Patriots Reportedly Interested in Mississippi State Cornerback Banks

Could Johnthan Banks be playing for New England in 2013? (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones

Perhaps the most intriguing rumor currently circulating from a New England Patriots perspective is the club’s rumored interest in Mississippi State senior cornerback Johnthan Banks, first reported by writer Tony Pauline, who claimed that the Patriots were considering drafting Banks in the draft’s first round.

New England was one of the twenty-five teams in attendance at Mississippi State’s March 6th pro day, which also featured prospects such as cornerback Darius Slay (profiled on NEPD last week) and defensive tackle Josh Boyd. Read on to find out whether or not it’s reasonable to expect Banks in a Patriots uniform come draft day.

Banks’ pedigree is among the most impressive in the entire draft class; he began his collegiate career as a special teams contributor but eventually started seven of twelve games as a freshman safety, being named a Freshman All-SEC selection by conference coaches based on his 33 tackles and four interceptions (two of which were returned for touchdowns.) As a sophomore, he converted to cornerback and started twelve of thirteen games on the left side of Mississippi State’s defense, making 54 tackles (1.5 for loss, one sack) and three interceptions that year.

He was perhaps most impressive as a junior, when he intercepted five passes (scoring on one return) to complement his 71 tackles (eight for loss, three sacks) and three forced fumbles; Banks added to his value on special teams by returning one of his sixteen punts for a touchdown. However, he was narrowly edged out for a spot on the conference’s All-SEC First or Second Team, owing to the conference’s wealth of defensive back talent (including first-round picks Mark Barron, Morris Claiborne, and Dre Kirkpatrick, along with players such as Tyrann Mathieu, Baccari Rambo, Casey Hayward, Brandon Boykin, and Winston Guy.)

Nonetheless, Banks entered the season projected as a high first-round pick and enjoyed an impressive senior season, culminating in being named the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award winner, representing the NCAA’s top defensive back. Additionally, he was named a member of the All-SEC First Team by conference coaches for his level of play. On the season, Banks recorded 63 tackles (two for loss), four interceptions, and one forced fumble.

However, Banks’ lackluster performance at the NFL Combine delivered a serious blow to his draft stock. Projected to be drafted within the first ten to fifteen picks (and considered a likely target of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who hold the thirteenth overall selection this year), it is almost impossible to imagine him being selected that high after running the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds, the three-cone drill in 6.97 seconds, and the 20-yard short shuttle in 4.27 seconds. His ten repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press and his 34” vertical jump did little to help his case.

Although Banks’ Combine numbers would seemingly indicate otherwise, perhaps his best role at the NFL level is as an outside cornerback in a press-man scheme, where his size, physicality, and long arms enable him to disrupt timing routes and prevent clean releases. Despite not running particularly well in Indianapolis, Banks showed the ability to stay in-phase down the field, even against top wide receivers such as Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson and former South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, now with the Chicago Bears.

Because the Bulldogs were in zone coverage shells often during Banks’ tenure there, he is also well-versed in those coverages, particularly in Cover 3 shells. Banks’ ball skills and eagerness to support the run lend themselves well to this style of defense, although playing so far off line of scrimmage prevents him from being able to jam wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. Still, his experience in zone coverage would undoubtedly appeal to Bill Belichick and may help allay concerns that his lack of timed speed will be crippling at the NFL level.

Based on Banks’ game tape and production over four years in the SEC, he would be well-worth New England’s first-round selection as a replacement for left cornerback Aqib Talib, who appears increasingly likely to depart in free agency. However, it’s also possible that his lack of measurable correlated with NFL success have already cost him an opportunity with the Patriots, and that their interest in him is only a smokescreen. Bill Belichick has been historically averse to drafting cornerbacks who run over a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. Film should trump any workout numbers, but it’s also dangerous to draft a player in the first round who may not have the athleticism necessary for perhaps the most athletically-demanding position in the league.

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11 Responses to “Patriots Reportedly Interested in Mississippi State Cornerback Banks”

  1. Steve Leggett says:

    Milliner, Trufant & Rhodes all had good combines and separated themselves from Banks – probably pushing him into the 2nd round. With the Pats history drafting DB’s (somewhere between bad & awful) and this draft being very deep in both OL & DL (areas that the Pats have drafted very well) I see them going in that direction with their 1st pick.

  2. Jack says:

    Why does it appear increasingly likely Talib leaves in fa? Do you have new info? Not sure why you think its increasing…

  3. Dwayne says:

    The pats don’t give anything away. If something makes headlines in any way related to the pats then you know their not getting drafted. I remember the draft two years ago with Devin M. as our first pick. We did visits with a bunch of top tier players of the draft and then drafted Devin who BB had meetings with at Rutgers while there to watch his son play lacrosse and attend a conference. Anyone they are serious about in the first round wont be mentioned anywhere in a news article that’s for sure. I believe the pats are going to take the top player on their big board. No one really knows who it might be because it depends on the first 28 picks of the draft.

  4. The Patriots letting a 1st round pick intention slip in March? I doubt it guys. This is either a smokescreen by the Pats or Draftinsider has a nice imagination.

    • Nick says:

      Maybe thats exactly what the pats want people to think. Its a smokescreen. And than they take him!!!! Well, at least I can hope that is true.

      • Certainly not impossible, and you’ve got to wonder how many years in a row teams will fall for the Belichick bluff.

        I’m not especially high on Banks though, so I’d prefer to think that BB is just working his old faithful NFL95 HB toss to Mel Gray. Throw a name out there. Watch everyone panic, and see an overrated player go in the 1st round.

  5. JRC says:

    And Chad Bumphis? I haven’t heard anything about him recently. Did not receive a combine invite. Ha played almost exclusively from the slot, but has good yac ability and valuable punt & kickoff returner.

  6. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    I like CB Banks very much, but I think this kind of talk is only if he falls to #59. Patriots maybe hopeing Banks slide continues! I like CB Slay, however his stock is riseing, were I think he goes early 2nd to Detroit.
    The guy I think BB may like is Jordan Poyer, very smart guy, who practiced against Markus Wheaton every Practice. Poyers Combine was not great, but I think he is on the Draft board at #59.

  7. Jeff M says:

    SMOKESCREEN! I think they’re after Slay in the 3rd. Banks is the perfect cover to scout Slay who seems more Bills style at CB. By that I mean, Special Teamer who is fast and will completely bust out…

    Bill is Al Davis when it comes to DBs.

  8. AM says:

    If there’s a rumor connecting the Patriots to a player this early on, it’s a virtual lock they don’t go anywhere near him.

    • Ralph says:

      This sucks, I really like Banks and wanted the Pats to draft him, but with this rumor I know the Pats would not touch him with a 10 foot pole.

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