Not since the days of Ike Taylor have the Steelers truly been able to say that they had an even borderline elite cornerback. Joe Haden was relatively close when the Steelers signed him, but he had already peaked as a player himself. Perhaps 2022 NFL Draft prospect Sevyn Banks could be a true lockdown corner for the Steelers.
Per Ohio State’s official website, Banks was a consensus four-star recruit who was ranked 58th on ESPN’s Top 300. After only playing in five games in 2018, Banks participated in every game for the Buckeyes in 2019, recording 11 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 interception, and 3 passes defended. When Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette, Jr. entered the 2020 NFL Draft, Banks was given a more prominent role, being primarily the outside cornerback opposite Shaun Wade this past season. In 8 games, Banks registered 23 total tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 6 passes defended, and 1 fumble recovery. He now heads into his senior season as Ohio State’s top cornerback and a potential first round pick.
Banks is an extremely athletic corner who will likely test wonderfully at the combine. Coming out of high school, he could run a 4.5 in the 40 and jump 42 inches in the vertical. He has added weight and gotten faster since his time at Ohio State, so expect an outstanding performance in Indianapolis next year. Banks possesses ideal size at 6’1”, 200 pounds, and he uses that size to his advantage, playing a physical brand of football with receivers near the line of scrimmage and bumping them off their route.
Although it has been a somewhat small sample size, Banks has displayed good awareness, especially when the ball is in the air. He is confident in his ability to play with his back to the ball and break up passes downfield, and rightfully so. He displays a great sense of when the ball is in the air and when it is going to arrive at the receiver, getting his hand up to swat the pass away at the perfect time. Banks also has the bloodlines, as his brother Marcell Harris played his college ball at Florida and is currently with the San Francisco 49ers.
Most of Banks’ flaws are fixable issues, but he has a lot of things to fix heading into the 2021 season. When Banks is in press man, he plays a little too far back on his feet and will occasionally lose balance. Despite what most scouting say, I was not overly thrilled with his ability to flip his hips in coverage, as he would occasionally get torched when receivers cut upfield due to that inability. A major area that Banks needs to improve in if he wants to take that next step in his game is creating turnovers. In his first three seasons at Ohio State, he has only accounted for one interception and zero forced fumbles.
As a run defender, Banks takes poor angles too often in the open field, resulting in more missed tackles than you would like to see. He frequently misreads the speed and elusiveness of running backs and receivers in the open field as well, which usually leads to a complete whiff. While Banks has the awareness to know when to turn around in man coverage, his instincts are lacking in zone. He does not always trust his eyes, and he gives too much cushion to receivers underneath. Banks has experience in many different types of coverages, but if he wants to become a first round pick, he must become more consistent and create more turnovers this fall.
Today, we will be looking at Banks’ performance against Clemson in the College Football Playoff Semifinals, but we will begin begin with a couple plays from Ohio State’s game against Indiana last season.
Here is the first play. Banks is covering the slot receiver to the left side of the formation.
This is what Banks is capable of in man coverage. The receiver takes the outside track, and Banks stays with him stride for stride down the field. When the receiver turns his head and begins to decelerate, Banks turns around, puts his body in good position, and extends his arm at the perfect time, breaking up the pass to bring up third down.
You just saw what Banks is capable of in man coverage, but he did not always play to his capabilities, as you will see below.
Banks is covering Miles Marshall on the outside. Banks turns his body a little too far toward the sideline, and when Marshall cuts upfield, Banks cannot turn his body quick enough to keep pace with with him. Banks slightly overreacts when Marshall comes off the line of scrimmage and starts his route, which makes it even more difficult for him to flip his hips and keep pace with Marshall down the field. Marshall easily beats him over the top and nearly takes it all the way.
The final three plays are against Clemson. The first two are focused on Banks as a tackler.
In the first clip, Banks is playing about seven yards off the line of scrimmage. Safety Josh Proctor comes down to cover Amari Rodgers in the slot, but E.J. Williams, who could be a high draft pick in 2023, blocks Proctor and forces Banks to face Rodgers one-on-one. Banks misreads Rodgers’ burst and takes a poor tackling angle as Rodgers cuts upfield. Rodgers extends the right arm, and Banks is unable to get in position to make the tackle.
In the second clip, Banks comes downhill to tackle E.J. Williams who runs an out route toward the sideline. Banks makes another poor decision, leading with his head and going in too high. Williams stays low, avoids the tackle, and gains a couple extra yards before safety Lathan Ransom finally brings him down. Poor tackling angles and poor decision making in the open field have been two of the biggest issues in Banks’ game, and until they are fixed, he is going to struggle bringing elusive receivers and running backs to the ground on a consistent basis.
Here is the final clip. Banks is the left cornerback.
Banks is once again on Williams, who runs a little slant toward the middle of the field. The miscommunication in the backfield did not help Clemson’s cause, but nonetheless, Banks reads this play from the beginning and gets in excellent position to deflect the pass. He is generally quicker to react to in-breaking routes than routes toward the sideline, and this play is a good example of that. When Banks is playing off man and a receiver cuts toward the middle of the field, Banks displays a quick first step, closing the gap between him and the receiver quickly. This type of situation is where many of his pass breakups come from.
NFL Comparison: Eli Apple
A player mocked to the Steelers often in the 2016 draft cycle, Apple has many of the same traits as Banks. Both Buckeye cornerbacks are almost exactly 6’1”, 200 pounds, and both have outstanding athletic ceilings. Just like Banks, Apple had the ability to mirror receivers in man coverage, but he was often slow to react when playing zone. Another issue that Apple had at Ohio State was holding receivers to prevent them from burning him over the top, and Banks has struggled with that same issue. Eli was also stiff in the open field and struggled to make tackles one-on-one. Coming out of college, he was considered to be one of the rawest corners in his class, and I expect that to be the case with Banks as well. The talent is there, but there are still a lot of areas Banks needs to improve in, more than what I think he can fix in one season.
How would he fit with the Steelers?
Banks has the size and athleticism to become a dominant boundary cornerback, but until he learns to rely on his instincts and trust his eyes in zone, I am not sure that he would fit too well with the Steelers. I was not a fan of Eli Apple coming out of college, and I see almost the exact same player in Banks. Much like Artie Burns, he can cover elite receivers on occasion, but if he does not get good position against opposing receivers coming off the line of scrimmage, he is susceptible over the top. He will obviously be a guy I pay close attention to this fall, but right now he is too risky for me to say that the Steelers should have him on their first round radar. He currently gets a second round grade from me.
This marks the end of the breakdowns of the potential first round cornerbacks. Derek Stingley is obviously the top corner in next year’s class, but he is a projected top five pick, which likely means that he will be out of range for the Steelers. I currently have four cornerbacks with first round grades, while the rest of the group is still unproven. It looks to be a deep class next year, but it is unclear which corners will break out and become early round prospects. Here are my top ten as of right now.
1. Derek Stingley — LSU
2. Andrew Booth, Jr. — Clemson
3. Ahmad Gardner — Cincinnati
4. Kaiir Elam — Florida
5. Sevyn Banks — Ohio State
6. Trent McDuffie — Washington
7. Mykael Wright — Oregon
8. Joey Porter, Jr. — Penn State
9. A.J. Hampton — Northwestern
10. Shaun Jolly — Appalachian State
What are your thoughts on Banks? Do you think he would be a fit with the Steelers? Of the cornerbacks we have broken down, which one do you think would be the best fit for the Steelers? Be sure to share your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers in the comment section below!