While it is possible that the Denver Broncos could select a Cornerback with their first pick in April’s draft, my belief is that they need more pressure up the middle to force the opposing Quarterback’s hand and decision-making. After all, even the best Corner tandem can only cover a Wide Receiver for so long. With that said, the one Cornerback that I’d like to see them choose with the 28th overall pick, is Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks.
Banks, born on Oct. 3, 1989, is a 6’1", 185 lb., 3 year Letterman for the Bulldogs. Ranked 4th out of 255 CB’s and 33rd overall, Johnthan’s pre-Combine 40 Time is listed as 4.52 seconds. His projected draft slot is the late 1st to early 2nd round in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Banks was named the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award winner as the top defensive back in college football, the first individual national award for an MSU player in the 113-year history of the program. He was also named a Walter Camp All-American and is a Team captain for the Bulldogs.
Banks established himself as one of the top Defensive Backs in the country after a stellar 2011 regular season. In 2012, Johnthan made 63 Tackles, 2 TFL's, 11 Pass Breakups, 4 Interceptions and 1 Forced Fumble, continuing his consistency from his Junior year. He is 2nd in Bulldog history with 12 career Interceptions (Walt Harris, 16). He started 32 career games at both Corner and Safety, making the switch from Safety to Cornerback following an outstanding true freshman campaign. Banks highlighted his Freshman (2009) season with a 100-yard Interception return for a Touchdown against Tim Tebow of Florida. In fact, he’s one of two players in the NCAA to have returned a Punt and an Interception for a Touchdown.
In 2011, Johnthan was named to the AP All-SEC 2nd team. He started all 13 games, totaling 71 Tackles, 8 Tackles For Loss, 3 Sacks, three Forced Fumbles, 9 Pass Breakups, five Interceptions with one returned for a Touchdown. Banks also returned 16 Punts for 166 yards and a score. That got him named as a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s top Defensive Back.
As a sophomore in 2010, Banks earned the starting job at left corner after making the switch from safety in the offseason. He started 12 of 13 games at left Corner and posted 54 Tackles, 1.5 TFLs, 7 Pass Breakups and 3 Interceptions.
In 2009, Johnthan was named Freshman All-SEC by the league’s coaches. He played in all 12 games during his true freshman season seeing action mainly on Special Teams until an opportunity to start in Week 6. He started the last seven games after entering the lineup and finished with 33 Tackles, 4 Interceptions and two Pick Sixes.
GRADE - 84.4
Banks was recruited as a safety out of high school, and started there for the final seven games of his true freshman season for the Bulldogs. He even intercepted erstwhile quarterback Tim Tebow twice in the team’s 2009 loss to the Gators, scoring on a 100-yard return at the end of the first half. But his play at cornerback the past two seasons is what has put him on NFL scouts’ radar as a potential starter at the next level.
League coaches named him Freshman All-SEC squad for his play in his first season in Starkville (four interceptions, two touchdowns). He made the switch to cornerback before the 2010 season, starting 12 games, intercepting three passes and breaking up seven others as a sophomore. One of his picks that year helped the team beat the Gators 10-7 on their home field. His game took a step forward in 2011; not only did he make an impact in coverage (five interceptions, nine pass break-ups), but also as a regular blitzer (eight tackles for loss, three sacks, three forced fumbles) in the Bulldogs’ aggressive defense. He decided to return for his senior season after receiving a fourth round grade from the NFL advisory committee. Banks’ play was somewhat uneven over the course of his senior season, but he still played well enough (63 tackles, two tackles for loss, 11 passes defended, 4 interception) to earn first team All-Conference, second-team All-America honors, and the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back.
STRENGTHS Height, length and competitive nature could make him a starter. Good hands for the interception, can high-point passes and make difficult catches with superb concentration. Effective on jump balls in end zone and knocks away passes from behind without interfering. Does not give up on plays even as receiver is catching the ball. Former safety is not contact-shy, solid tackler when coming downhill. Quick to attack running plays, even when playing off-coverage, making it tough for receivers to get a hand on him. Effective as a blitzer against the run and pass. Rips at the ball whether making a tackle downfield or attacking the quarterback in the backfield. Excellent mirror and change of direction skills, displays loose hips despite being a tall corner. Not asked to play a lot of press coverage and he’s not very strong, but he has a quick disruptive jam.
WEAKNESSES Getting bigger, but still quite thin, especially in his lower half. Stronger backs can still carry him when they have a head of steam and physical receivers can block him on the edge and separate from him easily downfield. Plays a bit tall, will miss tackles coming in high and lacks strength to arm tackle receivers. Does not have elite straight-line speed, will not recover once losing a step. Rarely backpedals, asked to play mostly off-coverages and opens his hips early to prevent getting beat deep. Inconsistent looking for and finding the ball in the air, miss-timing jumps and taking bad angles to the ball. Can get caught peeking in the backfield.
NFL COMPARISON Aqib Talib
BOTTOM LINE SEC receivers were hoping Banks would head to the NFL after his second-team All-SEC junior season, but they had to deal with the tall, lean three-year starter’s ball skills and competitive streak for another season before he headed off to challenge pro receivers. He has experience playing a number of spots in the secondary, beginning his career as a safety, before eventually settling on the boundary corner and nickel spots. His skills is man coverage were under-utilized at Mississippi State, and if he can keep adding weight to his long, wiry frame, has the potential to be an excellent press-man corner, a skill that will make get him selected in the top 40 picks.
Lanky ball-hawk who must prove his speed to warrant first-round consideration.
Banks enters his senior campaign with 12 career interceptions, a knack for returning them for scores (three) and the size scouts covet.
The biggest question with him is speed. Banks is often asked to play off-man for the Bulldogs and when he's caught guessing, he doesn't show elite playing speed to recover. He is active with his hands when in press and possesses the fluidity to cut with receivers. He's alert to the run, though he isn't a particularly physical tackler.
A significantly better prospect than the 4th-round grade he was reportedly given last year by the NFL Advisory Committee, Banks could be a first-round pick with a strong 2012 season.--Rob Rang
#13 Johnthan Banks, CB Miss State
Good height and length for a corner
Great footwork, very smooth and quick coming out of breaks
Comfortable in most coverages, although he may have problems in press man in the NFL
Knows how to use his hands effectively in coverage
A knack for making plays on the ball when he is being thrown at
Good pad level and knee bend when transitioning out of breaks
Technique is refined
When passes are completed on him he brings receivers down quickly not allowing much YAC
Played some safety in the past
Fierce competitor who steps up when needed
Can return kicks
Didn’t see much man to man press coverage on film
Struggles to get off of WRs blocks
His thin build keeps him from being effectively physical versus bigger WRs
Banks plays against the highest collegiate competition in the country and he does so competitively and effectively. I believe the abilities that he shows in the SEC will translate into the NFL. There are some things that he needs to work on which can be improved before draft time. He doesn’t have the overall acceleration and recovery speed that you would like out of a CB but he offsets this deficiency by being very refined in his technique and making very few false steps in coverage. He doesn’t provide much in the run game but isn’t afraid to make a tackle, which may or may not be an issue depending on the defense he plays in. He has the height you want in a CB to be able to match up with today’s tall WRs. Overall Banks may be the most polished CB in this year’s draft.
Charlie Campbell of Walter Football writes:
Skill-Set Summary: There is a lot to like about Banks. He is a well-rounded player who is highly experienced against elite competition. For starters, Banks has excellent size and length. Those allow him to cover a large amount of territory and make it difficult for quarterbacks to get the ball by him.
Banks' size makes him a good run defender. He is super aggressive and has zero hesitation to take on a ball carriers. Banks pursues well around the field and is an attacking run-defender. He is a tough player who initiates contact and embraces the physicality of the game.
The large size and length make Banks extremely tough on big receivers. He has no issues running with tall receivers and doesn't allow passes to be caught over him. Banks competes hard for the ball when up for grabs with typically good results. He is a good red-zone defender and is particularly adept at covering fade passes.
Banks has good ball skills and quality instincts. He does well at intercepting passes off the mark and often seems to be in the right place at the right time.
Banks struggles more with smaller speed receivers. They are able to get some separation against him in and out of breaks to make receptions. However, he does a good job of making open-field tackles and limiting the yards after the catch. Banks would be better off in the NFL if his coaches didn't put him in one-on-one man-coverage situations against small, speedy wide outs.
Mississippi State lines up Banks all over the field; he does particularly well in the slot. Banks chips in on run defense and is a dangerous blitzer. He gets good pressure when he rushes and had a huge sack-fumble against Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson last season. NFL coordinators that like to vary where they line up defensive backs will love the Bulldog's versatility.
Banks lines up in press man, off man and zone in pass-coverage. He looks the most comfortable and effective in zone coverage. Banks definitely would work well in a Tampa 2 system. He is a well-developed corner who could be a playmaker at the next level, in the right system.
Draft Countdown Interview
Welcome to Banks Island
Johnthan Banks - Showin' Up
Johnthan Banks Talks About Winning the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award
As I stated in the beginning of this post, if the Denver Broncos were to select a Cornerback with their first pick, Banks is my guy. He can play the Safety position as well as Corner and because he is better suited to defending a bigger receiver than a speedy small guy, has the size and enough speed to cover a Tight End. Johnthan has played in the slot as well, so that area of the field isn’t foreign to him. That is doubly good since that is the general area that Tight Ends work from. The selection of Banks would also alleviate the Safety conundrum and allow the Broncos to put their best 5 Defensive Backs on the field. It allows the development of Rahim Moore and Quentin Carter and paves the way for a possible Champ Bailey move to Safety in the future. The only question remaining, is if the Broncos decide this is an important enough issue to address with their No. 1 draft pick.
Follow Me on Twitter!
Get your MHR T-shirt here
Like Me on FaceBook!