Miami Dolphins eye DE Aaron Donald, an undersized player with an outsized work ethic

Defensive lineman Aaron Donald would be a good fit for Miami, but it’s doubtful he’ll still be available when the Dolphins select at 19.

04/30/2014 12:00 AM

04/30/2014 7:25 PM

In the real world, Aaron Donald is a large man.

Few would call anyone 6 foot, 285 pounds “Tiny” without a healthy serving of irony.

But in the land of giants (not to mention Giants), he’s a bit, shall we say, undersized.

Donald, from the University of Pittsburgh, is a true three-technique defensive tackle, a disruptive force who can both stop the run and rush the passer.

But if the Dolphins shock the world and take Donald with the 19th overall pick, he’d be the shortest D-tackle on their team — by a good three inches.

“It never got to me, it is what it is,” Donald said at February’s NFL Scouting Combine. “Thinking about it isn’t going to get me no taller. All I can [do] is go play the game of football, the way I play it: hard-nosed, out there trying to make plays.”

That’s all he did at the Senior Bowl. More than anyone, Donald helped his cause the week of the popular all-star game.

Dan Brugler, an analyst with NFLDraftScout.com, observed then how Donald “was an unstoppable force” in practice, and was “relentless from snap to whistle.”

Thanks to that showing, and his 4.68-second 40-yard dash at the Combine, Donald is now firmly atop most every pundit’s board at his position.

And like a lot of players in next week’s draft, he could be a realistic option for the Dolphins in the first round. Mel Kiper has Donald going 12th to the Giants in his latest mock draft, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he slips all the way to 19.

“Aaron Donald gets into the backfield, gets after the quarterback, he wreaks havoc,” Kiper said. “Donald’s a football player. I don’t have any problem with anybody taking him.”

That would presumably include the Dolphins, who have a stable of defensive tackles that would be the envy of most any team. Jared Odrick is back, Randy Starks re-signed with the team at a great price and Earl Mitchell replaces Paul Soliai in the rotation.

Simply put, there doesn’t appear to be many reps left over for someone like Donald. But Odrick is in his contract year and Starks’ deal is structured in a way that the Dolphins could move on from him next spring, if so desired.

Donald, a three-year starter at Pitt, would be more than a suitable replacement, should the Dolphins move on from either. His credentials are sterling.

Awards won his senior year, during which he logged an astounding 28.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks: Outland, Nagurski, Lombardi and Bednarik. Donald was, deservedly so, a consensus first-team All-American.

But, perhaps because of his measurables, he really wasn’t part of the draft conversation until his Senior Bowl week. Now, he’s a slam-dunk first-round pick — and one that likely won’t slip past the top 15.

“I continue to try to open their eyes that I’m an athlete, I’m athletic, just to show that I can move,” Donald said at the Combine. “I feel like I can make an impact right away, feel like I can come in and have trust in the coaches and playbook and make plays right away.”

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