Two Minnesota Golden Gophers will hear their names called in the NFL draft this weekend. Rashod Bateman will be either a first or second round selection, but cornerback Benjamin St. Juste has a much wider potential path to hearing his name called Friday or Saturday. Some mock drafts have had St. Juste going as high as the second round in the draft, while many more have him as either a third or fourth round selection. No matter when he goes, St. Juste will join a team and will have a chance to be a productive member of a NFL secondary.
St. Juste played two years for PJ Fleck and the Minnesota Golden Gophers after transferring into the U from Michigan. The Montreal, Quebec native played in 12 games his freshman season for the Wolverines mostly on special teams before redshirting in 2018. Michigan wanted St. Juste to take a medical hardship and end his football career but he decided he wanted to play and transferred to Minnesota. In 2019 St. Juste played in all 13 games for Minnesota and started nine of them. He would record 45 tackles and tie for the team lead with ten pass breakups. For more on his impact on the Gopher secondary in 2019, check out this article on him we did last October heading into the season.
In 2020 St. Juste played in five games missing the remainder of the season due to testing positive for COVID.
St. Juste started jumping up draft boards after his performance at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. St. Juste utilized his length well to disrupt, and really excelled in the one-on-one drills in the practices. He also showed off in the game itself with several pass breakups leading the National team. St. Juste also reportedly was great in the interview portion of the process in Mobile impressive several teams.
St. Juste excelled off the field as well as he was named to the National Football Foundation’s Hampshire Honor Society. He earned his undergrad degree from Michigan in just three years and then earned a Sport Management Master of Education in two years with the Gophers. Along with his brains, St. Juste will bring several positive physical traits to the NFL.
St. Juste’s Positives:
- Prototypical NFL size. Measured at 6’3 and 202 pounds at the Minnesota pro day, St Juste has something that they can’t teach in the NFL. With his 80” wingspan and 32” arms he is well suited to play as a boundary cornerback against some of the taller wide receivers in the NFL.
- Strength and ability to play press coverage. With St. Juste’s strength and long arms he thrives at playing press coverage and disrupting wide outs routes.
- Short Area speed. St. Juste impressed at the Gopher pro day recording a time of 3.96 seconds in the shuttle, and 6.63 seconds in the three-cone drill. This allows him to be able to close quick and be in position to knock away balls and tackle receivers immediately after the catch.
- Tackling ability. For a larger corner back St. Juste is a good tackler. He does not miss many and is a physical presence in run support.
- Ability to play zone coverage. St. Juste is good at reading wide outs eyes and hands when faceguarding in a three deep zone. His versatility to play either press man or zone should excite some teams.
St. Juste’s Negatives:
- Lacks elite long speed. St. Juste ran a 4.51 40 yard dash in his pro day which is average. He will struggle to keep up with some of the burners in the NFL in one on one coverage if he can’t get a good jam at the line.
- Lack of catch point ball skills. St. Juste is good at defending passed and knocking balls down but did not have a single career interception in his collegiate career. His reaction to passes coming towards him can be slow at times and while he can use his length to make up for his slow initial recognition, he never can get into position to jump a route.
- Deep coverage skills. St. Juste lacks some of the flexibility that other top corners have and is a bit slower at transitioning directions at a full sprint. he needs to work on his hip skills to make sure he can put himself in position to make a smart play and not get grabby.
- Route recognition and reaction. St. Juste needs to work on his recognition of routes and how to play them better. When he gets beat its usually by well run routes and then he can struggle to play catch up and get into position.
The good news for St. Juste is that you can teach technique and work on skills. You can’t teach size. St. Juste has the look of an NFL cornerback and with some good coaching could develop into an NFL starter. He is definitely a developmental prospect which is why even the second round seems a bit high for him, but any team who gets him in the late-third round to the fourth will be getting a quality player for the spot. As for who that will be? St. Juste impressed with interviews with both the San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers at the Senior Bowl. Other teams he has been associated with on mock drafts include the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and New York Giants. If we had to guess It’s probably about 5% he goes in round 2, 35% he goes in round 3, 55% he goes in round 4, and 5% he goes later than the fourth round.