The 49ers made a bold move when they decided to let their long-time starting left guard walk when Laken Tomlinson departed via free agency last offseason. While the logic was sound, there wasn’t a tangible sample size to gauge how Tomlinson’s replacement would fare while filling the shoes of one of the more dependable players on the roster during the Kyle Shanahan era.
Nonetheless, San Francisco opted to roll the dice and move forward with second-year guard Aaron Banks, who had only five total regular season snaps of NFL experience heading into this season. There was plenty of risk involved as the 49ers plunged into the unknown, but through six games, Banks has been about as dependable as you could ask for, given the circumstances.
Banks was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise forgettable loss to the Atlanta Falcons, posting his first clean sheet in his young NFL career. That means Banks did not allow a single pressure against the Falcons while regularly battling with one of the better interior defensive linemen in the league in, Grady Jarrett.
Aaron Banks vs Grady Jarrett pic.twitter.com/PAHjUt995L— Jordan Elliott (@splash_cousin) October 17, 2022
This game was far from an isolated incident, as Banks’ excellence in pass protection has been on display all season long to this point. Banks has recorded 200 pass-blocking snaps this season, and not only hasn’t allowed a sack but also has not been responsible for a single defender to register a hit on the quarterback.
Week after week, we see Banks decisively win his matchups in pass protection, providing a stable and reliable presence on the blind side of the offensive line, which has been particularly valuable with Trent Williams missing the last three games.
Banks’ impact goes beyond just pass protection at the line of scrimmage, as the 2021 second-round pick has been exceptional moving in space as well. For example, take a look at the block Banks executes downfield on this tunnel screen to Brandon Aiyuk, which went for a touchdown.
Nice block down field for Aaron Banks on this tunnel screen pic.twitter.com/shFFYuAXvs— Jordan Elliott (@splash_cousin) October 18, 2022
When the 49ers made the choice to move forward with Banks, they likely did so in the hopes that Banks could get by simply not being a liability while he replaced a fixture in Tomlinson. Banks has not only been a serviceable replacement but has arguably been an upgrade over his predecessor through the first six games of this season for a fraction of the price.
Banks has only allowed a pressure on four percent of his pass protection reps this season, never having more than two pressures allowed in any of the six games he has started. Banks is only allowing a pressure once every 25 pass-blocking snaps on average.
The most encouraging part about all of this? Banks is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential in his second year in the NFL. The future is bright on the left side of the 49ers' offensive line.