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5 Things To Know About CB Benjamin St-Juste


The Washington Football Team used its first third-round pick (74th overall) to take Minnesota cornerback Benjamin St-Juste.

A Montreal, Quebec native, St-Juste (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) started 14 games during his four-year career that was split between Michigan and Minnesota, racking up 62 total tackles and 13 pass breakups.

Here are five things to know about one of the newest additions to the secondary.

1. English is his third language.

Learning the intricacies of a defensive scheme is one of the most difficult parts of acclimating to the NFL for rookie cornerbacks, but don't expect St-Juste to have much trouble based on his background.

His father is from Haiti and his mother was born and raised in Montreal, so the two languages he spoke growing up were French and Creole. He didn't start speaking fluent English until he was 17 years old.

"I knew I was going to go to Michigan, a U.S. university," the 23-year-old St-Juste told the Toronto Sun the week of the draft. "I had to learn how to speak it properly and be fluent."

Having attended a higher-education institution in Canada, which is the equivalent to grades 12 and 13 in the United States, before arriving at Michigan, St-Juste graduated in two years with a sociology degree in 2019. He then transferred to Minnesota, playing his past two seasons there while earning his master's degree in sports management, which led to him being named Academic All-Big Ten.

St-Juste's intelligence ended up playing in a role in Washington drafting him. He said Washington was the only team in which he talked to the special teams coach, defensive backs coach and the head coach. Those conversations made both St-Juste and the coaching staff comfortable about a future partnership.

"They had a lot of questions for me. They were trying to see if I was a smart football player, great football player and I answered every question correctly and they were impressed with that," St-Juste said on his draft night. "I had a little more extensive conversation with the position coach to get more knowledge, then to get to know me. We were able to build that chemistry compared to other teams where the meetings were a little quicker and shorter."

2. He's was the top-ranked international recruit coming out of high school.

Hockey is by far the No. 1 sport where St-Juste is from, but he decided at a young age he wanted to chart a different path and follow in his father's footsteps.

"My dad was really good at football," St-Juste told The Detroit News in 2017. "He was on the Miami Hurricanes team in 1989 and he ended up getting injured so he didn't play. My dad really wants me to play football. He helped me all my life train and get the dream he didn't have. Right now he's really proud of me. That's the reason why I'm here right now because of him."

St-Juste first picked up the sport when he was 9 years old and went on to play for the premier teams in Quebec while attending football camps in the United States, such as The Opening in 2016 that featured some of the best players in the country.

By the time St-Juste committed to Michigan, he was a four-star recruit and the No. 13 cornerback in the Class of 2017, according to 247Sports. He was also the top-ranked international recruit, beating out former Oklahoma State running back and fourth-round rookie Chuba Hubbard.

St-Juste and Hubbard were two of the record-tying four Canadians selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. Combined with four undrafted free agents, there are now 22 Canadian players across the league.

"It means a lot for the younger generation back home," St-Juste told NFL Canada. "That gives them hope that they can make it, and that's what we're trying to do, and that's why I try to give back as much as I can to my community and teach the kids and give them hope because I didn't have that when I was growing up."

3. He is exceptional at changing directions and accelerating.

Cornerbacks need to open their hips to stay with pass-catchers and explode downhill to bring down ball-carriers. Based on St-Juste's Pro Day, neither of those areas should be an issue.

Even at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he ran the fastest 20-yard shuttle time (3.96 seconds), regardless of position, among draft prospects since 2018. Meanwhile, his time in the three-cone drill (6.63) was tied for second in the 2021 draft class.

"He runs well, uses his hands, uses his length very well," general manager Martin Mayhew said. "A lot of times you see big corners and they are not as aggressive at the line as they could be. This guy utilizes his length at the line of scrimmage, quick trigger against the run. He brings a lot to the table as far as his skillset and overall size, so our defensive coaches were very convinced about him and very excited about him to join us."

One of the biggest knocks on St-Juste is his straight-line speed, as his 4.51 40-yard dash ranked 44th among corners and safety prospects, but he does not believe that will have any sort of negative impact on his performance.

"When will I ever get into a track stance and run the 40 in pro football? Never," St-Juste told the Toronto Sun. "My game speed speaks for itself. I was a gunner on special teams. I've never been burned by a receiver -- you know, left behind.

"I always say, if you always need to rely on your 4.3 speed as a cornerback, it's because you're always beat," he added. "But you won't get beat and you won't need 4.3 speed to catch up to the receiver if you rely on your technique and how smart you are."

4. He was a sought-after Day 2 prospect.

Rivera said Washington received several calls from teams trying to trade up during Day 2 of the draft. As it turned out, one of them wanted to select St-Juste.

"We picked Benjamin and they called right back and they said, 'That was our guy,'" Rivera said. "So you feel you did it right."

It's no surprise St-Juste garnered substantial interest. His aforementioned length and change of direction are elite, as is his aggressiveness, which Rivera pointed out in his press conference shortly after the pick.

"It's a guy who will come up to the line of scrimmage, be physical and tackle," Rivera said. "I appreciate who Benjamin is. I think Benjamin brings a lot to the table."

Then there's his production. He only played in game games in 2020, missing two due to COVID-19 protocols, but he showcased his potential in 2019 with 45 tackles, a team-high 10 pass breakups and a 21% forced incompletion rate, according to Pro Football Focus, which was third among draft-eligible cornerbacks.

St-Juste did not have an interception in college, and that was something NFL teams asked him about during the pre-draft process. So, St-Juste made sure he was prepared with an appropriate response.

"The perfect answer to it, and the true answer, is that I played in a system at Minnesota with a lot of press-man coverage," he told the Toronto Star. "And in press-man if you're locking down your receiver, the ball is either not coming your way, or if it's coming it's going to be a PBU (pass break-up). We didn't play much zone."

5. He believes he'll make an "instant impact."

The starting outside corners are all but set with Kendall Fuller and newcomer William Jackson III, while Jimmy Moreland and Darryl Roberts will compete for the nickelback spot.

But St-Juste, who defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio sees as a corner, should have opportunities to play right away based on his short-area quickness and physicality.

"So much of today's offenses, you know the Shanahans and all the run systems, they drag your corner into the [run] fit, and they're cracking with their wideout and forcing the corner to play," Del Rio told senior vice president of media and content Julie Donaldson. "Well, this guy will show up and strike you, so we like that about him."

St-Juste does not care where he plays as long as he sees the field. He lined up at free and strong safety at the Senior Bowl because some teams wanted to see him there, but he has been training at the position he's played for most of his football career. Now's he is ready to deliver on the team that took a chance on him.

"If there's a lack of a certain position or new scheme, I can be plugged in and have an instant impact for the team," St-Juste said, "so I think that's what they saw in me."

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