Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman and Pitt product Aaron Donald is coming off an immaculate 2018 season that began with him becoming the highest paid defensive player in the NFL, albeit briefly, and ended with an appearance in Super Bowl LIII. And as a result of his standout play, Donald was named the No. 1 player in the NFL Top 100, a ranking of the best players in the league as voted on by the players themselves.
”You don’t get 20 sacks on accident,” said Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly in an NFL Network interview. “He’s kind of like everything younwant in a D-lineman, a guy that is just disruptive. He’s disruptive in the run game. He’s disruptive in the pass game.”
Donald was a force to be reckoned with in 2018, as he posted career bests in sacks (20.5), tackles for losses (25), quarterback hits (41) and fumble recoveries (2). In addition, he led the league in sacks and tackles for losses and earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second year in a row to go with his fourth consecutive first-team All-Pro nod and his fifth straight Pro Bowl selection.
The Rams star is one of three Pitt players to make the list, as Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner was ranked 62nd and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald came in at 60th. That total is down from four in 2018, as Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy fell out of the top 100 after ranking 30th last year.
This is the first time Donald has topped the list, as he was ranked seventh in 2018, 15th in 2017, 14th in 2016 and 92nd in 2015. He was not ranked ahead of his rookie season in 2014, but he had made an impression by the year’s end, as he went on to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.