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Deonte Banks quietly justifying Giants’ excitement over drafting him

The rookie’s stats belie a week-over-week improvement

New York Giants v Miami Dolphins
Deonte Banks
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images

When the New York Giants selected Deonte Banks in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale was ecstatic. The reason was clear: Banks has the aggressiveness to be a strong press-man cornerback, something Martindale covets in his defensive backs.

As Ed Valentine cautioned before the season, though, tempering expectations for Banks’ rookie year was the smart move. The Jets’ Sauce Gardner reset the bar for first-year cornerbacks to an unrealistic level. It had always been acknowledged before Gardner that the learning curve at cornerback is one of the steepest in the NFL (in addition to the fact that it’s one of the hardest positions to play, period).

Indeed, some Giants fans will likely express disappointment over Banks’ play. After all, the rookie’s 53.3 Pro Football Focus coverage grade ranks 54th out of 71 qualified cornerbacks. He’s surrendered two touchdowns through six games, which is nothing special.

Still, watching Banks on the field, it’s evident that there has been improvement in his play. He is starting to justify the Giants’ confidence in him. As the team’s season spirals out of control, attention turns to the performance of players who will be part of the team’s future. If Banks can keep this up, the Giants will have a critical piece for 2024 and beyond.

Underlying statistics

As much as PFF doesn’t like Banks, many of his underlying numbers show a more positive outlook than just his coverage grade. He ranks sixth in the NFL with a 20% forced incompletion rate, which PFF defines as plays where the cornerback forced an incompletion through a pass breakup or tight coverage. This means that Banks has been around the ball, even if he doesn’t have any interceptions.

Additionally, Banks has a 92.1 targeted passer rating, which ranks 35th, despite those two touchdowns and no interceptions. Usually, touchdowns have an outsized impact on passer rating, but because Banks has allowed just 13 of 25 receptions at 9.2 yards per reception, he’s still average in that area.

Furthermore, the longest reception Banks has allowed is just 19 yards, the third-shortest among qualified cornerbacks. His average depth of target (ADOT) is 10.8, which ranks 33rd. Still, 32 of the 33 cornerbacks who have ADOT lower than he does have given up a reception longer than 19 yards, indicating that he’s legitimately limiting the damage compared to other cornerbacks. In fact, Banks ranks 11th among all cornerbacks with 0.727 yards per cover snap allowed, one spot ahead of Sauce Gardner.

Most impressively, Banks is allowing a mere 4.8 yards per target, which ranks third among cornerbacks. (The interesting part is that two other rookies, Devon Witherspoon and Brian Branch, are clustered at second and fourth, respectively.)

Vs. Stefon Diggs

PFF gave Banks a 39.5 coverage grade against the Bills, but that’s hard to understand. Stefon Diggs caught none of his three targets when matched up with Banks — two in man coverage and one in zone. Though Banks was called for one illegal contact penalty (which was declined), he played a very solid game overall.

Here are some of the plays that Banks made in coverage against Buffalo.

The play below may be why Banks received a poor PFF coverage grade. However, it appears that Banks may have been expecting help over the top from the safety, who got there late.

Other games

Yes, D.K. Metcalf did score a touchdown against Banks and catch three of four targets for 34 yards in the matchup. Still, Metcalf averages 15.3 yards per reception for the season, and he had 11.3 against Banks. This was with the pair matched up one-on-one for much of the game.

Metcalf beat Banks primarily through his experience, as he flashed his hands at the last second to bait Banks into thinking he wouldn’t be targeted. That’s something Banks will likely improve on with time, but he had very tight coverage on the play. There’s no shame in being beaten by a star receiver on that kind of play; it shows Banks’ potential to be a lockdown cornerback as he refines his game.

Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle combined to catch two of five targets for a mere 9 yards against Banks.

Overall, Banks has been thrown into trial by fire, going up against some of the NFL’s best receivers. He’s more than held his own. There’s a lot of season left, but Giants fans can take heart that this year’s first-round pick appears to be working out a lot better than at least one of last year’s.