Leading up to this year's NFL Draft, scheduled to take place April 23-25, theRams.com will revisit notable draft moments in team history. In the second installment of the four-part series, we take a look at Los Angeles drafting one of the best defensive players in the league, defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Following a 7-9 season in 2013 which saw starting quarterback and former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford go down with a season-ending ACL injury in Week 7, offensive line was understandably considered by experts as one of the Rams' biggest offseason needs.
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah was one of those experts, also suggesting that the Rams needed to find another safety to pair with T.J. McDonald, improve cornerback depth and add a true No. 1 receiver.
Here's who Jeremiah and other NFL Media analysts mocked to the Rams at No. 2 and No. 13 respectively one month before the 2014 draft, according to Jeremiah's draft needs article published March 24:
Jeremiah: Greg Robinson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Bucky Brooks: Jake Matthews, Darqueze Dennard
Charles Davis: Sammy Watkins, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Matt Smith: Greg Robinson, Mike Evans
Chase Goodbread: Greg Robinson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
In summary: Four picks for an offensive lineman (Robinson and Matthews), three picks for a safety (Clinton-Dix), two for a wide receiver (Watkins and Evans) and one for a cornerback (Dennard). None, though, for a defensive lineman, likely because that position group was fortified by Chris Long and Robert Quinn.
University of Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald was expected to be a top-15 selection, but he was also expected to come off the board well before pick No. 13 or right before the Rams picked. Additionally, finding someone to protect the quarterback rather than someone who could get to the quarterback was viewed as the bigger priority.
Many analysts' predictions for the No. 2 pick came to fruition, as the Rams took Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson. Then 11 teams passed on the 6-foot, 285-pound Donald, allowing the Rams to take him at No. 13 overall.
"Lack of length concerned some teams, but not me," said then-NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock, who ranked Donald as the No. 1 defensive tackle in the draft, on the NFL Network broadcast.
Mayock proved to be right.
In 2014, Donald set the franchise rookie sack record with 9.5, appearing in all 16 games and making 12 starts. Three years later, he won the first of back-to-back NFL Defensive Player of the Year Awards – the second of the two coming on the heels of a single-season franchise-record 20.5 sacks in 2018.
A recipient of First Team All-Pro honors from the Associated Press in each of the last five seasons, Donald has also been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first six seasons. He has also led the Rams in sacks every year since 2015.
Earlier this week, he was one of eight unanimous selections for the NFL's all-decade team for the 2010s.