Although the Los Angeles Rams are still under a bit of a renovation, they can at least take solace in the fact that they have perhaps the best defensive player in the league in defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Since being taken with the 13th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Donald has somehow continued to build on his already spectacular seasons and is well-regarded by both peers and well-respected sources as the league’s premier defensive player.
For the second consecutive season, Donald was once again awarded Defensive Player of the Year by Pro Football Focus:
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 26, 2017
While his numbers may have taken a dip from last season, Donald was still extremely productive nonetheless. Perhaps what is even more impressive than being Defensive Player of the Year was the fact that he also beat out Von Miller and Khalil Mack as the league’s best pass-rusher:
Congrats to @AaronDonald97 for being named PFF's Best Pass-Rusher for the 2016 season.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 25, 2017
While it may seem like a bit of a stretch to some given the raw numbers, his selection actually makes sense when considering the difference in position. As primarily an interior defender, Donald is prone to both double and triple-teams much more often than edge rushers like Mack and Miller. As a three-time All-Pro in as many years, his mere presence already demands he be blocked by two or more players. This was certainly the case towards the latter part of the season as the Rams defensive line began to break down with injuries.
However, with new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips in town to implement his ‘hybrid 3-4’ defense, it can hopefully reduce the attention on Donald as he is already working to impress the new coaching staff — if that is even still necessary at this point.