But one national publication lauds the move to draft Donald as the best 13th pick in the last 15 years, plus the highest rated member of that 2014 class.
Pro Football Focus on June 10 unveiled its listings of who were the best draft selections at the spot they were taken. The eight-year veteran and seven-time Pro Bowler Donald was tabbed the top No. 13 pick in the last 15 years.
But in looking at the list, Donald is one of two members from the ’14 class who made PFF’s cut. The other is Zack Martin of the Dallas Cowboys, who was named the best No. 16 pick since 2006.
“While (J.J.) Watt may have had a higher peak, Donald has seen more sustained dominance in his NFL career. He’s led all interior defenders in quarterback pressures each of the past five seasons,” Michael Renners of PFF wrote.
Notable Players Taken Ahead of Donald Seven Years Ago
As is the case for fans who trace back to various draft classes, those who rewind back to the 2014 class will find head-scratching moves by certain teams and passing on the opportunity to draft Donald.
That class began with the Houston Texans selecting Jadeveon Clowney at No. 1. While the defensive end out of South Carolina had a stellar career in the Southeastern Conference as a two-time All-American and has played in three straight Pro Bowls from 2016 to 2018, Clowney has played for four different teams in eight seasons, including bouncing from the Seattle Seahawks, the Tennessee Titans and now the Cleveland Browns in the past three seasons. Donald has more career sacks (85.5) than Clowney’s 32 in his career.
The Rams, then in St. Louis and coached by Jeff Fisher, held the No. 2 pick via a trade with Washington. They went with Greg Robinson instead of Donald at the second spot. Robinson played for two more teams in the Browns and Detroit Lions and now, is facing a lengthy prison term after being found with 157 pounds of marijuana in February 2020.
The No. 3 pick that season happens to be a former teammate of Donald’s: Blake Bortles. The Jacksonville Jaguars took him at that spot but saw his touchdown numbers digress after throwing 35 aerial scores in 2016. Bortles only had one completion in the Rams uniform in 2019 and is now a Green Bay Packer.
One more player taken ahead of Donald but is out of the league is Justin Gilbert. The standout cornerback from Oklahoma State ended up violating the league’s substance abuse policy in June 2017 and hasn’t been on an NFL roster since.
Who Were the Names Donald Beat out at No. 13 by PFF?
The list of No. 13 representatives does include eight who played in Pro Bowls, but none have sustained the consistent success Donald has displayed throughout his career.
Out of the 16 people Donald beat out for the claim of best No. 13 overall selection since 2006, only one has played in four Pro Bowls: Brian Orakpo, who was drafted by Washington in 2009. Orakpo has since retired after a 10-year career.
Jonathan Stewart is another notable former 13th pick. The Carolina Panthers drafted him in 2008 and went on to rush for 7,335 yards and score 51 touchdowns in his 11-year career.
But along with his Pro Bowl appearances, Donald has collected a litany of accolades since his arrival from winning the 2014 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, the NFL’s sack leader in 2018 (20.5 sacks), three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards (2017, 2018 and 2020) and an unanimous selection to the league’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s.