The St. Louis Rams had two top 15 selections in the 2014 NFL Draft, and after taking the highest rated offensive tackle at No. 2 overall they took the best defensive tackle in Aaron Donald at No. 13. Donald was the most disruptive three-technique defensive tackle in all of college football last season, and with a solid defense around him he should shine as a rookie in 2014.
The Rams already have two of the best defensive ends in the game in Robert Quinn and Chris Long, and adding Donald to that line makes them one of the scariest pass rushing units in the league. Donald finished his senior season at Pittsburgh with 28.5 tackles for a loss, the most in college football, and 11 sacks as well which ranked fourth in the ACC. While the stats show Donald knows how to make plays in the backfield, the tape proves he gets there through a multitude of ways.
Donald is small for the position at 6-foot-1, 285-pounds, but he’s deceptively strong for his size — 35 bench press reps at the combine — and easily pushes back single blockers while rarely losing ground when facing double teams. He also has a quick first step off the snap, and combining that with his active hands he’s able to get around blockers rather easily and into the opposing backfield.
While Donald is seen as a pure pass rusher right now and will likely see the field on just passing downs, he’s proven to be a capable run stopper in college and uses his strength to get off blocks and make plays on running backs in his vicinity. As a result of his current skill set, Donald will likely split time with Kendall Langford early on as the veteran is a more proven run stopper and will likely enter the game on short yardage situations, whereas Donald will be on the field in third-and-long situations or obvious passing downs.
Although Donald has yet to play a snap in the NFL, the Rams should be ecstatic they got such a disruptive pass rusher to add to their already dominant defensive line. He won’t be an every down player this early in his career, especially with Langford still on the roster, but I expect Donald to play a key role for the Rams this season and contend for the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Award as he makes his mark in this league as a sack master.