Although former Pittsburgh Panthers star defensive tackle Aaron Donald is consistently compared to Cincinnati Bengals superstar DT Geno Atkins due to their similar talents as pass rushers despite their lack of size, Donald also has a healthy amount of respect for Detroit Lions superstar DT Ndamukong Suh.
According to the Detroit Free Press’s Dave Birkett, Donald said, “I love the way (Ndamukong) Suh plays. He’s a mean player, physical and dominates.”
Donald’s playing style doesn’t mirror that of Suh’s, and I actually think Donald is the opposite of Suh in some respects. Unlike Suh coming out of Nebraska, Donald doesn’t possess elite strength and can get overrun as a run blocker at times. However, he makes up for it by showing a terrific motor in pursuit, great gap discipline, and even better intelligence and anticipation. At times, Donald is able to read plays like a linebacker, and that allows him to avoid getting sucked in by blockers and dominated at the point of attack. His lack of size and strength is worrisome in the running game due to the difficulty of succeeding in the NFL, but those concerns pale in comparison to Donald’s obviously elite play as a pass rusher.
There is no doubt that Donald is worthy of a first-round pick right now after his dominant displays at the Senior Bowl, and he has shown that he can consistently play up with the nation’s elite. Donald was unquestionably the best defensive player in college football last season, as he hurried quarterbacks at a ridiculous rate. I remember watching his tape against Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles in the first week of the season and coming away even more impressed with Pitt’s star DT despite the blowout loss. He was ridiculously explosive and, like Suh, used his hands well to get off of double teams as a pass rusher. Donald has some weaknesses and doesn’t play like Suh, but it’s great to see that he respects Suh and it’s even more impressive to watch him dominate as a pass rusher.