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Is Aaron Donald the Mike Trout of the NFL?

Over the course of his first six seasons, Aaron Donald has solidified himself as one of the premier players in the NFL. He is arguably the best defensive player in the sport with numerous accolades to his name. Donald has accomplished some phenomenal feats since being drafted thirteenth overall by the Rams in 2014.

He has experienced substantial success during his brief career, and it seems that it has been transpiring similarly to that of another star from the same city. That person being Mike Trout, who also shares the limelight of Los Angeles with him, as the Angels outfielder has some striking similarities to the Rams defensive tackle. 

Both Donald and Trout are quite possibly the best in their respective sports. This past season, Donald was ranked number one in the NFL Top 100 list for 2019, and he proved his deserving status with another sensational season. He collected 12.5 sacks in 2019, which is impressive for most players standards; however, his numbers looks meek in comparison to his monster 2018 season where he had a staggering 20.5 sacks.

Donald’s career statistics are just mind blowing with 72.0 sacks over six seasons and never having a season with less than 8.0 sacks. He has also been able to force 15 fumbles and deflect 11 passes, which is another insane statistic considering his position.

Similar to Donald, Trout was ranked number one in ESPN’s Top 100 for 2020. However, what makes Trout so amazing is the fact that he has held the number one spot ever since 2014. He has been able to prove year in and year out that he is the best player in all of baseball.

With a career .305 batting average and never hitting below .287 in a full season, Trout has proven his consistency at the plate. He has also hit over 27 home runs and stolen at least 10 bases in every season since 2012 including a career high 45 home runs last season along with stealing his 200th base in just eight full seasons.

The incredible numbers that both these top-tier players have been able to consistently put up places them on a different pedestal then the rest of the players in their leagues.

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Though what really legitimizes these numbers is the hardware that goes with them, and both Donald and Trout have a collection to prove their worth. Donald has been a Pro-Bowler every season he has played from 2014-2019.  Likewise, Trout has been named an All-Star every full season he has played from 2012-2019.

Donald was the 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year, while Trout was the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year. To go with these accolades, both players have been able to win some of the most prestigious awards in their sports. Donald has won the Defensive Player of the Year award twice (2017, 2018), while Trout is 3x MVP in the American League (2014, 2016, 2019).

These two athletes have proven countless times over the years that they dominate their sport, though unfortunately for them, they have both been unable to carry their individual success into a championship team.

Aaron Donald has been on some very good Rams teams and some very bad Rams teams. The team was never able to finish above .500 until they hired coach Sean McVay in 2017. That year Gurley had a breakout season and the Rams became a team that really surprised everyone with an 11-5 record.

However, the glory of that season was short-lived with an early 1st round exit at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons at home. Despite this, the Rams still seemed destined for greatness and in 2018, they went all-in. They acquired a plethora of stars, including the likes of WR Brandin Cooks, NT Ndamukong Suh, CB Aqib Talib, CB Marcus Peters, and even added Dante Fowler mid-season.

All of these players had either been Pro-Bowlers or former 1st round picks. This was the season that Donald led the league in sacks with 20.5 and Gurley had a season for the ages. The Rams were a juggernaut in 2018 with one of the most dynamic offenses in the league. They started off the season red hot at 8-0 and finished 13-3. It was their time to shine, but they fell short in Super Bowl LIII to the New England Patriots. 

In 2019, they tried to repeat what they did the year before with the acquisitions of Clay Matthews and Jalen Ramsey but were unable to find the same magic and had a disappointing 9-7 season, while missing the postseason. The aftermath of going all in the previous seasons was that they sabotaged their future.

This past off-season, the Rams traded away Brandin Cooks to the Texans, released their former star running back in Todd Gurley, and lost/cut many other key players that they had traded for the short-term in the hopes of a Super Bowl.

Their plan never fully came into fruition and now their future is looking bleak with a lack of draft picks and some bad contracts. Aaron Donald had signed a massive six-year $135 million contract in 2018 to stay with the Rams long-term, but now the future is not looking too bright for one of the best players in the NFL.

MLB Has a Huge Mike Trout Problem No Other Major Sport Suffers ...
Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

Mike Trout has had the struggle of being on a team that has never been able to put the proper roster around him. The Angels have been perfectly mediocre with Trout on the team, as they always find a way to hover around .500 and never get any better or worse.

In eight full seasons with the team, the Angels have one playoff appearance. That was way back in 2014 when they got swept by the Kansas City Royals in the ALDS. The Angels do not know how to build a team around the best player in the game.

Back in 2012, they gave aging superstar 1B Albert Pujols a massive ten-year $240 million. In 2013, they added another aging star in OF Josh Hamilton to another expensive contract. Towards the end of the 2017 season, the Halos traded for another aging star in OF Justin Upton, and just this past off-season, they added the best bat on the market in Anthony Rendon. 

None of these bats proved to be that effective in the past, yet the Angels are hoping that Rendon is the answer for their inability to consistently win. Though, what all these signings and trades have in common is that they are all hitters. The Angels already have the best hitter in the world, and obviously it is good to give him protection in the lineup, but the issue is clearly pitching.

Their team ERA has never been in the upper echelon of the league in any of the years Trout has been on the team. This past free agency, there were some great pitchers available, in Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zach Wheeler, and Madison Bumgarner, yet they decided to give Anthony Rendon a seven-year $245 million contract.

It is not a knock on Rendon, who just helped the Washington Nationals win a World Series, but it does not make much logical sense from the Angels point of view. Trout signed a twelve-year $430 million-dollar contract extension with the franchise in 2019, therefore he is in for the long haul, but only time will tell if the team could find success.

Donald and Trout are both still in the primes of their careers, yet it almost feels that their talents are being wasted with some abysmal management by their respective teams. These two are both 28 years young with many great years ahead of them, yet it seems their Los Angeles teams are holding them back.

There are so many similarities that these two athletes have that make them stand out above the rest. Both are the best at their position, both provide versatility and athleticism in multiple places, and most importantly, they are both extremely durable. Donald has only missed two games in six seasons and Trout has played in over 134 games in seven out the eight full seasons he has been with the Angels.

Football is a grueling sport with practice squad players to mega stars going down every snap and yet Donald has been able to stay on the field. Baseball has a brutal 162 game schedule and Trout has been able to stay on the diamond for the majority of his career.

These two unbelievable athletes bring something special to each of their sports, but with the Rams looking at a dire situation heading forward and the Angels inability to assemble a proper roster, it may be that neither player will ever achieve the success that they are truly destined for.

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