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Javontae Jean-Baptiste wants to 'be a sponge,' soak up knowledge from veterans, coaches

Javontae Jean-Baptiste didn't think he would need to wait until the seventh round of the NFL Draft to learn his new team. He was projected to be gone in the sixth round by's Lance Zierlein, but as the picks started to creep by, the Ohio State and Notre Dame pass-rusher started to get antsy.

In the end, Jean-Baptiste was taken with the 222nd overall selection, and as the final player that the Washington Commanders called that weekend to wrap up their draft class, he's got a lot of work to do to even make the roster, let alone make a meaningful contribution.

Luckily for him, he's got a room full of veterans with decades of combined experience to show him the ropes.

"I'm real excited, because you can learn something from everybody," Jean-Baptiste told Bryan Colbert Jr. on Raising Hail with the Rookies. "You can pick up little traits from anyone."

Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders taking the field for the second week of OTAs.

Analysts identified Jean-Baptiste as a Day 3 prospect with upside. A six-year contributor for Ohio State and Notre Dame, he appeared in 57 games with 18 starts, 100 tackles and 13 sacks. He has the desired size metrics to be an NFL defensive end (6-foot-5, 239 pounds) with solid footwork and flashes of athleticism.

He's also technically raw, meaning that he'll need to fine tune his skill set before participating in anything besides special teams. Jean-Baptiste knows this, and he's looking anywhere and everywhere for pointers.

"They don't just gotta be in my position," he said. "They can be in other rooms. Once you're around so much knowledge, you just gotta become a sponge to soak it all up."

Jean-Baptiste doesn't need to look far to find teammates who can give him some extra knowledge. First-round picks Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen have been to a combined three Pro Bowls, combining for 69 tackles in their careers; Dorance Armstong ranked second in sacks for the Dallas Cowboys over the last two seasons before coming to Washington; Clelin Ferrell, the No. 4 overall pick in 2019, started all 17 games for the San Francisco 49ers in 2023; and Dante Fowler Jr., the No. 3 overall pick in 2015, has 45 sacks in his nine-year career.

"Guys like Dante have been doing it," Jean-Baptiste said. "So, if he's been doing it for a minute at a high level, I'm just like, 'Alright, how can I pick his brain so I can do it at a high level, too.'"

That's not even mentioning Jean-Baptiste's coaches. Defensive line coach Darryl Tapp, assistant Shariff Floyd and assistant linebackers/pass-rush specialist Ryan Kerrigan all have experience as players. Floyd played four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, while Tapp played 12 seasons with the five teams and Kerrigan is Washington's all-time official sack leader.

Walking into that meeting room, Jean-Baptiste said, is a blessing.

"They've been through it. They know where you're at, and they can kind of understand where you're going."

Jean-Baptiste knows he deserves to be in the NFL. The Commanders drafted him for a reason. Now, it's his job to prove them right.

"I'm not gonna back down from anyone, and I'm gonna go right at you," he said.

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