Height: 6'0.5", Weight: 287 lbs
Strengths: After absolutely crushing the Senior Bowl, Donald's quickness, tenacity, and underrated strength are now well known. He's great at pressuring the QB and lead the country in sacks (1.6 per game) and tackles for loss (2.4 per game). Prior to the Senior Bowl, Donald was underrated and underappreciated. Now, he's rising up draft boards faster than just about any other player.
Donald is known as perhaps the most explosive DT in this draft. Once the ball is snapped, he comes off the line like he was shot out of a cannon. His quick, explosive first step is perhaps his strongest trait. He also has great leverage due to his height (or lack thereof). That leverage coupled with his impressive array of moves allows Donald to shoot the gap and disrupt the QB rather effectively. He has a relentless motor and never gives up on a play.
Weaknesses: Size. This is the obvious knack. Most evaluators think he's both shorter and lighter than ideal. Also, his arms are a little short. Once engaged by an offensive lineman, it can be difficult for Donald to beat a much larger, wider player. He'll obviously want to gain some weight. His size also affects him negatively when dealing with double teams. He's great at splitting them and getting to the QB, but not the best at occupying blockers.
Bottom Line: He has the best burst and beats offensive linemen quicker than any other DT in the draft. He'll make an excellent 4-3 DT or a 3-4 DE next to a larger NT that can demand and occupy double-teams. He's a day one starter who could cement his status with an excellent combine showing.
Player Comparison: Geno Atkins, Warren Sapp, and/or Sheldon Richardson. Atkins is 6'1", 303 lbs. and Sapp was 6'1.5", 285 lbs. when he was drafted. Quicker, smaller DTs.
Notable: 2013 - Unanimous All-American, Outland Trophy, Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Rotary Lombardi Award, Chuck Bednarik Award, ACC Defensive Player of the Year, First Team All-ACC, and CBSSports.com Defensive Player of the Year. 2012 - First Team All-Big East. 2011 - Second Team All-Big East.
Projected Round: 1, probably the second half.
Aaron Donald Highlights | 2013 Regular Season | PittLiveWire (via PittLiveWire)