The San Francisco 49ers took a pretty big risk letting Laken Tomlinson walk in free agency. A failed first-round draftee of the Detroit Lions who was traded to the Niners for a 2019 fifth-round pick, Tomlinson re-found the road grade-ability he was known for during his time at North Carolina and even earned a Pro Bowl nod for his efforts.
Fortunately, John Lynch saw Tomlinson’s exit coming and drafted Aaron Banks in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft to prematurely fill the void left by the 6-foot-3, 315-pound mauler. When asked about how Banks fit in with the team during his media availability session following the Niners’ Week 10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, Kyle Shanahan had some high praise for his second-year starter, as transcribed by Jose Luis Sanchez III of All 49ers FN.
“He is a good player,” said Shanahan. “He’s worked real hard. I’d say he put in as much work as anyone on our team this offseason. Just from when the season ended to when the season started, it seemed like there was no difference from him, I’d see him out my window every day.”
Considering Banks went from a reserve almost exclusively used on special teams to a near-every snap starter for the 49ers from his rookie to sophomore season, it’s clear hard work has paid off for the Notre Dame product.
“His weaknesses, he doesn’t try to avoid them,” Shanahan said. “He really tries to work at and get those better, and he has got a lot of strengths. When he has got into these games, I think he hasn’t gotten overwhelmed and because of that, because of the work he’s put in. I’ve been real happy with Aaron.”
Aaron Banks Doesn’t Mind Who He’s Blocking For In Kyle Shanahan’s Offense
Speaking with NBC Sports about his recent on-field success and the additions of Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell to the offensive backfield, Banks declared his main goal is to do his job on every snap.
“Honestly, I don’t even know who is behind me half the time,” Banks said. “I’m just trying to do my job to the best of my ability, so it doesn’t matter who is back there. I just block my guy and do whatever my job is.”
If Banks’ main concern is to do his job, he deserves a Christmas bonus, as he’s accomplished his mission nine weeks in a row despite facing off against Hall of Fame-level talents like Aaron Donald twice in 2022.
“You know you’re blocking a good guy,” Banks said. “You know you’re blocking Aaron Donald, but if you sit there thinking about him, you’re giving him more power. You’re giving power to him. You don’t really need to.
“He bleeds just like everyone else. Not taking anything away from him; he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer, dude is legit. When you play against him, you do notice he’s different than others, but that’s just how I approach it. Try to keep it nameless, faceless.”
Aaron Banks Is Statistically Standing Out For The San Francisco 49ers
Through the first nine games of the 2022 NFL season, Banks has started every game for the Niners and has been on the field for 563 of the team’s 580 offensive snaps, or roughly 97 percent of the team’s total offensive output. While that production is a serious uptick from his rookie season, a full 558 offensive snaps more to be exact, Banks hasn’t shrunk under pressure, as he’s allowed just three penalties and zero sacks, according to Pro Football Reference.
Really, it’s no wonder Banks is earning so much praise, as according to Pro Football Focus, his Offensive Grade (66.1) ranks 31st among 82 qualifying guards, with a Run Block Grade (62.6) that ranks 38th among 76 qualifying guards, and a Pass Block Grade (69.8) that ranks 23rd among 79 qualifying guards.