After an injury-riddled rookie campaign, the Washington Commanders’ 2021 third-round pick, Benjamin St-Juste, has asserted himself as a breakout candidate in 2022 this spring. Washington has been high on the former Golden Gopher for quite some time, dating back to when they said they passed on a trade-down opportunity in the draft to select him.
Following a midseason switch back to his 2020 position as an outside corner for Kendall Fuller, it became clear that he is much more consistent as an outside corner. While his versatility to play inside and occasionally as safety is an asset, playing on the outside allows Fuller best use his vision and veteran savvy to his advantage.
When asked about Kendall Fuller, Ron Rivera compared his vision to former first-team All-Pro Josh Norman saying, “The only other guy that I ever really saw that really understood playing with vision was Josh Norman” and later adding “Kendall does that very well.”
While moving Fuller back outside best uses his skillset, that leaves a gaping hole at the nickel position. There are multiple potential candidates between safeties Percy Butler, Kam Curl, Khaleke Hudson, and Darrick Forrest as bigger players as a “Buffalo” nickel or Corn Elder and Danny Johnson as more traditional nickel corners.
One unlikely candidate has emerged, however. And that is the 6’3″ second-year corner from Minnesota. Heading into his second year, Benjamin St-Juste may be poised for a breakout campaign as the team’s starting slot defender.
Commanders CB Benjamin St-Juste is ready for a breakout second season after his injury-riddled rookie year.
Benjamin St-Juste began 2021 as a key contributor. He was the starting outside corner in Washington’s nickel package. The skillset that enticed the Commanders was clear early on. His tall frame with his long gangly arms, combined with his fluid hips and physicality elevates his ceiling.
St-Juste has the makings of a potential shut-down NFL corner and has the physical tools to play both inside and outside. His 6’3″ frame for a corner is rare by itself but his three-cone drill was elite for a corner his size, which could entail a player with a special skillset. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said that this drill has correlated directly to the football field for St-Juste and the coaching staff loves the physicality he plays with. He displays good technique on his press at the line and is not afraid to get involved as a tackler.
Logan Paulsen has said that the only corner consistently challenging rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson in practice is St-Juste. Paulsen has seen St-Juste’s hip fluidity and physicality translate directly to the practice field, echoing the coaching staff’s praises. His skillset has caused the smaller-framed Dotson to work harder to get open on his routes.
While Dotson is only a rookie and has not played a down in the NFL, St-Juste holding his own against a player who is giving veterans Kendall Fuller and William Jackson fits in practice is a positive sign.
To be successful kicking inside to the nickel corner, a player needs to have fluid hips to move laterally quick, be willing to be physical in the run game, and communicate at a high level to navigate the middle of the field. Benjamin St-Juste physically checks all the boxes of a nickel defender in the NFL, the only remaining question being his ability to communicate at a higher level.
The other looming question will always be St-Juste’s health. He had to medically retire at Michigan before Minnesota medically cleared him to play, as he became a Gopher. In his rookie year, he suffered two separate concussions. St-Juste said in a recent Twitter space with wide receiver Kelvin Harmon, that those were his first two concussions and he is 100% now.
Still, head injuries of any kind are nothing to scoff at. If he stacks his good spring, with a solid training camp and a clean bill of health, Benjamin St-Juste could be primed for a breakout second season with the Commanders.