I admittedly didn’t know anything about Deonte Banks prior to the NFL Combine.
You can’t really blame me for that, either. Banks was a cornerback from Maryland who wasn’t Joey Porter Jr., a cornerback from Penn State.
Porter was the cornerback who had been linked to the Steelers for quite some time—maybe even as far back as last offseason. Banks was someone I had honestly never even heard of.
But that all changed after the Combine when I learned that Banks turned in a time of 4.35 in the 40-yard dash. Obviously, there’s more to playing cornerback in the NFL than just blazing speed. If that were the case, Banks would probably be a top-five prospect.
Banks is not a top-five prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft, but he is a top-five cornerback prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft and someone who is expected to go somewhere between the middle and the end of the first round.
That puts Banks in the wheelhouse of the Steelers, a team that will be picking 17th on the evening of April 27.
Banks’s Combine performance put him on the radar of several NFL teams, and the fans of those teams began to learn about him rather quickly.
Banks is obviously fast enough, as evidenced by his 40-time. He’s also athletic enough, that is, if you put any stock in the fact that he finished first among cornerbacks at the Combine with a score of 98 in the athleticism category.
At 6’0” and 197 pounds, Banks is also big enough to play cornerback at the next level.
If you watch his highlights (I believe this is what the cool kids call “his tape”), Banks is a very physical cornerback who is good in man-to-man and press coverage, things that physical corners are known for.
After suffering a shoulder injury that limited his playing time in 2021, Banks had a coming-of-age year in 2022, starting nine games and recording 38 tackles, eight pass breakups and one interception.
So what’s wrong with Banks? What makes him an inferior corner prospect to someone like Porter?
You read good things about Banks in his NFL.com Draft Profile. He has a smooth lower body. He has the desired size and length to play outside corner in the NFL. He’s also “Experienced in a variety of coverages.” I mean, I’m not an expert, but I do know the Steelers like to employ a variety of coverages in their secondary. I also know the failure of Artie Burns, a pure man-to-man corner in college, to learn zone was one of his downfalls after the Steelers selected him in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
You read the bad things about Banks, too.
He “Gets crossed up by hard route stems.” He “Doesn’t play with confidence when his back is to the ball.”
Of course, you also read bad things about Porter. You even read bad stuff about Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez and Illinois’s Devon Witherspoon—two prospects who are vying to be the top cornerback taken off the board.
While you can’t take this as gospel, Banks’s NFL.com Draft profile score of 6.32 puts him in the same ballpark as Porter (6.42) and even Witherspoon (6.47).
I don’t know a ton about Banks, but I can say pretty much the same thing about Gonzalez, Witherspoon and Porter Jr.
I do know Banks is a bona fide first-round prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft, and that he plays a position the Steelers need to address this offseason.
JV2K13, a famous BTSC commentator, recently said he’d have a “nuclear meltdown” if the Steelers drafted Banks in the first round. I don’t know what the history is there, but JV2K13 is clearly not on board with the possibility of Banks being Pittsburgh’s first draft choice.
I’m much easier to please when it comes to the annual NFL Draft.
As long as the Steelers select a player who addresses a need and is also not a reach, I’m fine with it.
And that’s why I’d be fine with Deonte Banks being the Steelers' pick in the first round (17th, overall) of the 2023 NFL Draft.