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Aaron Banks is Solidifying Himself as a High-End Starter for the 49ers

Aaron Banks was being written off before given a legitimate chance. Now, he is proving the 49ers right for entrusting him as a starter.

Things kicked off poorly for Aaron Banks when he came into the league.

He looked completely out of his element when the 49ers switched him from his natural left guard position to right guard. The 49ers were banking on Banks to beat out Daniel Brunskill to give themselves a sturdier interior offensive line. 

Unfortunately, he couldn't answer the call. Making the switch was too much and unfair to him. Practically every rep he took in training camp last year had him getting pushed back like a sled. To make matters worse, Banks would end up suffering injuries derailing his development. He looked poised to be a bust for the 49ers. When the 49ers let Laken Tomlinson go in free agency, it was an indicator that they were going to give Banks a chance. And boy, did he take advantage of that chance.

Banks is solidifying himself as a high-end starter in the league. 

A lot of that can be accredited to the 49ers placing him back at left guard. It is as clear as day how much more comfortable he is there. The 49ers did him a disservice as they tend to do with rookies by playing them out of position. Once he got back to his natural spot, it was business as usual for Banks.

At that point, it was for him to clean up his technique and get adjusted to the aggression/speed of NFL defensive linemen. He has answered the call and more. Banks is arguably one of the better guards in the league through nine games and he shows no signs of slowing down. 

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I asked Kyle Shanahan on a conference call Monday as to what he credits the rise of Banks into a high-level player.

“He is a good player," said Shanahan. "He's worked real hard. I'd say he put in as much work as anyone on our team this offseason. Just from when the season ended to when the season started, it seemed like there was no difference from him, I’d see him out my window every day. His weaknesses, he doesn't try to avoid, he really tries to work at and get those better."

Initially it looked like a risk to let Tomlinson walk. The 49ers had a solid offensive line in 2021, but were rolling the dice on three variables at the interior with a starting quarterback who was also a variable in Trey Lance. It didn't look like the best course of action to ensure success for Lance with a mystery offensive line. 

Fast forward to Jimmy Garoppolo back as the starter, a significantly lesser mobile passer, and he hasn't felt much pressure from Banks' side. In fact, Banks has yet to allow a sack all season long, per Pro Football Focus.

"He has got a lot of strengths and when he has got into these games, I think he hasn't gotten overwhelmed and because of that," Shanahan said, "because of the work he's put in, he's been able to stay healthy too in these games. That's allowed him to get better, I feel like just with each experience, with each situation he goes in."

I had my doubts about Banks. He looked soft and even had some soft moments in training camp from the several practices I attended. If he failed going back to his natural position, then the premature "bust" talks would have certainly been warranted. But Banks hasn't allowed a single validation of "bust" materialize just like how he hasn't allowed a single sack in his debut starting season. He has been a stud and is poised to finish as one of the best guards in the league.

"He has a lot of good things going for him," Shanahan said. "I've been real happy with Aaron.”