49ers roster: Is Aaron Banks at risk of being next NFL Draft bust?

Aaron Banks #65 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Aaron Banks #65 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The 49ers’ second-round NFL Draft pick of 2021, Aaron Banks, has had a rocky start to his pro career, raising questions if he’ll turn into a bust.

Yes, it’s absolutely an overreaction to think San Francisco 49ers rookie offensive guard Aaron Banks is going to be a bust.

First, the obvious needs to be said. The overwhelming majority of NFL Draft picks never come close to panning out to their desired levels of expectations. This applies to approximately 50 percent of first-round picks, a higher percentage of second-round picks and so on. Some turn into OK players, yes.

But there’s a reason why the average career of an NFL player is regularly estimated at 3.3 years.

OK, back to Banks, the Niners’ second-round pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, taken at No. 48 overall out of Notre Dame and the second player grabbed behind San Francisco’s high-profile selection of quarterback Trey Lance.

Banks made a name for himself with his powerful 6-foot-5, 325-pound frame and prolific pass-blocking potential. While he was more of a power-scheme player and not necessarily seen as a pure fit in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s outside-zone blocking system, the hope was Banks could trim some weight and adapt to the scheme he found himself in.

At least that was the thought.

Aaron Banks had up-and-down moments with 49ers early on

The 49ers’ ideal scenario would be Banks winning the starting right guard job outright, thereby relegating the uber-versatile Daniel Brunskill, the presumed starter, into a much-needed reserve role capable of supporting all five spots along the offensive line.

Yet Banks almost exclusively worked with the second-string unit, both during organized team activities and into training camp.

One report from Sports Illustrated’s Grant Cohn didn’t exactly shed a positive light on Banks:

"Still hasn’t played with starters. Today, Colton McKivitz was the starting right guard, and McKivitz stinks, which shows you what the 49ers currently think of Banks. He committed a false start with the second stringers during 11 on 11s."

OK, fine. Banks wasn’t necessarily viewed as a plug-and-play option, especially having to adjust to a new system. He would have to overtake Brunskill by earning the job anyway.

Yet with one preseason game now in the books, the exhibition Week 1 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, it sure doesn’t appear as if Banks is on his way to doing this anytime soon.

Pro Football Focus gave Banks a 0.0 pass-blocking grade during the game on his 28 snaps before exiting with a shoulder injury. More on that in a second, although it’s surely fair to question exactly how a player earns a zero mark in any category unless he physically disappeared from the field when he was supposed to be out there.

Either way, regardless of how you view their grading criteria, it’s safe to assume PFF wasn’t impressed with Banks.

Aaron Banks’ injury thwarts his development with 49ers

After the game, Shanahan told reporters Banks would miss two to three weeks while he recovered from the shoulder setback, effectively ending his preseason.

While Banks might be a ways away from taking over from Brunskill, those exhibition reps were inevitably going to be vital for the rookie’s development, providing chances for him to master the scheme and play-calls while building both confidence and practical NFL-level experience.

In some regards, Banks’ latest setback is a reminder to another former Niners draft bust, offensive guard Joshua Garnett, whom Shanahan inherited in 2017 after Garnett was selected by San Francisco in Round 1 of the previous year’s draft.

Read More: Preseason loss to Chiefs revealed why 49ers O-line is a liability

Garnett, another power blocker, didn’t fit in a zone-style scheme much and also dealt with injuries before being let go in 2019.

Now, none of this is to say Banks is heading in Garnett’s direction. Banks has gone through just a single training camp and only a fraction of a preseason game. Most importantly, he’s a rookie.

That said, of all the 49ers’ 2021 NFL Draft picks, it’s looking like Banks is the early favorite to be viewed as the player who never worked out. And considering the reality most draft picks don’t reach their desired levels of expectation anyway, there’s a good chance Banks winds up being labeled with the ever-unfortunate “bust” moniker.

Let’s hope this never winds up being the case.

Next. 4 takeaways from Trey Lance's NFL debut vs. Chiefs. dark