The San Francisco 49ers lost one of the best players on their offensive line this offseason when left guard Laken Tomlinson signed a three-year deal worth up to $40 million with the New York Jets in free agency. Instead of replacing Tomlinson with another free agent or a top draft pick, the Niners opted to bet on their 2021 second-round pick, Aaron Banks.
Banks competed with Dan Brunskill to start at right guard last season, but an injury during training camp put him well behind the 8-ball. In fact, he was a healthy scratch several times early in the season. He eventually reached the active gameday roster, appearing in nine games as a rookie, but nearly all of his snaps came on special teams.
However, despite the underwhelming rookie campaign, 49ers offensive line coach Chris Foerster had some high praise for Banks with Matt Barrows and David Lombardi of The Athletic. According to The Athletic, “Foerster is bullish about Banks’ potential to take over the starting left guard spot vacated by Laken Tomlinson.”
Possibly the most promising note from the piece was Foerster revealing that Banks made significant strides during last season and made the coaching staff consider having him replace Brunskill late last season. With the Niners trending in the right direction at that point in the year, though, the staff opted to stick with Brunskill.
Foerster noted that Banks has toned his 330-pound frame and said, “He has the ability to maintain, to play faster, to play harder because he’s in better shape.” Foerster also pointed out that Banks prefers playing on the left side of the line since he primarily played left guard during his collegiate career at Notre Dame.
It would be a huge boon for the 49ers’ offense if Banks could seamlessly slot in next to Trent Williams on the left side of the offensive line. Brunskill remains the likely starter at right guard, but with veteran, Alex Mack likely retiring before the start of next season, San Francisco’s interior offensive line could have different starters at every position. Banks living up to his draft status would go a long way toward positioning the Niners’ offense for success.