Falcons Draft Preview: Johnthan Banks, Plan B Cornerback?

Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE

They find new ways of spelling "Johnathan" every day. But this one has found a great way to play cornerback.

With each passing day, those with interest in Atlanta's potential draft selections find themselves more enamored with Desmond Trufant out of Washington, myself included.

He's a fantastic cornerback that any team should be thrilled to have on its roster. But don't think for a minute that the Falcons are the only team with an eye set on Trufant. There are a number of teams - Colts, Broncos, Patriots - who could also take a chance on him.

That's why the Falcons must be prepared for the looming reality that Trufant could be off the board by the time Atlanta makes a pick at 30.

Enter Johnthan Banks, a corner some project could be just as good as our main man Trufant.

Position: Cornerback
School: Mississippi State
Projection: 2nd round
Measurables: 6'2, 185 lbs.
40-yard Dash: 4.61 sec
Bench Press: 10 reps
NFL Comparison: Aqib Talib

Stats (2012): 63 tackles (39 solo), 7 pass deflections, 4 INT, 8.79-yd punt return average

Why He'll Work:

The need at cornerback is still the most obvious and glaring one in Atlanta. What Banks possesses is the experience and the past production to potentially come in and start alongside Asante Samuel right away.

Banks started four full seasons at Mississippi State, compiling 16 interceptions during his career and maintaining his role as a stalwart in the secondary.

He is a larger cornerback not entirely dissimilar to that Richard Sherman dude out west, and that size would allow him to match up well against some of the larger wide receivers he'll face in the NFL. He is sturdy, and he has some of the best leaping ability I've seen among this year's corners.

Perhaps the most important quality for a defensive back is having an instinctive play-making ability, and Banks fits the bill. A real ballhawk, he'll jump routes and deflect passes. His hands are good enough to make him an all-day interception threat.

Banks seems like the type of player Thomas Dimitroff has targeted in recent years: an experienced starter in college football's best conference with good intangibles and proven on-field production.

His coverage skills are what you would look for in a top-end draft prospect, and he has the versatility to fit into most defensive schemes in the NFL. His roles as a blitzer and return man at Mississippi State only sweeten the deal.

Why He Won't Work:

Where Banks falls short of a Trufant is in the area of athleticism.

He's not the fastest guy you'll find (4.61 40-time) and he has the tendency to get burned by faster, slot-type receivers on deeper routes. His acceleration isn't great, and he lacks the fluidity you see in some of the other top-tier defensive backs.

He could stand to play with a little more physicality on the field, both in coverage and in run support. Given his size and sturdiness, that's something that could improve with some added bulk and a little coaching.

It's also worth mentioning that Banks dealt with a knee injury that slowed him down during the latter half of his senior season. He didn't look like quite the same player, some of his explosiveness was lost, etc.

Conclusion:

I look at Banks as the "plan B" guy. If players like Trufant, Tank Carradine and Arthur Brown are all off the board by the time Atlanta picks, I could totally see Dimitroff pulling a Belichick and trading down five or six spots.

Banks would probably still be there, and the Falcons would pick up an early fourth-round pick, giving them 12 total. Not too shabby.

His tendency to get burned on those streak routes is definitely concerning, especially for a guy who projects as an outside cornerback for Atlanta. But sometimes you have to ignore the 40 and look at the whole player, and Banks looks to be as solid as they come.

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