The following article is based on the opinions of external draft analysts.
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We're heading into the fourth season of the Ron Rivera era, and the Washington Commanders have a pristine opportunity to strengthen their roster.
In his first season as Washington's head coach, Rivera took Chase Young, who became the 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year, with the No. 2 overall pick. The next season, he drafted Jamin Davis with the No. 19 overall pick, and the former Kentucky Wildcat showed promise in his first season. And last year, the Commanders took Jahan Dotson, who wasted no time in becoming a valuable member of the Commanders' receiving corps.
Now, the Commanders have the No. 16 overall pick, and analysts are predicting them to go with a plethora of positions, from offensive line to cornerback and linebacker, at that spot.
In anticipation for that selection, Commanders.com has been highlighting one mock draft from a draft expert each week and delving into how that player would fit with Washington. Here are the players we have covered so far:
For the final Mock Draft Monday before the draft, we're going back to the cornerback position to discuss a local prospect.
Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
"Yeah, that's fast."
That was the reaction Daniel Jeremiah had after watching Maryland cornerback Deonte Banks run the 40-yard dash at the combine in March. There was plenty of speed among the cornerbacks in Indianapolis -- over half of the position ran a sub-4.5 -- but Banks topped nearly all of them by clocking a 4.35, which was tied for the fifth-fastest time among all players.
So, to quote Jeremiah again, "Yeah, that's fast."
While players like Devon Witherspoon, Christian Gonzalez and Joey Porter Jr. have sat atop most analysts' cornerback rankings all offseason, Banks has steadily risen up boards to the point where the former Terrapins defender is considered a solid bet to be taken in the first round.
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has Banks as the No. 25 player on his big board, and CBS Sports Ryan Wilson has him keeping his talents in the DMV and being drafted by the Commanders.
"Maryland teammate and fellow CB Jakorian Bennett got much of the buzz in the fall, but Banks put together the type of season that will land him in the first-round conversation," Wilson wrote. "He's a fluid athlete who is also a big, physical corner who can match up with NFL wide receivers."
Banks, who grew up playing at Edgewood High School in Baltimore, has been a fixture of the Terps' secondary for the majority of his college career. He started the team's final eight games of the 2019 season as a freshman, recording 28 tackles and an interception along the way.
Three years, 19 appearances and 17 starts later, Banks emerged as one of the Terps' best defenders with eight pass breakups (second on the team) and an interception in 2022, earning an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection.
"Banks is capable of release disruption from press," wrote NFL.com's Lance Zierlein. "He plays with smooth hips and easy feet to pedal and glide around the field. He's capable of matching the release and running with his opponent."
Banks' versatility in coverage is one of his best strengths as a player. He can function in either man or zone schemes and knows how to use the fluidity in his lower body to put himself in position to make plays. He can be sticky in coverage without being overly handsy, and that led to him allow a completion rate of just 43.3% when targeted last season.
If a receiver did manage to make a catch over Banks, he held them to a career-low 9.9 yards after the catch.
"After missing all but two games last season because of injury, he was fantastic for the Terps in 2022, breaking up eight passes with an interception," Kiper wrote of Banks on his big board. "He also seemed to up his game in the biggest matchups on their schedule. Banks' tape is one of the most impressive I've seen in this class in terms of man coverage."
But Banks' tackling is one of his more underrated traits. His PFF tackle grade (89.2) was fifth among all cornerbacks in 2022 and second in the Big Ten. He uses his 6-foot, 197-pound frame to push through blocks from receiver to make tackles in the screen game, and he knows how to break down, fill running lanes and stop running backs in their tracks.
"Banks has first-round traits and could become a CB1 if he can play with better discipline when challenged," Zierlein wrote.
The Commanders could use a versatile player like Banks, who can provide help against the run and the passing game. Most of his experience has been as a perimeter cornerback, but if he does get taken by Washington, he will likely need to learn how to play closer to the box and in the slot.
Fortunately, there are some hints that Banks could handle the move just fine. He has the size to match up against bigger slot receivers and the quickness to keep up with speedier wideouts. What's more, if he needs to be a presence in the run game, he is more than willing to step up and make a play.
And even though he isn't on some analysts' short list of cornerbacks who could bring immediate impact, there are others who believe he has that kind of ability.
"Banks has all the physical traits of an All-Pro cornerback," said PFF's Mike Renner.