Move over, JJ Watt. Sorry, Cam Newton. Better luck next year, Von Miller.
Following just his second NFL season, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald has been touted as the NFL’s No. 1 player by Pro Football Focus. Last year’s No. 1, JJ Watt, dropped down four slots to No. 5 after holding the top spot three-straight years.
A Pro Bowler in each of his first two seasons, Donald was first team All-Pro in 2015 and selected by PFF as the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. Last season, Donald was No. 18 on PFF’s list.
Here’s a bit of what PFF had to say about the big D-lineman from the University of Pittsburgh:
Dethroning J.J. Watt from atop of the PFF Top 101 takes some serious production. Coming into this season, Watt was the No. 1 name on the list for three straight years following his breakout sophomore campaign, and it looked like he would remain there as long as he stayed on the field. For Aaron Donald to force himself into the same kind of echelon already in his career is truly staggering. Donald was the highest-graded interior defender in the league, and in his second season—just like Watt—he pushed that grade into the stratosphere. The Rams’ star may not have posted the kind of numbers Watt did, but Donald played exclusively inside as a defensive tackle, whereas Watt has become a true edge rusher, a position that typically generates far better stats than their interior teammates. Donald still ended the season with 79 total pressures and 51 defensive stops, and actually gained more pressure on a per-rush basis than the Texan. Donald may have the quickest first step in the game among linemen, and was a constant presence in the backfield of offenses, blowing up plays against the run and pass with frightening regularity. He may not have the ideal size that teams look for, but there was no better NFL player in 2015.
High praise for a guy that doesn’t play one of the glamor positions in the NFL.
With veterans Chris Long and James Laurinaitis departing from the Rams’ defense this season, Donald has already said he’s looking to add leadership to his list of attributes for next season.
It’s a big void to fill but it sounds like the Rams have the right man for the job.