Aaron Donald is the best player in the NFL at his respective position, once again. If you are watching him play, and even if you are not, it is not hard to tell why. He is a dominant player. It is a trickier task, however, to put into perspective why he should be the Defensive Player of the Year.
One aspect that is important to Donald’s dominance is his quarterback pressures. A stat that determines the number of times a player causes the quarterback to hurry his throw due to being under pressure. Prior to Sunday’s game versus the Philadelphia Eagles, Donald had 71 total pressures. That is at least nine better than the next defensive lineman including edge rushers. In fact, Donald has had five games this season in which he has had nine or more quarterback pressures.
Another Donald stat that may not jump off the page, but speaks to his dominance, are his sacks. Donald currently has nine. Again, this doesn’t scream dominance unless you put it into perspective. The top 10 NFL sack holders are all defensive ends and linebackers. Number 10 is Mario Addison, who holds 9.5 sacks. Donald nearly cracks the top ten in sacks despite having played one fewer game than most. If he did that at this point, he would be the only interior lineman in that category. Even more notable is that no interior lineman, with the exception of Aaron Donald, even cracks the top 25. Donald’s season-high sack number is 11, with nine this year, which is a high number for an interior lineman, and three more games to play, he should be on pace to beat that number.
According to Pro Football Focus, Donald leads interior linemen in overall grades at 98.0. Nearly perfect, and certainly more dominating that other players considered dominant at the position. Those players include Fletcher Cox (90.1), Ndamukong Suh (91.1), Geno Atkins (91.1) and Calais Campbell (91.7).
Donald is the most dominant player at his position, but the case for being dominant at one’s position is not enough to win you Defensive Player of the Year honors. Donald has taken dominance to a new level, he is more dominant than most all NFL players are at their respective positions.
In his third year, with as dominant as he has been this year, Aaron Donald makes a compelling case for the Defensive Player of the Year Award. So compelling, that it isn’t even close.