Summary: A year ago, a small school linebacker turned out to be one of the steals of the 2018 NFL Draft in Darius Leonard. The defensive rookie of the year was a genius pick by the Colts as he dominated in his first NFL season. At the 2019 Senior Bowl, some in the media were comparing Hanks to Leonard as both have good skill sets and came from small schools. While Hanks is not as good of a prospect as Leonard was and won't go high in the second round like Leonard, Hanks probably will go on the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft with teams looking at him as having starting potential in the NFL.
Hanks was a tackling machine at New Mexico State over the past four seasons. In 2018, he totaled 101 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, two passes broken up, and one interception returned for a touchdown. As a junior in 2017, Hanks totaled 111 tackles with 15 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, six passes broken up, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. The previous season saw him collect 103 tackles with 12.5 tackles for a loss with two interceptions and five passes broken up.
As a run defender, Hanks is tough at the point of attack. He uses his size to take on blocks and is able to get free of them to chase down ball-carriers. Hanks has the straight-line speed to get to the perimeter and defend runs to the outside. His instincts are rather average, but once he recognizes the play, he is quick to close on backs.
Hanks has some limitations in pass coverage. New Mexico State also did not do him any favors by having him play some slot cornerback. Hanks' stiffness and average instincts hurt his ability to cover. As a pro, he could be limited to just playing zone coverage in the underneath part of the field, although he is a decent blitzer who could contribute in the pass rush off the edge or up the middle.
Hanks would fit as a Sam linebacker in a 4-3 defense or an inside linebacker in a 3-4. He is very stiff, but fast when he opens it up. Hanks can't cover for NFL passing attacks, thus he is more of a Sam. His instincts are average, so that makes him not a great fit as a middle or Will linebacker in a 4-3. In the 2019 NFL Draft, Hanks could be a late second-round or third-round pick.
Player Comparison: Stephone Anthony. I had a feeling that Anthony would be a bust, and that is what he was in New Orleans. Anthony (6-3, 245) had a great skill set, but was played out of position and he did not have the instincts or pass coverage skills to be a Mike or Will linebacker. Hanks could be similar with a good skill set but limited to being a Sam linebacker in the NFL.
NFL Matches: Tampa Bay, Oakland, Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New England
There are a number of teams that could use linebacker help on the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft. The Bengals need linebacker help. It was a real weakness for them in 2018, and one has to wonder if injuries will cut short the career of Vontaze Burfict. Hanks would make sense for Cincinnati on Day 2 if the Bengals don't address the position in the first round.
Staying in the AFC North, Cleveland is another team that needs linebacker upgrades. Joe Schobert is a nice player, but the Browns need better linebackers around him. Pittsburgh also has to improve its inside linebackers, and Hanks could fit the Steelers on Day 2.
The Raiders and Lions are picking high in both rounds of Day 2. Hanks could give either team more size and speed in the middle of their defenses. Hanks could be a scheme fit in either Oakland or Detroit.
New England could use some youth at linebacker and is loaded with five draft picks on the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft. Hanks could be a candidate for the Patriots at any of those slots.
Tampa Bay could consider linebacker help as the team has some veterans entering free agency.