Since he entered the NFL in 2014, LA Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is second in sacks behind only Chandler Jones, a dominant player in expected position for sack production on the edge. Donald ranks first in QB hits by 16 more than any other player and 27 more tackles for a loss than second place Cam Jordan.
The closest player in sacks at a similar position to Donald would be J.J. Watt, who has 59.5 sacks since 2014 compared to 72 for Donald. Watt was perhaps even more dominant 2012-2015 than any four years of Donald, but he was playing in arguably the NFL’s weakest division compared to Donald in the NFL’s strongest. And Watt has unfortunately missed at least half of a season in three of the last four years. Donald has managed to stay healthy and has made five straight first team All-Pro rosters.
Donald has not only dominated every other defensive tackle or 3-4 defensive end during his six NFL seasons in general, but especially so as a pass rusher. As ProFootballFocus pointed out on Monday morning, according to their opinions that become grades, no defensive tackle since 2006 had a better season as a pass rusher than Donald in 2018 when he had career-highs 20.5 sacks and 41 QB hits.
Second place was Donald, when he had 11 sacks and 27 QB hits in 2017.
Third place was Donald, when he had eight sacks and 31 QB hits in 2016.
Fourth place was Donald, when he had 11 sacks and 37 QB hits in 2015.
But to change things up, just kidding, fifth place was Aaron Donald. LA Rams defensive tackle. When he had 12.5 sacks and 24 QB hits in 2019.
Highest single-season pass-rush grades for DTs since 2006— PFF (@PFF) May 11, 2020
1. Aaron Donald, 2018
2. Aaron Donald, 2017
3. Aaron Donald, 2016
4. Aaron Donald, 2015
5. Aaron Donald, 2019 pic.twitter.com/ORYduryP2x
Donald has 3.5 fewer career sacks than Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins, even though Atkins entered the NFL four years earlier. He has 13.5 more career sacks than Gerald McCoy, who also came into the NFL four years earlier. It wouldn’t be hard to see that two or three seasons from now, only the name John Randle sits ahead of Donald on the career sacks chart (137.5 for Randle, 96.5 for Warren Sapp) for defensive tackles.
But for even a single season, can any other DT in the league compete with Donald right now?
No. It doesn’t seem so.