2014 NFL Draft Profile: Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald


Nov 23, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Aaron Donald (97) is blocked by Syracuse Orange guard Nick Robinson (68) during the second quarter at the Carrier Dome. Pittsburgh defeated Syracuse 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Overview: After an absolutely stellar combine performance at the Combine you’ve probably heard of Aaron Donald, and if you follow college football you had probably already heard of him.  The former Pitt Panther was one of the most dominant players in the country last season, recording 11 sacks and a staggering 28.5 tackles for loss.  He was also a first-team All-American, and won the Bednarik and Nagurski awards.  At the Senior Bowl, Donald had one of the best weeks of practice of anyone there.


  • Quick off the snap and gets up field in a hurry.  On tape, Donald often gets past the opposing offensive lineman before he can get all the way out of his stance.
  • Has an Elite swim move.
  • Uses natural leverage well.  Football is a game where the low man wins and this guy knows how to use his 6-1 frame.
  • Good motor.  Never gives up on a play and often chases plays down from behind.
  • Nearly impossible to trap block.  Don’t even think about using tricky blocking techniques, he’ll be in the backfield before the offensive lineman gets a hand on him.
  • Uses his hands well.  Has unusually long arms (32 5/8 inches) and large hands (9 7/8 inches) for a man of his height, and uses them to his advantage when shedding blocks.
  • Unusually Strong for his size.  Put up 35 bench press reps of 225 at the combine and that strength really shows up in games.  Bull rushes remarkably well for a guy who only weighs 285.


  • Plays out of control at times. Gets up the field too fast or hit a gap too hard and miss the running back.
  • Gets swallowed up by double teams.  If he doesn’t beat the double team with his quickness at the snap, he’s unlikely to beat it at all.
  • Size concerns.  At 6-1 285, He’s not exactly a prototypical defensive tackle.

NFL Player Comparison: Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals.  This comparison is a no brainer; the measurable are just so close it’s absurd.  While under-sized, Atkins has developed into a Pro Bowler and one of the most feared interior pass rushers in the game today.

The Way I See It: If Phil Emery picked Aaron Donald with the 14th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, I would cheer.  This kid can downright play.  I saw shades of Tommy Harris when I was watching him on tape, and that sort of presence has been missing from the Bears defense since Tommy got hurt.  It will be interesting to see if the Bears retain Henry Melton in free agency this March.  If they do, this pick might not happen.  I don’t see Aaron Donald being a nose tackle and I doubt they would want two high-priced 3-technique defensive tackles on the roster.