While watching the NFL Combine today my eyes were opened even further to a name that I’ve heard all year long in college football. Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald. The 6’0″ 285lbs lineman set several scouts’ ablaze by running an extremely impressive 4.68 40 yard dash. Of course that was the undercard to the Jadaveon Clowney circus that occurred today. Clowney ran an unofficial 4.47 which was faster than most WRs at the combine and faster than both Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton from previous combine workouts. Clowney also showed his immaturity and lack of work ethic by picking and choosing the workouts that he planned to do. But enough about that, let’s discuss Aaron Donald!
Donald has incredible strength and quickness for a young man his size. He’s proven from day 1 that he’s as good as advertised. At Pitt, Donald was productive throughout the season and registered 11 sacks and 28.5 tackles for loss this past season. Those numbers, accompanied with the undocumented number of plays that he purely influenced with his presence afforded him the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, the Nagurski, Bednarik, Outland, and Lombardi Awards for 2013. Impressed yet? You should be.
Let’s add along the fact that Aaron Donald has rarely been questioned about his work ethic, and doesn’t have any documented off field trouble. Donald is a gym freak who dedication in the weight room and film room, coupled with his athletic ability make him a flat out first round pick.
Now the question is, will he fall and fit the Saints’ defensive scheme. I would like to see Donald play the NT position for NOLA. He’s a great 3-technique DT and with his aforementioned quickness and strength he’ll be more than capable to continue the same amount of success that he accrued during his four years at Pitt. Donald could bring more versatility to the Saints defensive line using his strength on 1st and 2nd downs and his quickness on 3rd downs. This would give the Saints a lighter, faster, more athletic defensive front. There is also a possibility to move Akiem Hicks to the NT position and allow Donald to set the edge as a 3-4 DE. My ideals of moving Hick to NT are well documented if you’ve seen any of my previous articles.
But by setting Hicks at NT, and having Jordan, Donald (if selected), Junior Galette, and Rufus Johnson (if he can prove worthy of a starting position), along with Lofton and possibly Kevin Reddick (who also has a chance to prove himself worthy of starter reps) as the potential front 7 is quite a scary sight for any opposing offense. It’s just a thought.
The only problem I see with Donald is his ability to get off blocks from time to time. He doesn’t have the ideal length teams are looking for in a DT. He has some trouble using his hands to keep blockers off his body. Outside of that he would be a great fit for a rejuvenated Saints defense!