The Miami Dolphins could have options when the 2014 NFL Draft rolls around to the 19th overall selection in May. While the consensus today is that the team has to address the offensive tackle position with their first round selection, it could be defensive tackle that is the biggest need once free agency begins. Enter Pittsburgh prospect Aaron Donald.
While Donald is smaller than most people would like at the defensive tackle position (6'1", 285 pounds at the combine), he's absolutely a top-notch prospect with a ton of potential. So much so that in his latest Notebook article, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets defensive end, and current SB Nation contributor, Stephen White states, "if Donald was three inches taller he would easily by my No. 1 overall draft pick in May."
An in depth look at exactly what Donald could bring to the NFL, White spent time watching five game films on Donald and comes away feeling that the Pitt defensive tackle "played like a much taller and bigger man." He continues, writing, "That speaks to the high level of technique he uses to win his individual battles play after play after play."
White clearly likes Donald, and is impressed with what he could bring to the NFL. One passage early in his article sums up Donald's film:
On tape, you see him use his hands to disengage from the blocker whenever possible to try to make a play on the ball. This is why he had such ridiculous tackles for loss numbers this year. Once Donald freed himself from a blocker, he allowed himself to maximize his athleticism and catch the runner before he could cross the line of scrimmage.
You just don't see guys coming out of college with that high level of technique on a regular basis. Hell, you have some guys starting in the NFL and playing well that don't show hand-fighting at that level. You can put Donald in any defense at any position up front and expect him to succeed because of how polished he is.
Let me tell you about some of the things I saw.
There was the compact arm-over Donald did on a left guard, and then he went right into a rip on the center with little to no wasted motion. He did this repeatedly, and time and again he got pressure on the quarterback. He wasn't quite as good as working against the right guard, but just the fact that he had this move down was impressive. Most guys would try a wide swim move and/or forget to rip the center.
Donald did it in identical fashion every time he tried it.
Not everything White saw from Donald had the positive impact on him. One section of his nearly 2,400 word scouting report focuses simply on Donald not performing on every snap. "Unfortunately, I also saw Donald loafing quite a bit in every game," White explains, "and that just goes against everything I was taught as a defensive player going all the way back to my days in college at the University of Tennessee (Go Vols!)."
White sums up his look at Donald by stating:
All it takes is one team, as the saying goes. I have a feeling at least one team in the top half of the draft will look past Donald's height and weight, and draft him on the merit of being a good football player. I know I would.
The Dolphins rotated three starters at the two defensive tackle positions last season, with Jared Odrick, Paul Soliai, and Randy Starks all filling the middle of the defensive line. Both Starks and Soliai, however, are scheduled to be free agents and could put Miami in the market for a player exactly like Donald. White projects him to go to the Dallas Cowboys with the 16th overall selection, but if he is still on the board at 19, he could be an intriguing option for the Dolphins, especially if they are able to fill some of their offensive line needs in free agency.
Check out White's entire look at Donald by following the Must Read link on the right above. It's really well written and worth the time.