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2017 Roster Preview: DE Aaron Donald, Holding For The Hall

Aaron Donald is perhaps the best player in the NFL. Are we looking at the beginning of the end of his time with the Rams?

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers v St Louis Rams Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

And so begins the final installment of our Roster Preview Series on our best player and perhaps the best player in the NFL.

When you think of the Los Angeles Rams, you typically think of their defense. When you think of their defense, the conversation should always start and stop with the same cat: DE Aaron Donald.

He’s not only the best 4-3 DT or 4-3 DE. He’s not only the best DL overall. He’s not even just the best defender. In my opinion. and I’m not alone, Aaron Donald is the best single player in the NFL.

According to PFF, Donald ranked as their second-best player in the league last year behind only New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, landing AD the DPOY award. Their list this year? They made a top 50 list going into this season with AD coming in at the #1 spot:

This graphic shows AD as the most productive and consistent pass rusher from an interior defensive line perspective, leaving him as the games most disruptive player.

Let’s take a look back at his illustrious college career. AD spent four years at Pitt. In those years he amassed 66 TFL’s, 29.5 sacks, 6 FF’s, and received these awards:

  • ACC defensive player of the year
  • Bronko Nagurski Trophy
  • Chuck Bednarik Award
  • Lombardi Award
  • Outland Trophy

Oh, and to boot, he’s collected this in the NFL:

  • 3x Pro Bowler
  • 2x First team All-Pro
  • PFWA All-Rookie team

Statistically, he made an impact the moment he stepped on the NFL field. Not starting the first 4 games of his rookie season, he still managed 9.0 sacks, with 28.0 sacks in his 3 year career as well as 6 FF’s. By the eye, basic stats, next gen stats, and just about every avenue that writes about football realizes the walking greatness that is Aaron Donald.

Roster Battle

There isn’t a “battle” of any sorts, but there are certain guys that will be considered his depth. With DE Dominique Easley (roster preview) out for the year, guys like Tanzel Smart (roster preview), Ethan Westbrooks (roster preview), and Louis Trinca-Pasat (roster preview) will be counted on to contribute, and likely play a significant amount of snaps.


AD is the on-field leader of this team. This defense goes as he goes. He’s had a HOF type start to his career. New Rams Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips is notoriously known for only creating better matchups, specifically 1 on 1’s for his best players. That can only bode well for the game’s biggest nightmare.

Ideally, AD will continue to demolish game plans. Usually, most of a interior defensive lineman's dominance just doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.... Which tells you how good he is considering his stats compare to the leagues best.

Chances of making the final roster (10/10)

I mean, there is no question here. The only real question is: When will AD get to training camp? Hopefully the Rams and AD’s representatives can work something out ASAP.

Donald is too elite not to be wreaking havoc right now.