May 5, 2014
PITTSBURGH—With the 2014 NFL Draft just three days away, every major draft analyst has Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald pegged as a first-round pick.
Most mock drafts have the Panthers’ All-American going off the board within the first 20 selections.
This past week, ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay held their three-round mock draft and had Donald going 12th overall to the New York Giants. Other projections have him going with the 10th pick to the Detroit Lions or 14th to the Chicago Bears.
There is even some online chatter about the Oakland Raiders looking at Donald with the fifth overall pick. Pretty heady stuff for a guy who was given a middle-to-late round grade a year ago when he initially tested the draft waters.
What a difference a dominating senior season makes.
Donald was the most decorated defensive player of the 2013 college football season. He earned unanimous All-America status while winning such prestigious hardware as the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award.
The recognition continued into the draft evaluation season when Donald was named the Most Outstanding Overall Player at Senior Bowl practices.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said Donald checked off every box en route to becoming a strong first-round prospect.
“Great college career, tremendous Senior Bowl week where he dominated, ran like crazy at the combine. He did everything,” Mayock said.
(VIDEO: Watch Donald’s senior highlights)
Louis Riddick, a standout Pitt defensive back from 1987-90 who played six NFL seasons, is now an ESPN studio analyst. School affiliation aside, Riddick has repeatedly gushed about Donald since watching him in person at the Senior Bowl workouts and says he deserves consideration as the best defensive prospect in the 2014 draft – above South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Riddick said the majority of offensive linemen at the Senior Bowl “got embarrassed by Aaron’s combination of speed, functional power/explosiveness and superior technique/hand use.”
“I think he has the potential to achieve greatness in the NFL,” Riddick added.
(VIDEO: Watch Donald’s Pro Day video)
Pitt has a history of successful first rounders. Since 1961, there have been 24 Panthers drafted in the first round. Of that number, 14 went on to make at least one Pro Bowl. Four of them have earned the ultimate honor — enshrinement in the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
Two of Pitt's most recent first-rounders — receiver Larry Fitzgerald and cornerback Darrelle Revis — have been to a combined 13 Pro Bowls. Both Fitzgerald and Revis are well on their way to a "Canton Call" upon retirement.
The first round of the 2014 NFL Draft will be held on Thursday, May 8, and begin at 8 p.m.
PITT’S FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICKS SINCE 1961
1961 Mike Ditka (TE) — Chicago (5th)
1964 Paul Martha (S) — Pittsburgh (10th)
1977 Tony Dorsett (RB) — Dallas (2nd)
1978 Randy Holloway (DE) — Minnesota (21st)
1981 Hugh Green (LB) — Tampa Bay (7th)
1981 Randy McMillan (RB) — Baltimore Colts (12th)
1981 Mark May (OT) — Washington (20th)
1983 Jim Covert (OT) — Chicago (6th)
1983 Tim Lewis (CB) — Green Bay (11th)
1983 Dan Marino (QB) — Miami (27th)
1984 Bill Maas (NT) — Kansas City (5th)
1985 Bill Fralic (OG) — Atlanta (2nd)
1985 Chris Doleman (LB) — Minnesota (4th)
1986 Bob Buczkowski (DT) — L.A. Raiders (24th)
1987 Tony Woods (LB) — Seattle (18th)
1988 Craig Heyward (RB) — New Orleans (24th)
1989 Burt Grossman (DE) — San Diego (8th)
1989 Tom Ricketts (OT) — Pittsburgh (24th)
1992 Sean Gilbert (DT) — L.A. Rams (3rd)
1995 Ruben Brown (OG) — Buffalo (14th)
2004 Larry Fitzgerald (WR) — Arizona (3rd)
2007 Darrelle Revis (CB) — New York Jets (14th)
2008 Jeff Otah (OT) — Carolina (19th)
2011 Jon Baldwin (WR) — Kansas City (26th)
( ) – pick overall
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