2023 NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Tennessee LB Jeremy Banks

From now until the 2023 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents Today, I’ll be profiling Tennessee LB Jeremy Banks.

#33 Jeremy Banks, LB, Tennessee (SR) – 6010, 225LBS

East-West Shrine Bowl Invite

Measurements

Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Jeremy Banks 6’1 225lbs 9 1/2 32 1/4 78 1/8
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone  
N/A N/A N/A N/A  
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press    
N/A N/A      

The Good

Solid athletic profile
Has experience lining up at multiple backer positions
Possesses the strength and elusiveness to take on and shed blockers
Displays the proper ability to diagnose plays quickly and react accordingly
Shows no discomfort athletically when dropping into zone or playing man coverage
Has excellent burst and closing speed as a blitzer

The Bad

Raw in terms of technique, started playing linebacker in 2019
Displays poor body control when going in for a tackle
Often does not bring his arms to wrap up ball carriers
Often fails to put his chest and drive through with his hips when going in for the tackle
Looks to avoid blocks entirely rather than stacking and shedding or ripping through
Below average in zone coverage
Doesn’t consistently take proper angles in chase
After 128 tackles in 2021, dropped to 53 in 2022.

Bio

Birthday: September 23, 1999 (23 years old)
Four-star recruit out of high school in Tennessee
Played running back in high school, rushed for 2,773 yards and 47 touchdowns
Rushed for 185 yards and three touchdowns on 52 careers as a freshman at Tennessee
Switched to linebacker in sophomore season at Tennessee (2019)
Political science major
Career Stats: 219 tackles, 18 for loss, 5.5 sacks, 10 passes defensed, three interceptions, one fumble forced and one fumble recovered
Arrested in 2019
Allegedly had an altercation with QB Hendon Hooker which led to a pseudo-suspension against South Carolina

Tape Breakdown

Jeremy Banks is in the mold of the new-age off-ball linebacker that the NFL has tried to lean toward over the years as passing games open up and tight ends become more and more dangerous. While slightly undersized, Banks possesses a thick frame that allowed him to transition from running the ball to tackling runners rather smoothly.

Still, his inexperience and inconsistency at the position will have to be judged fairly against the other off-ball backers in this class.

Usually with new linebackers, the easy part is tackling and the hard part is diagnosing. While Banks racked up the first 100-tackle season since 2015 for the Vols in 2021, he had a dramatic fall-off in 2022. The drop is alarming, but his ability to read and react with such little experience is a welcome trait.

Two fine examples here, the first against Georgia and the second against Alabama. Banks reads these plays in a similar fashion. Against Georgia, he stays downhill, sifts through the trash and beats the tight end to the block wrapping up the ball carrier for a loss. Against Alabama, his key is the running back. He keeps eyes on his man and explodes through the developing play, although he’s fortunate his teammates joined him in the backfield as he fails to break down on the runner to make the play himself.

 

The second clip leads to the discussion on his tackling. I’m not sure what he changed so dramatically from 2021 to 2022, but it wasn’t a positive one. In the four games I watched, he struggled to control his body when the opportunity to make the play was presented to him. Here are two quick examples against Alabama where he throws his body at the ball carriers and whiffs each time, failing to bring his chest and hips or simply wrap up and grab cloth.

While reading plays appears to be a strength of his, getting to the ball carrier can often be a frustrating affair for him. While he clearly possesses ample strength and athleticism to handle blockers, he far too often looks to avoid blockers. See here against Florida. Banks clearly sees the play develop in front of him, but because he backsteps to assess the offensive linemen in front of him instead of looking to crash through and shed toward the runner, he ends up getting blocked further downfield and becomes luggage for the blockers on the offense’s trip to a first down.

But it’s quite clear why he looks to avoid blockers at all costs. It’s because his technique is lacking in shedding blocks. Again against Florida, Banks begins to flow toward the action and is met by the guard at the second level. Instead of ripping through, Banks allows the lineman to get hands on his frame and begins hand-fighting, a clear indicator of a lack of technique.

A clear path isn’t always going to be his biggest assist either. Here against LSU, he’s got a wide-open path to pursue the ball carrier, but misjudges his angle and ends up trailing the runner to the first down marker.

Still, his pursuit and closing speed is impressive in other areas. Against Alabama he was a problem as a blitzer. It wasn’t shown much against the other teams I watched, and at the end of the day he had zero sacks in 2022 and just 4.5 TFLs, but he made an impact outside of the stat sheet in this game. Here are three examples of him showing some pursuit off the edge, explosion through his blitz gap and closing speed on the quarterback.

Moving on to coverage, Banks was often subbed in obvious passing situations outside of the Alabama game. That’s pretty alarming for a Will linebacker. Oftentimes he was subbed out for entire drives instead for rotational purposes, but this did make it difficult to get a gauge of his zone capabilities. Good on the Vols’ defense for putting him in positions to be successful otherwise.

One example here against Georgia, Banks drops into the hook with no problem, but he fails to feel the route pattern around him and overcompensates for the quarterback’s eye direction, taking himself away from the in-breaking receiver. It’s not so much that he blew his assignment rather than

it appears that he’s somewhat uncomfortable with what he should do back there.

As for his man coverage, Banks is a bit more comfortable. Here are two examples against Alabama’s Cameron Latu. While both result in receptions for the tight end, the first shows that he can keep up with his target and make the catch a difficult process despite his smaller stature. The second, however, is yet another example of his struggles with body control. He doesn’t stumble on the turf in my estimation, he stumbles because he was caught guessing the route and mixed his feet up when he processed what was happening.

Conclusion

I don’t do player comps, but I don’t feel I’d be off base that many of you read his size profile and watched these clips and had flashbacks to 2021 Devin Bush. I don’t think he’s really that similar to Bush as a prospect, but the things that annoy Steelers fans about Bush these days are present in Banks’ game.

In the same vein, you may be drawing comparisons to Mark Robinson’s transition from running back to linebacker and trying to find the similarities there as well. Robinson is a much better tackler and Banks is better at reading plays, but both struggle with fundamental technique, which is to be expected.

All of that to say, I don’t think Jeremy Banks is the linebacker to solve the Steelers’ problems at the position. Is he a mid-round depth option – maybe? But realistically, how many guys do Mike Tomlin and his defensive coaches want to teach the position to? My guess is not more than the one they already have.

In any case, for the rest of the league, he’s a prospect worth investing an early Day 3 pick in to see if he can develop into a reliable piece as a Will linebacker while he cuts his teeth on special teams. But that’s just athletically.

He does have public character concerns stemming from an arrest in 2019 that led to him being cut from the program until training camp in 2020. Before the end of the 2022 season, he reportedly had an altercation with quarterback Hendon Hooker, allegedly related to the quarterback’s NIL earnings, which led to him missing the South Carolina game, a game the Vols lost, effectively knocking Tennessee out of the College Football Playoff race. Naturally, Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel downplayed the situation. As such, his stock in my estimation drops from a 4th-round talent to a late Day 3 selection.

Projection: 6th-7th Round

Depot Draft Grade: 6.1 (End of Roster/ Practice Squad)

Games Watched: LSU ‘22, Georgia ‘22, Alabama ‘22, Florida ‘22

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