Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald
As we continue to look at potential Detroit Lion first round picks, we will take a closer look at Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Donald was a relatively unknown player prior to his explosive combine. Part of him being overlooked as a first round pick could have been due to his size. Donald stands at only six foot one, but weighs in at two hundred and eighty five pounds. As with all positions, players with height usually are more coveted than smaller players, especially on a Detroit team that features a six foot five defensive end in Ezekiel Ansah and a six foot seven inch defensive end on Devin Taylor. At defensive tackle, current Detroit starters Ndamukung Suh and Nick Fairley measure in at six foot four each. That makes for a very tall defensive line. So why would a team like Detroit, who features three first round picks on the defensive line, want to spend a fourth first round pick on a defensive lineman, specifically when two of the three first round picks were for the current starters at defensive tackle?
In short, the answer is uncertainty at the position. Suh is currently negotiating a long term deal and his contract ends at the end of the 2015 season. Fairley just had his fifth year option declined by Detroit Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew, ultimately meaning his contract is also up at the end of the 2015 season. With question marks at both starting defensive tackle positions, it would benefit the Lions to have an insurance policy and Aaron Donald would be one heck of an insurance policy. Realistically, the Lions expect Suh will be extended and Fairley is probably not going to be back after his contract expires. This leaves one vacancy at the position and one that Donald would fit nicely. But why Donald? Why not look at a late round pick to be Fairley’s eventual replacement?
The best answer is to look at Donald’s combine results. He posted a ridiculous unofficial speed in the 4.5 range but the official time registered at 4.68 which is still great for a defensive tackle. He is not just a one trick pony though. He also has great strength as he threw up two hundred twenty five pounds in the bench press a crazy thirty five times. By comparison, he registered one of the highest bench press repetitions in the combine this year. For those of you curious if that number is good or not, at my strongest in high school I managed to throw that weight up fifteen times and I am six foot tall, so for someone with the same arm length I can attest that those are some great numbers. Perhaps just as impressive as those numbers is that he ran the three cone in 7.11 seconds which is among the best at his position. So in summary, you are looking at a player who is fast for his size, quick and agile for his size, and as strong as an ox.
The final question we have to ask is, how would Donald fit with the Lions current team? Well, size for one would be a negative as he is shorter and lighter than the current defensive tackles. Donald’s speed and strength would be an asset to an already good defensive line. I can imagine that lining up a player with a high motor, good speed and great strength next to someone that constantly demands double teams could enhance the pass rush. Given Nick Fairley’s status with the team, selecting Donald would not be a bad choice.