Aaron Donald, NT, Pittsburgh
The Bears had many needs on defense heading into this off-season. They were tied for last in sacks (31), and gave up a whopping 161.4 rushing yards per game (worst in the NFL). They were one of the teams that fantasy football managers were looking to start RBs against every week. They addressed some of these needs by signing DE Jared Allen, S Danny McCray, S M.D. Jennings, S Ryan Mundy, and DE Lamarr Houston. One might think this would lead them to look for a better option at LB, but the problem with that is that picking one here would probably be a stretch.
When I look at the players available, though, Aaron Donald stands out. And that is why I am mocking him to the Bears here. Let's take a look at Donald and what makes him special before everybody jumps to vote and comment.
Just looking at his frame leaves one a bit unimpressed. Heck, he is only 6'1" and weighs in at 285 pounds. When you look at the game tape and his stats, though, it is hard not to wonder why he isn't being drafted higher. Heck, he was a First-team All-American, selected to the first-team All-ACC team and earned the Outland Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, and Bronko Nagurski Award for the 2013 season. He finished the 2013 season with 59 tackles, 28.5 TFL (1st in the country), 11 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. Those types of stats are out of this world for any player, let alone a defensive tackle. He wasn't a one year wonder, either...as a sophomore (2011) he tallied 47 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks. His junior year started slowly, but he finished off strong and managed 64 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, one forced fumble and two passes broken up. Here are his college career stats: 181 tackles, 66.0 tackles for loss, 29.5 sacks and six forced fumbles. I'd take that production (minus 11 tackles 3 TFL and 2 sacks as a freshman) at DT over a three year period any day of the week.
So how does somebody so undersized for a DT amass such jaw-dropping statistics? First of all, he uses his speed (4.68 40 at the combine), quick hands, and a variety of moves to whiz past linemen and get into the backfield to disrupt plays. And on top of that, he utilizes his low center of gravity and strength to push his blockers back on highly effective bull rushes. On run defense, he does best attacking up field. He's very strong at the line and holds his position very well for his size. There are many who thought Donald would have problems against some of the better guards one-on-one at the Senior Bowl. He stopped that kind of talk when he drove Baylor offensive guard Cyril Richardson back on every snap. Where he will struggle a bit is with people running right at him. I would think a good DC can account for this, though. All of this makes him an effective three down player instead of just being a one-trick pony.
I think to really get a good idea of what a team will be getting in Donald, though, you have to both look at game tape and listen to what people around him say about him. Watching the game tape will show you that he never gives up on a play. He is always active and chasing after the play, wherever it may go. This is the type of thing that can't be taught and what many fans wish they saw in all of their favorite players. And when you listen to what people say about him, you begin to see that Donald has a strong work ethic. Inoke Breckterfield, Donald's position coach at Pitt, says this about him, "Junior year, as 3-4 nose tackle, he had 11 sacks. He comes back his senior year and knocks it out of the park. He's played in multiple systems. I think he can play anywhere on the defensive line. 3-4 teams really looking at him to see if he can be that 3-4 end or 3-4 nose. Wherever you put him at, he'll work his tail off. Wherever they decide to take him, he'll mold himself into that guy."
When I hear comments like that, it reminds me of the players that Donald has been compared to...John Randle, Warren Sapp, and Geno Atkins. The idea of him moving around the line actually reminds me a lot of John Randle. And Atkins has actually given his stamp of approval to this comparison. It caught my eye that Belichick was quoted in that article as saying that he thought Atkins would have been the first pick in the draft based upon his current NFL production. That is some high praise.
Still not convinced? Watch this highlight reel and see what you think:
I especially liked the play at the 1:21 mark where he tackles both the QB and the RB.
Even though DT isn't a need for the Saints, I wish that we had a shot at getting him. He is that good. As it stands, the Bears will most likely have an All-Pro in the making if they take him here.
Thanks to all the CSC members who participated in this year's community mock draft. Without your help, none of this would be possible.
Below are the complete results from our community mock draft.
Catch up with all of the mock draft selections in our 2014 CSC Community Mock Draft Hub.
QB Teddy Bridgewater - Louisville
|St. Louis Rams
|DE Jadeveon Clowney - South Carolina
|Kevin Sean Held
|QB Johnny Manziel - Texas A&M
|WR Sammy Watkins - Clemson
|LB Khalil Mack - Buffalo
|OT Greg Robinson - Auburn
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|QB Blake Bortles - UCF
|CB Justin Gilbert - Oklahoma St.
|OT Jake Matthews - Texas A&M
|WR Mike Evans - Texas A&M
|Monkey Poop Battle
|LB Anthony Barr - UCLA
|TE Eric Ebron - UNC
|St. Louis Rams
|S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix - Alabama
|NT Aaron Donald - Pittsburgh
|Monkey Poop Battle
|Green Bay Packers
|Kansas City Chiefs
|San Diego Chargers
|New Orleans Saints
|New England Patriots
|San Francisco 49ers