Sure, the Niners drafted Aaron Banks in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft, and the Notre Dame product looked fine in his five offensive snaps as a rookie, but would he be able to hold up as a full-time starter? And what about Spencer Burford, the collegiate offensive tackle from UTSA? Would he be able to not only switch positions but outplay incumbent starter Daniel Brunskill?
Fortunately, fans didn’t have to wait too long to find out, as through two weeks, the duo has been a revelation.
Playing 100% of the team’s offensive snaps in each of the first two games of the season, Banks and Burford currently rank first and seventh, respectively, on the team in offensive grade according to Pro Football Focus, with the duo ranking seventh and fourth, respectively, in pass blocking grade among qualifying guards. Neither has allowed a sack on Trey Lance or Jimmy Garoppolo and outside of a false start penalty on Burford, the duo has played like the interior anchors Kyle Shanahan envisioned when he named them starters heading into Week 1.
While the Niners’ offensive line play hasn’t been perfect, as Jake Brendel remains the team’s second-lowest graded player, San Francisco does have the best team pass-blocking grade of any unit in the NFL, according to PFF, and the play of Banks and Burford certainly play a huge part in the cumulative grade.
Banks & Burford Are Locked in With the 49ers
After the 49ers’ Week 1 game against the Chicago Bears, Banks was asked about what he expects from himself and his fellow first-year starting guard in 2022 by Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area.
“I know what they expect out of me and Spencer, and the goal is to be the best guards we can be for this team and this offense and do everything they ask of us,” Banks said. “We know we have a spotlight on us, but we knew that was going to happen. We’re excited to keep rolling, keep getting better.”
Fortunately, that persistence proved valuable for the second-year pro, as he was similarly impressive in Week 2, and his team secured a win as a result.
“We were practicing the entire time, so I tried to hone in on my technique and try get better over that time and take a step from the preseason games to the first game and come up better,” Banks said.
Kyle Shanahan Doubles Down on Praise for Aaron Banks in Week 2
When asked about how Banks has progressed from the preseason to Week 1 and eventually Week 2 during a media availability session, Shanahan doubled down on the praise he gave his young guard as transcribed by Niners Webzone.
“I’ve been real happy with him these first two weeks,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said of Banks. “I think he took a step up in Week 1 from the preseason. And I think he even took a greater step up in Week 2 compared to Week 1. I thought he had one of [his] better games on offense. He did a hell of a job.”
If Banks continues to excel opposite Burford, he should expect far more praise over the remaining 16 weeks of the regular season.