Pitt alum Aaron Donald is expected to put on one of the greatest performances of his NFL career with Los Angeles Rams in 2020. Already a favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year, on Wednesday, Donald was ranked No. 1 in the PFF50, a preseason ranking of the NFL’s best players compiled by Pro Football Focus.
Donald topped the list after what was a down season for him. With that said, it was only a down season in comparison to his 2018 campaign, which was phenomenal by any measure. That year, Donald posted career highs in sacks and tackles for losses and led the league in both categories, with 20.5 and 25. In 2019, those totals fell to 12.5 and 20. But with that said, the sack total was the second highest of his career, and the 20 tackles for losses were enough to lead the league.
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus noted that the PFF50 is “a product of evaluating every player on every play of each NFL season” and that the ranking factors in past performance, injury issues and other circumstances that could affect performance. Monson also said the following in his preseason evaluation of the interior defensive lineman.
“Since entering the league, Donald owns the best pressure rate, the best pass-rush win rate (factoring in wins at the line that don’t result in pressures), the best PFF pass-rushing grade and the most total pressures. He has done all this from an interior alignment on the defensive line, where pressure is harder to come by than on the edge. The gap between Donald and the next-best interior player is bigger than it is between any other player and the rest of his peers, and he remains atop this list for the fourth-straight year.”
Whether or not Donald will actually post another league-leading performance in the 2020 season remains to be seen, but what has been made clear from the preseason hype is that the Pitt alum is in the midst of such a special NFL career that the baseline for the expectations around him is greatness.