It was not until the fall of 2020 that the Senior Bowl even had an inkling Notre Dame guard Aaron Banks might be eligible to participate in the premier showcase of talent in the lead-up to the 2021 NFL Draft.
Jim Nagy, the executive director of the Senior Bowl and a long-time NFL scout, already was well-versed on the Notre Dame offensive line. He studied senior tackles Liam Eichenberg and Robert Hainsey -- players who would ultimately become second- and third-round picks of Miami and Tampa Bay, respectively.
It did not take Nagy long to identify Banks as a likely second-round draft pick.
And that is exactly where the 49ers selected Banks.
After general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan invested the No. 3 overall pick in North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, the club targeted Banks with the 42nd pick to help protect their investment.
Banks (6-foot-5 1/2, 325 pounds) is projected to be a Day 1 starter for the 49ers at right guard.
“I think he’s going to be a great fit,” Nagy said of Banks. “You plug him in Year 1, and he’s a starter-level player.”
Banks was a highly recruited player out of the Bay Area while at El Cerrito High. He redshirted as a freshman in college, then finished his time at Notre Dame with 31 consecutive starts.
Although he declared for the draft after his junior season, he was eligible for the Senior Bowl because he completed his degree after majoring in film, television and theatre.
Nagy said he received a tip from an agent in the fall that Banks was on course to get his degree. Then, he made sure to deliver an invitation to the game to Banks.
This year, Nagy compiled rosters of the two teams at the Senior Bowl that had a combined 16 juniors who completed degrees, making them eligible to showcase their skills for scouts and NFL executives during the week of practices.
A junior who has the discipline to take care of his classwork in college sends a message to prospective employers.
Nagy said Banks might have impressed him more than anyone at the Senior Bowl because he probably had less information about him than any of the other players who arrived in Mobile, Ala., in January.
“When you draft a guy like Aaron Banks, it’s easy to watch the tape and see what a good football player he was,” Nagy said. “But now to know he was an early graduate and he took care of his business at a place like the University of Notre Dame, you have to feel really good about that pick and where he’s at and his ability to contribute early.”