Tuesday, February 5, 2013

First Impressions: Johnthan Banks, CB

Written by Tiger Hebert
I was looking forward to having a chance to watch the Thorpe Award winning cornerback from Mississippi State.  Johnthan Banks is currently ESPN's #2 ranked draft eligible corner.  It didn't take long before I formed a pretty strong opinion of number 13 for the Bulldogs.

What I found immediately is that his natural spot on the defense is playing right corner, which is typically considered the #2 corner at the NFL.  This could be more about that fact that he played opposite of a very capable Darius Slay.  What was evident immediately though, is that when someone was needed to shift into the slot, it was always Banks.  Playing in the slot is often considered a unique skill-set.  That versatility will make Banks highly desirable in the eyes of many NFL scouts and executives.

Another things that was noticeable, was that he was placed in different situations by the defensive calls by his coaching staff.  There were occasions where he was called to play tight man, off-man, and even still times where it was pure zone.  Impressively, Banks looked comfortable in each scenario.  Unfortunately he I did not see any press man, but it looks like he has the physical tools to be able to excel there as well.  Part of that skill-set was that he appeared to have good feet, and was very smooth and controlled in transition when he needed to flip his hips and run with a defender on a vertical route.  During the film session that I watched, it was clear that North Western had no intention of throwing the ball in his vicinity, which is yet another vote of confidence for the young man.

However, despite the positive signs that I saw above, I saw a few things that were very concerning for a potential 1st round pick.  With Banks lined up in the nickle covering the slot, there was a strong side run that came his way.  First when the blocker engaged him, he read the play wrong and lost contain.  Not only did he give up his outside leverage, but he showed little resistance to the blocker.  Finally, and most concerning was when he did disengage, he simply jogged as he trailed the play.  He was play-side, and the ball carrier was weaving his way down the sideline through his teammates, yet Banks never showed any hustle.  He simply gave up on the play. 

Personally, I think Banks could be an excellent cover corner at the next level, but I don't like the way that he simply showed little to no effort once the ball carrier passed his face.  This lack of effort alone should be a serious red flag in pre-draft evaluations.

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