Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
6'1", 285 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.68
Vertical Jump: 32"
Bleacher Report recently ranked the top 300 players in college football; Aaron Donald was #1. With 59 tackles and 11 sacks, Donald had one of the most productive years of any defensive player. He won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy which is awarded to the best defensive player in college football. Donald also won the Chuck Bednarik Award, Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award. There is no question that he is one of the most productive players in the 2014 NFL Draft, but there are questions regarding his size.
In the last five years of the NFL Combine, the average weight for a defensive tackle was 304 pounds; Donald only weighs 285 pounds. Scouts are concerned that he will not physically match-up with the mammoth Offensive Lineman in the NFL. At only 6-1, Donald will not be tall enough to block many balls also. So if Donald is supposedly "to small", then why draft him?
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Aaron Donald ran a 4.68 40-yard dash proving that he is one of the most athletic defensive lineman in the draft. To compare, Carlos Hyde and Jeremy Hill both ran a 4.66. His 40-yard dash was the 5th best among defensive lineman (including defensive ends). While Donald is small, he is extremely strong. At the combine, he posted 35 reps on the bench which was the 2nd best among defensive lineman.
Aaron Donald's biggest strength is his quickness. He looks like a cannon ball coming out of his initial step. Donald uses his small height to his advantage as he often gains leverage from exploding underneath the shoulder pads of his opponents. His effort is tremendous as he never gives up on his pursuit. As his 11 sacks show, Donald is an elite pass rusher.
The biggest knock on Donald is his weight. At only 285 pounds, scouts are worried he might be dominated by larger offensive lineman in the NFL. His small frame creates a larger hole in the "a" gap of the running game. Where larger defensive tackles like Louis Nix III can just fill up holes with their huge body, Donald does not have that luxury and constantly has to work around blockers on run plays. He also has small arms which create less separation between him and his opponent making it harder for him to shed blockers.
Pro Comparison: Geno Atkins
For more Aaron Donald game film, visit his player profile at draftbreakdown.com