[Le bon numéro] #99: Aaron Donald, already at the top

A player is recognizable by his style of play, his personality, his physique… but also his number. Sign of a strong attachment, players often keep the same number (if possible) when they change teams, and it sometimes becomes a communication tool.

During 99 episodes, we will talk about the best players by number in the NFL. With each time a holder and a substitute.

In this 99th episode, the one that is becoming one of the greatest in history.

Starter: Aaron Donald (DT, St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams 2014-Present)

Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor, Mean Joe Greene, Aaron Donald. Here is the list of players who can claim the title of best player in history. Chosen with the 13th pick of the 2014 draft, Donald today has one of the greatest honors in history: Rookie of the Year (2014), three-time Defender of the Year (2017, 18, 20), sevenfold All Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler.

To top it off, Donald has just added a championship ring to his incredible career. The former Pittsburgh player has simply completely revolutionized the position, becoming an unprecedented force in pass rush from the inside, as evidenced by his 98 sacks in 8 seasons, including 20.5 in 2018.

Telling Aaron Donald is almost useless, since today we have the chance to see him live every week. His place in the Hall of Fame is obvious, as is his starting place despite two big candidates behind.

Co-Replacement: JJ Watt (DL, Houston Texans 2011-20, Arizona Cardinals 2021-Present) & Warren Sapp (DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1995-2003, Oakland Raiders 2004-07)

For this last episode, double dose of pleasure! Our first replacement is JJ Watt, also a three-time defender of the year like Aaron Donald. Unfortunately for Watt, injuries slowed down his career, which had started on historic grounds: between 2012 and 2015, he scored 69 sacks. A six-time All pro and five-time Pro Bowler, Watt is a future Hall of Famer, even if the lack of a significant playoff campaign is a small « shadow » on the player’s list.

The other candidate is Warren Sapp, a colorful character from the 90s and 2000s. Defender of the Year, six-time All pro and seven-time Pro Bowler, he also ticks all the boxes. Unlike Watt, his success was transposed into the playoffs since he was one of the leaders of the defense of the Buccaneers in 2003, winner of the Super Bowl against the Raiders. Author of 96.5 career sacks, he therefore shares the substitute seat with Watt, in other words he will need a big seat.

Mentions: Jason Taylor (DE), Dan Hampton (DL), Levon Kirkland (LB), Jurrell Casey (DL), Mark Gastineau (DE)

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