Donald was selected by Pro Football Focus as the 2015 Defensive Player of the Year and also earned PFF’s 2015 Dwight Stephenson Award, which goes to the best player in the NFL.
“As a rookie, Aaron Donald was PFF’s highest-graded defensive tackle,” wrote PFF senior analyst Sam Monson. “In his second season, he didn’t just take a step forward, he broad-jumped into the area previously reserved only for Watt, a player universally acknowledged now as generationally great and one of the best to ever put on pads. Donald out-graded Watt this season, and by the end of the year, it wasn’t even particularly close.”
“Donald was the single-most disruptive force in the NFL during the 2015 season,” Monson added.
Donald, 24, was the Rams’ first-round draft pick (No. 13 overall) in 2014 out of the University of Pittsburgh. He earned the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year award and was selected for the Pro Bowl following his first season.
This year, Donald earned first-team All-Pro recognition from the Associated Press after racking up a team-high 11 sacks, becoming just the third defensive tackle in franchise history to reach double digits in sacks. He also finished with 85 tackles, 49 quarterback pressures, 29 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one pass defensed, according to the Rams’ statistics based on coaches’ video tape evaluations.