Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald wins most dominant player award at Senior Bowl

1/25/14 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

Although many of the top NFL prospects are underclassmen, and the top senior prospects choose to skip a lot of the postseason events, the Senior Bowl still showcases a good portion of the top talents in any upcoming draft. NFL teams know this, which is why many scouts spend their time at Senior Bowl practices, analyzing players while observing their work habits in practice situations.

Standing out at the Senior Bowl can go a long way for a prospect, especially those who didn't go to big-time football programs and are flying under the radar. Just look at what offensive tackle Eric Fisher did to his stock last year - considered a borderline first-round pick by many at the start of the pre-draft process, Fisher ultimately ended up being selected first overall. When many of the best players in the country get together, the players who stand out are the ones that NFL executives want on their teams.

Nov 16, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Aaron Donald (97) rushes at the line of scrimmage against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Tar Heels won 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportsThis year's Senior Bowl standout was not even in the first round of many mock drafts as of Friday morning, but we may start seeing his name a bit more often. Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald received the Senior Bowl's most dominant player award on Friday.

While he is a bit undersized, Donald is a nightmare for opponents on the interior, eating up blockers and rushing the passer very efficiently. His monster numbers, which somehow went largely under the radar, include 11.0 sacks and an FBS-leading 28.5 tackles for a loss. He also batted three passes and forced four fumbles.

Donald's trophy case is loaded with accolades thanks to his dominant 2013 campaign. Donald won the John Outland Trophy (best lineman), Vince Lombardi Award (best defensive front seven player), Chuck Bednarik Award (best defensive player), and Bronko Nagurski Award (best defensive player), while he also earned Defensive Player of the Year honors from the ACC.

What bodes well for Donald's draft stock is that Geno Atkins, who has blossomed into a superstar interior lineman with the Cincinnati Bengals, measured very similarly to Donald when entering the league. Donald is listed at an undersized 6'1'' and 288 pounds, but Atkins - an All-Pro in 2012 - was 6'1'' and 293 pounds when he came out of school.

"He's short in stature by NFL standards and doesn't maybe have all the measureables," said Senior Bowl North Squad coach Mike Smith, who spends the regular season coaching the Atlanta Falcons, "but he's one of the more explosive guys we have." Donald's stock is officially on the rise, and it looks like he could be drafted as high as the top-15.
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