In Pro Football Focus' list of the top 101 players in the NFL for the 2016 season, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was selected as the second-best player behind only New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Despite a drop in his sack total to just eight this past season, Donald finished with 36 tackles, 31 hits on the quarterback, two forced fumbles, and a league-leading 17 tackles-for-loss. According to Pro Football Focus, he also finished with 82 total quarterback pressures, which was five more than any other interior defensive lineman and was tied for second-most in the NFL behind just Oakland Raiders' defensive end Khalil Mack.
He also created pressure once every 6.1 pass rushes, which was the highest of any interior defender. Keep in mind, the average edge rusher this past season was able to generate pressure once every 8.8 pass rushes, and it takes nearly five more pass rush snaps (13.5) for an average interior rusher to create the same type of pressure.
Last month, the 24-year-old was named the Defensive Player of the Year and best pass rusher by Pro Football Focus. He beat out Mack and Denver Broncos outside linebacker/defensive end Von Miller. He graded out by far the best at creating decisive pressure that occurred every 8.7 pass rushes during the 2016 season, which was about nine greater than the next best mark by an interior defensive lineman that was held by Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Calais Campbell (18.0).
Along with these awards, he was selected to his third consecutive Pro Bowl in as many seasons and his second straight All-Pro First Team selection. Donald was also named to the Pro Football Writers' All-NFL team and was chosen as the Rams' MVP for this past season.
In his first three campaigns, Donald has quickly developed into arguably the best defensive player in the league and has made a living in the backfield as he leads all defensive tackles in sacks (28.0), and tackles for loss (57.0). During that span, he places second in the NFL behind Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt for tackles for loss.
Donald is simply a disruptive force on the defensive line that routinely draws double and triple teams from opposing offensive lines. What has been most impressive is that he has been able to be such a huge factor despite playing almost all of his snaps from the inside. His production from this standpoint shows his utter dominance because he must navigate through more traffic in order to get to the quarterback as compared to that of an edge rusher.
Donald was the only current Rams' player to make the list meanwhile New York Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins was the only former member of the team to be included in the rankings.