Name: Aaron Donald
Position: Defensive Tackle
Stats: 59 tackles, 11 sacks, he registered his 11 sacks in 8 games out of 13.
The first game I'm going to look at is Aaron Donald versus Florida State. This game took place on September 2, 2013:
The first thing that jumps out at you is just how quick Donald is. He's not that quick at the snap of the ball, but overall he is just quick. He seems to get a lot of this quickness by getting exceptional leverage and being able to angle his to win matchups. He also seems to derive a lot of power from his lower body, which enables him to win matchups. He consistently pressures the QB on almost every passing down regardless of whether he is being double teamed or single teamed. He also seems to take solid angles on plays.
However, in the running game he seems to have some vulnerabilities. He is overly aggressive so he consistently misdiagnoses misdirection plays. He can also get pushed back a little bit in the running game. He needs to improve his hand ability to clear the blockers. He also needs to learn to read what offenses are doing. In that game at least, he only seemed to have average burst off the line of scrimmage but that may be because he is on the ball, and it's harder to judge. I think maybe he has great burst actually, because he seems to be in his stance right away. However, he definitely seems like a good player.
The next game I'm going to look at is Pitt versus Georgia Tech from November 2, 2013. In this game Aaron Donald has 11 tackles and 1 sack.
Aaron Donald displays a variety of moves. He uses his quickness to slash through the offensive line, he engages blockers and can swim through them, he can use his power to bull over blockers, and he has a spin move he can use to free himself of blockers. This kid is insane. I don't quite understand it. Maybe it's because he's right on the ball so it's harder to tell, but it's like this guy has hit his full stance while the offensive lineman is still getting up. On passing downs, this kid is getting pressure, period.
On any down, he is almost always the first guy to engage the blocker. As I stated before, he gets out of his stance and into full on attack mode way faster than anyone else. He can maintain his position, however, his aggressiveness kills him in the running game, which is fine, as long as it's a passing down. He doesn't really read screens well, or any misdirection plays. However, I blame that more on the defensive end then him, as those halfback slip screen plays need to be picked up on the edge, where the defensive end is. Overall, if he can play the run, he's the best player as of writing this.
The final game is Pitt versus Miami. He had 3 tackles and no sacks in this game, which took place on November 29, 2013.
Again, this guy is beyond elite at pressuring the QB. Nearly every play, regardless of whether he is single, double, or tripled team, this kid gets into the backfield. On almost every play in this game he was double or triple team. Regardless, he still impacted the passing game and running the game. He did it from both the DE and DT position. While, I'm not saying he should play DE, I do think he could be utilized as a DE on some plays to disrupt or confuse offenses. As usual, as soon as the ball is snapped he is in the backfield. He is a play maker.
He does need to become better at holding up against the run. I think that will be his achilles heel in the NFL. I think he is still going to be average at it at worst. He is just too quick not to be effective at it in the NFL.
Overall, Aaron Donald is the best DT I've seen so far. I would say he's even the best player I have seen. I think he might be a better pass rusher than Clowney. In the NFL he will push the QB out of the pocket and hopefully his DE's will be able to clean it up. I wouldn't be shocked if he averages between 8-12 sacks a year out of the DT position. He is just so quick and has such a great burst, to go along with an array of moves. I also wouldn't be surprised if he develops into an elite level player in the running game. Right now, if he is available when the Bears draft they should run up to the podium to land him.