Aaron Donald looks different than other defensive tackles. And most other people.
Aaron Donald could eat you pic.twitter.com/9TgacX4nno— Going Deep Podcast (@goingdeep) August 12, 2020
At 6’1 and roughly 280 pounds, Donald appears to be the lightest defensive tackle or 3-4 defensive end in the NFL who had more than three sacks. Of course, Donald had 12.5 sacks. Even looking at all players across the NFL, only Danielle Hunter (roughly 260) was a lighter player to accumulate at least 12 sacks.
Among all players, Donald is also the shortest to have at least eight sacks, with Grady Jarrett (6-feet, 7.5 sacks) falling just shy of both numbers. Donald is also 100-percent muscle. Doctors can’t explain it. Scientists can’t explain it. Graphic artists can’t explain it. Aaron Donald manages to live and breathe and sack despite his entire physique being made up of muscle.
"I've been lifting too!"— NFL (@NFL) August 10, 2020
Donte Deayon is trying to get on @AaronDonald97's level. @AyoItsND (via @NFLFilms)
: #HardKnocks | Tuesday at 10pm on @HBO pic.twitter.com/Igt7C30Ho0
So much so does Donald sack that since entering the NFL as the 13th overall pick in 2014, 12 picks behind a player who he should have gone ahead of, Donald ranks second in sacks, first in QB hits, first in tackles for a loss, and second in Adjusted Value.
What is Adjusted Value?
AV is really just a number and the story of how it is calculated can be found on Pro-Football-Reference’s website. Here’s a short snippet:
Now, for all defensive players, we compute:
individual_points = [(games played) + 5*(games started) + sacks + 4*(fumble recoveries) + 4*(interceptions) + 5*(defensive TDs) + (tkl_constant)*(tackles)] + (all_pro_bonus)
The story DOES continue on after that — there is more to calculate — but if you really want to know, I suggest clicking over and digging into the meat. The muscle, if you will.
PFR also readily admits that there is no fair way to compare a defensive tackle from 2019 and an offensive guard from 1993. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t even really make sense to try and compare a defensive tackle from today and a guard from today, but we also do that anyway, don’t we?
Among all defensive players, Donald’s 93 ranks first since coming into the league in 2014. In second is Bobby Wagner at 92, but then a large drop off until you get to Von Miller at 84, Calais Campbell at 81, and the recently retired Luke Kuechly at 80. And the reality is that the 29-year-old Donald may not have yet hit the halfway mark on his career.
Donald and Wagner are also two of eight players to make each of the last six Pro Bowls and they are the only two players to make five of the last six first team all-pro rosters. And they also play in the same game twice per season, which is more notable than we tend to give it credit. If “Brady-Manning” was meant to be a thing ... they didn’t ever “face off” either.
But Donald does get to face off against the player ranked first in AV since 2014, which happens to be Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. In those matchups, Donald has also come out with an advantage more often than not:
Since 2014, Seattle is 4-8 against the Rams and Wilson has been sacked 42 times in 12 games.
In those cases, Donald has almost always looked better than Wilson. And most other people.