Rams’ Aaron Donald ranked No. 1 by peers in NFL’s ‘Top 100 Players of 2019’

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald signs autographs at training camp on the campus of UC Irvine on Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

So who’s the NFL’s best player heading into the 2019 season?

According to a bunch of NFL players, it’s Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

Donald, the two-time NFL defensive player of year, was ranked No. 1 in NFL Media’s “Top 100 Players of 2019.” The annual ranking, which comes from a ballot of 1,098 players, looks at which player is the best heading into the season.

As the centerpiece of the Rams’ defense, Donald has established himself as one of the best pass rushers and run-stuffers in the NFL. He’s accomplished this gargantuan task despite not showing up to training camp in 2017 and 2018 as he lobbied for a new contract. Donald has been a full-go in camp this season after signing a massive six-year, $135-million contract extension last August.


“Hopefully, it don’t take me four games to get going this year,” Donald told The Times on Sunday. “So I think it’s going to be a plus for me getting here and getting going right away. If anything, I should be better.”

Donald, who has accumulated 31½ sacks the last two seasons, including 20½ in 2018, says his main goal is to lead the Rams to a Super Bowl victory this year after last year’s miss. As for a third consecutive defensive player of the year award, Donald isn’t making that the focus of his on-field efforts.

“If it happens, it happens,” Donald said.

Donald’s gain was Tom Brady’s loss. The New England Patriots quarterback, who was No. 1 in last year’s top players ranking, fell to No. 6. Still, not bad for a guy who turns 42 on Saturday and is coming off his sixth Super Bowl victory. Speaking of ageless wonders, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees rose from No. 8 to No. 2 year-over-year, and Chicago Bears pass rusher Khalil Mack went from No. 16 to No. 3.