The No. 1 Player for the 5th Straight Season? Aaron Donald, Says Analytical Site

Aaron Donald

Getty Aaron Donald celebrates in a 2020 regular season game against the New England Patriots. Donald was named the No. 1 overall player for 2021 by one national analytical website.

In a league with seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, the 2020 Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers and 2020 Super Bowl champ Patrick Mahomes, it is a Los Angeles Rams standout who continues to top the list of the 50 best players for the upcoming season: Aaron Donald.

Donald once again claimed the title of No. 1 overall player by Pro Football Focus, as the analytical website unveiled its PFF Top 50 on Friday.

The 30-year-old Rams defensive linemen began his dominance atop the PFF player charts in June 2017, with Sam Monson writing back then “there has been no more consistently dominant force in the NFL over the past couple of seasons than Donald.”

Since then, PFF is yet to place someone ahead of the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, claiming the June honor in 2018, then in 2019 with PFF saying “Donald has single-handedly rewritten the PFF record books” and finally in 2020, with Monson calling him “the best player in the NFL by a distance.”

What the 2021 Rankings Said About Donald

Monson spearheaded the latest top 50 list for PFF. Donald got placed in front of Mahomes for the 2021 version. Here’s what Monson and PFF said about Donald:

“No matter how good you think Donald is, you’re probably underselling it. The Los Angeles Rams star is an outlier the likes of which we haven’t seen in 15 years of grading at the NFL level. He is a unicorn in a league full of physical freaks and talented superstars. Donald led the league in total pressures last season with 98, the third time in four seasons he has led the league in that category. He is the only full-time interior defender we have ever seen lead the league in pressure, since J.J. Watt played more snaps on the edge than the interior in the two seasons he led the league in pressure. Donald’s biggest perceived weakness is the run game, but he has been the best-graded interior lineman against the run over the last three seasons.”

Last season, Donald was tops in the NFC with 13.5 sacks. It marked the fourth consecutive season that Donald surpassed double digits in sacks.

Did Other Rams Make the Top 50?

Donald isn’t the only Rams representation on the PFF list.

Fellow defensive teammate Jalen Ramsey was slotted at No. 16 overall, ahead of wide receivers De’Andre Hopkins of the Arizona Cardinals and Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs. Monson wrote this of Ramsey:

“Ramsey allowed 11 or fewer receiving yards in eight games last season. In three more, he allowed just 22 yards over the game despite facing the opposing offense’s No. 1 receiver more often than not and allowing the rest of the Rams secondary to concentrate on the lesser receiving threats. Ramsey is a game-changer in coverage who makes an entire secondary better because of the knock-on effect of the easier assignments he creates for others.”

Ramsey was the second CB who cracked the top 20, joining Green Bay Packer Jaire Alexander (No. 14 overall) in that category.

There was one former key Rams defender who came in at No. 41: John Johnson III. One of the first draft picks by Sean McVay, Johnson signed with the Cleveland Browns during the offseason and was praised by PFF for his consistent nose for the ball.

Donald, though, has been recognized as PFF’s most consistently dominant player since 2017. The last person not named Aaron Donald to come in at No. 1 for PFF? Brady, who claimed the top spot for best players from the 2016 campaign.

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