The St. Louis Rams surprised many when they drafted Aaron Donald in the first round of the NFL Draft this May. Even before the draft started the best position group on the Rams roster was their defensive line, and although drafting Donald wasn't the Rams biggest need, they chose him anyway.
The former University of Pittsburgh defensive tackle was hailed as the second-best defensive lineman in the draft during the process. He was a force in his senior season with 28.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and four forced fumbles.
Let's look at his combine numbers. He ran a 4.68 in the 40 yard dash and did 35 reps on the bench, top five results in both of categories. His pass rushing ability was the talk of the town, which is something that is pretty rare among defensive tackles. Donald uses his quick first step, speed, and technique to beat opposing offensive linemen again and again.
The biggest issues against Donald revolves around his small stature. Donald is 6-foot-1, and under 300 pounds, which is pretty small compared to other defensive tackles. You have to question his ability to play the run and stuff the hole as well because of how small he is.
Expectations this season
Drafting Donald was a smart move by the Rams, and there's no pressure to rush him into a starting role. Donald will be a big part of the Rams defensive line, but there's no reason for the Rams to start him since they have Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford already starting at defensive tackle.
Since the Rams rotate their defensive line so much, it doesn't matter if Donald is classified as a starter, he will have his share of snaps. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Rams play Donald mainly on third-downs, or long yardage situations, at least for this season. This will allow Donald more time to adjust to the NFL, the Rams used a similar strategy with Robert Quinn when he was a rookie, and that worked out pretty well.
I have high expectations for Donald, I expect him to get some tackles for loss, and have more than seven sacks his rookie year. I would also like to see him disrupt the backfield and bring runners down. Donald is the best interior pass rusher the Rams have and if he can play to his potential, the rest of the defensive line should play better.
Will he make the Rams 2014 roster?
As long as Donald isn't a bust, then he will be a Ram for a long time.