from 2013. Although Donald has an elite ceiling as an interior pass rusher, he's not of the same mold as Soliai. Having said that, if the Dolphins can find a stout tackle in free agency, like Tony McDaniel, Pat Sims or Linval Joseph, nabbing Donald in the draft would potentially top off one of the leagues's best interior rotations.
If (big if) Donald is still on the board when the Dolphins are on the clock, chances are he'll be the best player available. And if Hickey addresses a good portion of the team's needs in free agency, he'll have the luxury of selecting the best player available at pick No. 19. Passing on a talent like Donald might haunt the Dolphins for years to come.