Aaron Donald doesn’t play a premier position for the Rams, but he’s established himself as not only the best defensive tackle in the NFL, but the most dominant player at any position. You earn that title by winning three Defensive Player of the Year awards, earning six All-Pro selections and setting the NFL record for the most sacks in a season by a defensive tackle (20.5).
At the age of 30, he’s shown no signs of slowing down, either. He’s coming off a season in which he had 13.5 sacks and 28 QB hits, winning Defensive Player of the Year for the third time. And as a result, Pro Football Focus continues to view him as the best player in football.
PFF ranked the 50 best players in the league heading into the 2021 season and at No. 1 was Donald, just ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce and Nos. 2 and 3, respectively.
No matter how good you think Donald is, you’re probably underselling it. The Los Angeles Rams star is an outlier the likes of which we haven’t seen in 15 years of grading at the NFL level. He is a unicorn in a league full of physical freaks and talented superstars.
Donald led the league in total pressures last season with 98, the third time in four seasons he has led the league in that category. He is the only full-time interior defender we have ever seen lead the league in pressure, since J.J. Watt played more snaps on the edge than the interior in the two seasons he led the league in pressure. Donald’s biggest perceived weakness is the run game, but he has been the best-graded interior lineman against the run over the last three seasons.
Donald will attempt to become the first player ever to win Defensive Player of the Year four times in his career. He’s already claimed a spot in Canton as a future Hall of Famer, and he should be a first-ballot selection, too.
Year in and year out, he’s consistently the best interior defender in football and he remains just that heading into his eighth season in the NFL.
Jalen Ramsey was the only other Rams player to make PFF’s top 50, coming in at No. 16.