Deep Dive: Getting to Know Aaron Banks and What He Brings to the 49ers
Image Credit: USA TODAY Sports
A local kid has made good.
With the forty-eighth pick of the 2021 draft, the 49ers selected Alameda native and El Cerrito High Gaucho, Aaron Banks.
After being named all-USA California as a senior, Banks accepted a scholarship offer from Notre Dame and took his immense talents to South Bend. Banks didn’t see the field as a freshman, but appeared in 13 games as a sophomore, starting the final six games of the season. He never relinquished the starting guard position and finished his career with 31 consecutive starts. As a senior, Banks was named AP First Team All-American after helping lead the Irish to the CFP Semifinal versus Alabama.
Historically, the guard position has been undervalued in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, it’s been clear through both the draft and free agency that the 49ers’ head coach would rather invest in tackles and center and views those positions as the driving force of the offensive line. So, it was a surprising to see the 49ers select a guard so early in the draft. But, in looking at Banks’s skill set, it is clear how he fits into the offensive scheme and this may also signal a change in philosophy for Shanahan.
The 49ers had three different quarterbacks behind center last year, and while not all of that can be attributed to the offensive line, pass protection was clearly an issue for last year. The 49ers finished the season allowing an average of 2.4 sacks per game, up from 2.1 during the 2019 season and good for twenty-first in the NFL. Surprisingly, pass protection is an area where Banks thrives. Over his three years at Norte Dame, Banks allowed only two sacks and 19 pressures over 443 pass blocking snaps. Banks should be an immediate upgrade at right guard and improve pass protection for whoever is behind center.
Image Credit: Chicago Tribune
While pass protection is where Banks shines, the 6’5” 330-pound guard is deceptively nimble. He’s not the smaller quicker interior lineman the 49ers have favored under Shanahan, but he still shows an aptitude in zone blocking schemes. Banks flashed a 7.73 second 3-cone drill at Norte Dame’s Pro-Day, showing the agility and quickness he would need to engage defenders on the second level. With his short area quickness, coupled with his size, Aaron Banks should be able to wash out defenders, creating running lanes for the plethora of running backs on the roster.
Overall, Banks should come in and compete for the starting right guard spot on day one. While his selection may seem underwhelming at first, it not only signals a commitment to protect rookie quarterback Trey Lance, but also shows that Shanahan is evolving not only as a head coach, but also play-caller. Banks has a chance to be the final piece the 49ers were looking for to solidify their offensive line.
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