Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today is LG Aaron Banks
For the first time since the beginning of the 2017 season, the 49ers will have a new starting left guard. Laken Tomlinson held down that spot better than the Niners could have ever hoped for when they traded a future fifth-round pick for Tomlinson on August 31, 2017.
The best offensive lines aren’t filled with All-Pros at each position but rather a continuity and cohesiveness that can’t be mimicked. Banks has big shoes to fill in replacing Tomlinson, a player who missed one start in five years.
Tomlinson’s availability was his best trait, but that shouldn’t take away from his high-level play. In 2021, Tomlinson only allowed two sacks and four opponent stuffs. Based on his blown block percentage, Tomlinson was only beaten just over one time per game. This is me bracing you for the inevitable drop-off that’s coming at left guard this season.
Experience: One accrued season
Weight: 338 lbs.
Banks won’t become an unrestricted free agent until 2025. Since he wasn’t a first-round pick, the Niners won’t have the luxury of picking up his fifth-year option. And with 2021 serving as an essential redshirt year, these next two seasons are massive for the development of Banks.
He’ll remain relatively cheap against the salary cap, as Banks won’t have a cap number over $2.2 million for the duration of his contract.
A new body type for Banks
Banks credited the strength and conditioning staff in late May for helping him get into better shape. Offensive line coach Chris Foerster said Banks’ weight hasn’t changed, but the composition of his weight has. By that, he meant Banks added muscle mass while cutting some fat. So, his body fat percentage has dropped since last season.
Another change for Banks is that he’s back to the left side. As a rookie, he worked as a right guard. Banks admitted that he’s more comfortable on the left side.
What to expect in 2022
To get a better idea of what we can expect from Banks, let’s look at how other second-round offensive linemen have performed in recent years.
Tevin Jenkins, Liam Eichenberg, Walker Little, Jackson Carman, Sam Cosmi, Dillion Radunz, Josh Myers, and Creed Humphrey were all offensive linemen who were drafted in the second round of the 2021 draft.
Jenkins played 154 snaps. Eichenberg, Banks’ college teammate, started 16 games. Carman appeared in 12 games and started half, while Little started three of the seven games he appeared in. Cosmi started nine games. Radunz played 115 snaps compared to 273 snaps from Myers. Humphrey will always feel like the “one that got away” after an impressive rookie year.
So, while Banks has the least amount of playing time among the eight offensive linemen drafted in last year’s second round, plenty of players failed to log enough meaningful snaps.
It’s impossible to project Banks’ 2022 season. His Notre Dame background will help. Banks was one of the better pass protectors coming out, and that was before he reshaped his body. He’s playing in a scheme that protects its offensive lineman by getting rid of the ball quickly and working in tandem against the run.
Who knows what to expect from Banks. His goal should be to stay healthy, allow fewer than five sacks, and soak up everything he hears from Trent Williams.