Despite being undersized for the defensive tackle position, Aaron Donald was utterly dominant at Pittsburgh. In his three seasons as a starter, Donald recorded a ridiculous 27.5 sacks and 63 tackles for loss. That jaw dropping production highlights that despite his lack of the ideal size for the position, Donald is an incredibly effective player because of his ability to penetrate into the backfield with his explosive burst.
That burst and natural pass rushing ability have NFL scouts thrilled despite his limitations as a run defenders. NFL teams see Donald as the ideal 3 tech defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense where his penetration and pass rushing ability could maximized. With every team looking to generate more pressure on the quarterback Donald will be a hot commodity and likely selected in the top 16 picks.
Athleticism: Incredible athlete, ran a 4.68 40 yard dash with a 1.59 10 yard spilt at the combine despite weighting 285 pounds, put up 36 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, incredible blend of power and speed, quick twitch athlete with amazing quickness and translates his athleticism onto the football field.
Burst: Explodes out of his stance, incredible first step, able to spilt blocks with ease, wins with his combination of quickness and power, devastating against the pass and run, lived in opponents backfields, quick enough to play some defensive end in certain schemes and is the primary reason why Donald was so effective at Pitt.
Leverage: Naturally stout with good pad level, powerful rusher with a awesome bull rush, collapses the pocket well, can impact field goals with his power and compliments his explosive burst well.
Pass Rushing Moves: Great rip move, utilizes his lateral quickness well, good hand fighting skills, powerful punch and interior linemen struggle to match his quickness.
Productive: 1st team All-American in 2013, led the NCAA in tackles for loss with 28.5 last season, led Pitt with 11 sacks last season, productive as a sophomore and junior as well with 34.5 TFL and 16.5 sacks combined in those two seasons and dominated the Senior Bowl.
Size/Length: Doesn't have the ideal size, too short with average length arms, allows tackles to engage him first and dictate the battle, might become more of an issue against larger NFL linemen, only 290 pounds and if he doesn't win at the snap can be handled with ease.
Run Defense: Lacks the size to anchor at the point of attack consistently, penetrating style can leave gaps open, struggles to fight off blocks and was pushed around by doubles teams.
Overall: As with most undersized defensive linemen, Donald's game is centered around his quickness and incredible burst. When Donald wins at the snap with his quickness he is a dominate force that lives in the oppositions backfield. His raw power and speed are unmatched in the trenches and he can single handedly blow up a play with his penetration. But if Donald doesn't win at the snap his lack of size/length is evident and his impact is minimal as his short arms make it hard for him to fight off blocks.
This boom or bust type of player makes Donald a difficult prospect to project, particularly with NFL linemen being so much bigger/longer than their college counterparts. But in the right system, a 3 tech in a 4-3 defense, Donald could become a real difference maker with his penetration. With that potential some 4-3 team, likely Dallas or Chicago, would be more that willing to select Donald in the first 16 picks.
Prediction: Top Half of the 1st Round
Other 2014 Pass Rushers Scouting Reports: