Nov 23, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Aaron Donald (97) is blocked by Syracuse Orange guard Nick Robinson (68) during the second quarter at the Carrier Dome. Pittsburgh defeated Syracuse 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
DT Aaron Donald is generating major buzz in the final weeks of the pre-draft process. Originally looked at as a late first round prospect, Donald’s tape and workouts have now convinced many evaluators that he could and should be a top 10 pick.
NFL scouts seem to agree with the draftnik assessment of Donald’s value. One AFC executive reportedly told Ian Rapoport that he thinks Donald is the best defensive lineman to come out in the last ten years, comparing Donald to Hall of Fame defensive tackle John Randle.
That sounds like hyperbole, but there is a basis for the comparison at least in terms of physical attributes and raw skill set. Donald has the same compact build as Randle and possesses a similar explosive quickness on the inside of the line.
Randle in his day revolutionized the defensive tackle position, completely changing how personnel people evaluate interior defensive linemen. After Randle, defensive tackles no longer had to be big, beefy and powerful.
Playing half his games on the Metrodome turf, where his quickness was maximized, Randle became an absolute terror for NFL quarterbacks, compiling numbers that would eventually land him in Canton.
Players like Donald are the beneficiaries of the revolution Randle started. Once upon a time, a DT as small as Donald would never have gotten this kind of attention. Even now, there are some dissenters who think Donald is too small to be an every-down interior lineman in the NFL.
But there are a lot of people who take the opposite view. They believe Donald can be a dominating force in the league, the next Geno Atkins.
Mike Zimmer knows all about Atkins and the impact he can have on a game with his explosive penetration. The Vikings right now have Sharrif Floyd penciled in as their starting 3-tech, but their pursuit of Henry Melton in free agency has convinced many that Zimmer is not high on Floyd’s abilities.
If Zimmer thinks an upgrade is needed at defensive tackle, Donald could be the man they are targeting. If you want to sell Donald to Viking fans, just keep mentioning John Randle.