Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

How Good Can Johnthan Banks Be? NFL Draft Expert Dane Brugler Breaks Down the Buccaneers' Rookie

Dane Brugler, NFL Draft Expert from CBS Sports.com, was kind enough to take time to sit down with us and answer some questions about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ top draft choice in this Spring’s NFL Draft. Johnthan Banks is a player who brings up plenty of opinions among Buccaneers’ fans, so here is your chance to get an outsider’s perspective from a guy who covers the NFL Draft as well as anyone in the business.

Leo: Johnthan Banks seemed to slide down draft boards over the course of the NFL’s offseason, as trendy picks like D.J. Hayden and Xavier Rhodes were moved up into many draft experts’ top 10 lists. Where do you believe Banks should have gone in the draft, and was the Buccaneers’ selection at 43 a good value for Banks?
Dane: I graded Banks as an early second round pick so I think he went about the time when he should have. I thought he was unfairly overrated early in the season as a possible top-10 pick, but he had a solid senior campaign and is a good fit for Tampa.
Leo: The Buccaneers upgraded the corner position drastically by bringing in Darrelle Revis. This means Johnthan Banks may not even be called upon to start in his first season, something that previously seemed to be a foregone conclusion for any Buccaneer draft choices at corner. Do you think that Banks is worthy of starting from day one at cornerback?
Dane: Banks has the ballhawking ability to make an early impact, but he will get himself in trouble with his aggressive approach, something that could cause him to struggle early in his pro career as he adjusts to the speed of the NFL. Some rookies thrive in their first years but more often than not, rookies really benefit from learning and gradually getting on the field. Banks goes to a good situation in Tampa where he won’t be expected to be the top guy from day one.
Leo: There has been a lot of discussion about Banks’ ability to play press coverage and off-man coverage, but in some of the tape I watched, Banks played almost 100% zone defense. School us on the schemes and roles Banks played in, and how these translate to the NFL.
Dane: Banks has experience in both man and zone, press and off-man. Mississippi State ran a lot of 3-deep cover 3 zone coverage where he could play off the line of scrimmage to use his strong plant foot and drive on plays in front of him and protect him against getting beat deep. Keeping the play in front of him allowed Banks to quickly react and make plays on the ball.

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Leo: How concerned are you about Banks’ lack of timed speed?

Dane: Yes, 40-yard dash times can be overrated and misleading at times. But Banks doesn’t have elite speed, which shows at times on the football field. He was protected most times in college due to the scheme MSU ran so how his lack of speed will affect his NFL performance will depend on the scheme and how he is used in Tampa.
Leo: I also noticed that while Banks may not have the best pursuit angles or tackling ability, he’s not afraid to get into the backfield or get downhill and tackle an opponent runner. Do you think that Johnthan will develop into a strong contributor to the run defense as a pro?
Dane: There is no question, Banks is aggressive run defender and doesn’t shy from contact. He has long arms with the natural flexibility and agile footwork to quickly redirect and drive fast and physical on the ballcarrier. He will get in trouble with his aggressive nature vs. the run at times, getting his eyes stuck in the wrong place or overpursing the action. Banks needs to tighten his angles and stay under control to finish, often hitting too high and not effectively using his long arms to wrap. He has room to improve in run support but he has the attitude needed to develop into a quality run defender in the NFL.
Leo: Alright, take a moment and shoot straight with Buc Nation. How good will Johnthan Banks be? Can he be a franchise corner? Is he a career number 2 corner? Is he destined to shift back to safety at some point?
Dane: Banks has several traits that project him as a quality NFL starter, most notably his confidence and ability to make a play on the ball. He has the height and length that will help him against the bigger, more physical receivers in the NFL, but he will need to prove he can routinely hold up and be as effective with his back to the ball. I think he will have some hiccups early in his career because the scheme he played in college protected him in several ways, but Banks wants to be great and he’s not someone I would bet against. It wouldn’t shock me if he moves to safety at some point, which wouldn’t necessarily be a demotion, but a move that might utilize his strengths.
Leo: As a quick aside to close out this discussion, could you give us your quick thoughts about Akeem Spence, and his ability to step in and assume the starting nose tackle position on the Bucs’ defense? Does Spence have upside beyond being just a weight room warrior who eats up space in the middle?
Dane: Spence steadily improved each season at Illinois and is ready for the NFL as a rookie. He is a stout, strong run defender with the build and muscle definition needed for the interior. He is an explosive striker and embraces the violence of the game, but does have room to improve his technique. For me, Spence plays with the power and physical nature to be a reliable 4-3 nose.
Leo: Thanks Dane!
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