Earlier, I highlighted the New York Giants’ need for a defensive lineman by focusing on a defensive end prospect that they should target in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. However, following the departure of defensive tackle Linval Joseph, the team would be smart to also focus on the defensive tackle position.
Joseph played the role of the one-technique defensive tackle, and last year’s second-round pick, Jonathan Hankins, is expected to be ready to start in his place. However, the Giants’ 4-3 defensive scheme is set up for the three-technique defensive tackle to be in a position to penetrate up the field and get to the quarterback. Currently, the Giants are slated to start Cullen Jenkins at the three-tech defensive tackle spot. While Jenkins is a solid pass rusher who registered six sacks in 2013, his contributions against the run are a major part of what has made him a starter in the NFL.
The Giants have not had an elite pass rusher at three-technique defensive tackle in several years. After failed attempts to find one in free agency with Chris Canty and in the early rounds of the draft with Marvin Austin, the Giants would be wise to focus their attention on defensive tackle prospect Aaron Donald. He is best suited for the three-technique in a 4-3 defensive scheme and he has the speed, quickness, burst and strength to be an elite pass rusher.
Position: Defensive Tackle
Forty-Yard-Dash: 4.68 (fifth-best out of the DL at the NFL Combine)
Bench Press: 35 (best out of the DL at the NFL Combine)
3-Cone: 7.11 (third-best out of the DL at the NFL Combine)
Production: In three full-seasons as the starter, Donald racked up 181 total tackles, 115 solo tackles, 66 tackles for loss, 29.5 sacks, and six forced fumbles.
Strengths: The first thing you will notice when you break down any film of Donald is his unbelievable quickness in the box. He caries a solid base and he is able to keep his balance, which helps him penetrate into the backfield. He also possesses great lateral agility, which is reiterated by his three-cone drill performance. His straight-line speed, as evidenced by his 40-yard-dash time, allows him to project to multiple positions along the defensive line depending on down and distance. His game is not entirely based on quickness and speed, and he has consistently shown strength that was on display throughout 2013 — when he was faced with double teams, tasked to stop the run and in the bench press at the NFL Combine.
Weaknesses: Donald does not possess the ideal size that most teams are searching for in an NFL defensive tackle. At just above 6-feet tall, weighing in at 285 pounds, Donald is considered small compared to most at his position in the NFL. Although he has had some success when facing double teams, occasionally I saw him struggle to get to the quarterback when faced with a double team. Some can point to concerns with his down 2012 season, where he only registered 5.5 sacks.
NFL Comparison: Geno Atkins or Jason Hatcher
Projected Round: First
Overall: If the Giants select Donald, they will be getting a versatile defensive lineman who can play in multiple positions and packages right away in 2013. On early run downs, they can kick Jenkins out to LDE and use Donald inside at the three-technique. In their traditionally used NASCAR package, they can feature both Donald and Jenkins on the inside. Also, Donald displays the skill-set to kick to defensive end on obvious run-downs.