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Rams Fortunate to Land Aaron Donald at 13th Overall

Posted May 8, 2014

The St. Louis Rams received a pleasant surprise when former Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald was available for the 13th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Forgive Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams if his enthusiasm got the best of him following the Rams’ selection of defensive tackle Aaron Donald at No. 13 overall.

General Manager Les Snead said it all by saying little when describing Williams’ reaction at the Rams’ second of two first-round picks.

“I don’t think we can quote it,” Snead said with a laugh.

VIDEO: Get to Know Aaron Donald | Day 1 NFL Draft Winners

Donald, who began Thursday as the consensus top-ranked defensive tackle in the 2014 draft class, possesses a rare combination of speed and quickness at the tackle position, an athleticism that helped him pile up an NCAA-most 28.5 tackles for loss during the 2013 season. Donald’s pedigree and draft stock had the Rams dubious over his prospects for remaining available at 13th overall. When he remained undrafted, the Rams’ next move required little further analysis.

“We were (surprised),” Head Coach Jeff Fisher said. “Les’ guys did a great job with the research and we felt like there was a pretty good chance that he would disappear, and then a couple things happened. We were rubbing our lucky coin and he was there.”

Williams, who is renowned for his aggressive defensive schemes, can add one more first-round defensive lineman to a front four that already feature a trio of former first-round picks.  The company Donald will be joining along the Rams’ defensive front was not lost on the 22-year-old.

“I’m real excited,” Donald said. “Best defensive line in the NFL, and I have an opportunity to be a part of that now. I’m real pumped up about that. I’m ready to get out there and play. It’s already a great defensive line. All I can do is go out there and play my part.”

PHOTOS: Best of Aaron Donald | Exclusive War Room Images 

At 6’1” and 285 pounds, Donald’s lack of size at the tackle position may have given some teams pause, though General Manager Les Snead had no such reservations.

“His game is not size,” Snead said. “I think his game is speed, quickness, so I think getting bigger really doesn’t help him and one of the reasons we were fine with the pick is he’s short so he always has leverage and he’s just a strong kid. He had very high, I forget his bench reps, but it translates to the field. He knows how to use his hands, get low and take on a double team. He took on those two guys from Notre Dame, Zack Martin and Chris Watt, and hung in there when those two guys were pounding him. But I don’t think you’re going to ask him to gain weight. His game is to penetrate.”

The addition of Donald at 13th overall meant that for the first time under Snead and Fisher, the Rams would go without a first-round trade of draft picks. With Donald available, dealing the 13th pick was no longer a consideration.

“At that point a couple teams called but I think we were set on the pick,” Snead said. “We were jacked he was there, so it was really, ‘Hey we’re not doing anything. We’re done.’”