Wednesday night, I noticed this twitter interaction between NFL All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and star Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks:
I found the confident statement "ill see you at the top," very intriguing. Banks is already considered one of the top cornerbacks entering the 2013 NFL draft, but I wanted to take a closer look.
Let's start with his collegiate statistics:
The first thing I noticed here was his consistency. Banks was a key contributor all four years and based on statistics alone, you see an all-around player. His 16 interceptions rank him 4th all-time in the SEC (38% of all his defended passes resulted in a interception).
I really like seeing the sacks and forced fumbles. MSU did not hesitate to use him on blitzes (watching game tape illustrates this as well). In my opinion, the five forced fumbles are somewhat of a bonus coming from a corner (unless your Charles Tillman), but they should not be overlooked. Between interceptions and forcing fumbles, this is a player that will get his team the ball. It's often said, "Whoever wins the turnover battle usually wins the game," and in many cases that is true. Not only will Banks help a team by being an outstanding pass defender, his ability to generate turnovers will directly contribute to winning football games.
Banks is also a bit of a play-maker when he gets the ball in his hands. While at MSU, he returned three interceptions for touchdowns and also scored on a punt return during the 2011 season. His ability to turn interceptions into touchdowns is just another trait that results in winning more football games.
Here's a clip of an interception he made off Tim Tebow (2009), which just happened to be returned for a 102 yard touchdown:
Here are some other highlights and game clips:
* Note - While researching Banks, I noticed that some draft profiles indicated a possible concern that he doesn't possess elite speed or vertical leaping ability. What do you think?
I know these are mostly highlights, and in no way am I'm saying he can't improve his game. One area in particular that he needs to improve on, is his tackling. He needs to be more consistent in squaring up to make the tackle, while wrapping up to finish it. (This can be corrected at the next level). If you look at his entire body of work, I think you will see a corner that has played at a very high level in the toughest conference in college football (SEC) for the last four years.
Banks has also shown great durability, having never missed a game in four seasons. He began his freshman year in a backup role, but finished the last seven games of the season as the Bulldogs starting free safety. Safety was the position Banks played in high school, as well as quarterback. Prior to the start of his sophomore year (in college), Banks made the switch to cornerback where he has started every game since.
By the end of his senior year, Banks was honored with the following:
- 2012 Jim Thorpe Award (Most Outstanding Defensive Back)
- 2012 Walter Camp All-American (1st team)
- 2012 AP All-American (2nd team)
- 2012 All-SEC (1st team)
I want to focus on one of these honors in particular, and that is the Jim Thorpe Award. Historically, the winner of this award has a very good chance of becoming a Pro-Bowl caliber player. The last three winners (Morris Claiborne 11', Patrick Peterson 10', and Eric Berry 09') have all found early success in the NFL. Others like, Charles Woodson in 97' and Antoine Winfield in 98' have put together Hall of Fame worthy careers. The most famous winner of the Thorpe award was none other than Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Banks is going to be the next "Prime Time." The point is, he has a very good chance of becoming an great NFL player, while maintaining that level of performance for many years.
The part that actually impressed me the most with his Jim Thorpe Award, was what he said during the presentation ceremony.
ESPN's Chris Fowler asked Banks the following questions:
Fowler: "What are you most proud of, (in) your journey of perseverance to be here tonight?"
Banks (answer): "Being a father to my kid."
Fowler: In reference to his son (KJ), "What has he taught you about life?"
Banks (answer): "He's taught me to grow up and be a man."
Those two answers really stood out to me. I see a young man who has his priorities in order and is only 23 years old. He also comes off as very humble in that and other interviews. Banks had a difficult childhood, but one thing is clear, he is a fighter. From everything I've read and watched, Johnthan Banks is a person of very high character and that is extremely important to many NFL teams. But, don't just take my word for it.
In reference to his two starting CB's (Banks and Darius Slay), MSU's defensive coordinator Chris Wilson was quoted (find it here) as saying this “They’re also better human beings than they are football players.”
Considering how good those two players are at football, that is a powerful statement.
So let's recap. In Johnthan Banks, we have: a 6'2", 185lb, cornerback who excelled in the SEC, won the Jim Thorpe Award, is raising his 1 year old son with his long time girlfriend (whom he recently married), all while overcoming a difficult childhood (Yahoo Sports childhood story here). Who wouldn't want this guy on their team?
Back to where we started. Will Johnthan Banks see Richard Sherman "at the top"? I wouldn't bet against him.
* Currently, ESPN's Mel Kiper doesn't have Banks going in the 1st, while Todd McShay has him going 25th. Scouts Inc currently has him ranked 22nd overall in their top 32. The NFL Scouting Combine can also play a part in a player rising or falling on draft boards. The combine will take place from February 20th through the 26th.
* I don't see Banks getting out of the 1st round or past the Giants (19th pick) for that matter (who have been scouting him for months). As a Seahawks fan, there is a part of me that would love to see this guy lined up opposite Richard "Optimus Prime" Sherman (Browner is a FA after the 2013 season).
Thanks for following my blog and have a great weekend.