As we approach the 2014 NFL Draft, it's important to keep in mind that there tends to be a little hyperbole, some rumors and a handful of downright lies about players as we hit the homestretch to the lights coming on at Radio City Music Hall.
That doesn't mean everything out there isn't true and some high praise from various NFL personnel is certainly deserving. NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport recently spoke with one AFC executive about Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald and his evaluation of the draft's top interior defender was a bit of an eye-opener.
Donald is NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock's top defensive tackle in the draft and has seen his stock skyrocket ever since impressing teams with his measurables at the NFL Scouting Combine. The 6-foot-1, 285-pounder is knocked by some scouts for his frame, but his impressive game film has tended to alleviate some of the concerns about his size.
The Pitt star had a breakout season in 2013 and that thurst him into the conversation as an early first-round pick. Despite often seeing double teams, Donald still wound up with 59 tackles and 11 sacks and collected nearly every major defensive award along the way.
NFL.com mock drafts have Donald as a likely top 15 pick in the draft, and a number of analysts think he could go as high as 10th overall to the Detroit Lions. He has been frequently compared to Cincinnati's Geno Atkins due to his smaller size. You can probably bet that at least one team picking in the top half of the first round will have no issues with selecting Donald if he's able to produce at that level early in his career.
"Geno Atkins ... I think he's done a lot with his play in the NFL to boost the stock of Aaron Donald, who plays a similar type of game," NFL Media analyst Charles Davis recently said. "Less than 300 pounds, but he gets up field and makes plays. He could work as that under tackle."
Only time will tell if the AFC executive is right about Donald or if he's just letting out a little hyperbole prior to the draft. Either way, it seems highly likely that the Pitt product will wind up playing early on as a rookie for some team picking high in this year's draft.