Is Aaron Donald the Greatest Defensive Tackle in NFL History? An Important Metric Says He’s Near the Top

Entering the 2021 season, few out there would dispute that Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald is among the league’s best players regardless of position.

As he gets older, the former first-round pick is also inching closer to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Longtime NFL writer Peter King recently went a step beyond calling Donald a Hall of Famer, however.

Peter King listed Aaron Donald among the top defensive tackles in NFL history

Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald in 2020.
An important metric says Los Angeles Rams star pass-rusher Aaron Donald is among the greatest defensive tackles in NFL history | Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Through his first seven seasons, Aaron Donald totaled 85.5 sacks and 131 tackles for a loss. He earned first-team AP All-Pro honors every year from 2015 through 2020, and he appeared on the second-team as a rookie in 2014.

It is universally acknowledged at this point that Donald is among the greatest defensive players in recent memory. He didn’t earn three NFL Defensive Player of the Awards by accident. Teams have to actively plan against him as a run-stopper and someone who will get to the quarterback.

In his June 7 column for NBC Sports, longtime NFL columnist Peter King listed Donald among the greatest defensive tackles in history. For anyone who disagrees with King, he wants you to focus on Donald’s six first-team All-Pro selections.

“All-Pro is the true measure of greatness. Pro Bowls are nice but not at all meaningful when five and six players in a position group drop out because of injury/indifference/Super Bowl. Donald making six straight first-team All-Pros means he’s one of the two best defensive tackles in the game as voted on by a panel of 50 Associated Press voters who cover the game closely, each year from 2015 to 2020.”

Peter King

If Donald earns that honor twice more in his career, he will have received the most first-team All-Pro nods of any defensive tackle in NFL history.

Donald is with some incredible company

Seven defensive tackles, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame, appeared on the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team in 2019. That group consisted of Alan Page, Bob Lilly, Buck Buchanan, Joe Greene, John Randle, Merlin Olsen, and Randy White.

Think about those players, and then think about Donald. Through his first seven seasons, the former first-round pick is already being compared to immortals like Greene, the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers defender, and White, the Dallas Cowboys’ superstar from the 1970s and 1980s.

It is also worth noting that Donald is the only player among those eight who would have spent most of his career in a 32-team league. Only Randle, who retired following the 2003 season, played after the league expanded in the 1990s.

Donald is undoubtedly the best defensive lineman of his generation, and an argument could be made for the most impactful defensive player. It’s time to start listing him among the all-time greats.

Donald and the Rams should have high hopes about the 2021 season


Rams Star Aaron Donald Was a ‘Lazy, Chunky Kid’ Before Becoming an NFL Legend

The one thing missing from Donald’s lengthy resume so far is a Super Bowl ring. Luckily for him, the Rams are in an excellent position to win the NFC in 2021.

The Rams traded Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford in a quarterback swap. Although Stafford turned 33 in February, he is a proven quarterback who can potentially benefit from head coach Sean McVay’s tutelage.

Donald will return for his eighth season, and he is still playing at an extremely high level. The Rams know they can count on him and All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey on defense, especially in a 17-game season.

For the hard markers out there who may still hesitate to list Donald among the most outstanding defensive tackles in NFL history, will a Super Bowl ring and another double-digit sack campaign change your mind? Donald is certainly capable of doing both next season.

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