NFL draft Q&A with Daniel House

As former Gophers Rashod Bateman and Benjamin St-Juste are preparing to hear their names called in the NFL draft, read House’s thoughts on the two prospects.

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Kamaan Richards

Gophers Defensiveback Benjamin St-Juste leaps for an Auburn pass at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday, Jan. 1. Minnesota took the bowl game with a 31-24 win over the Auburn Tigers.

Brendan O'Brien

With the NFL draft set to take place in Cleveland, Ohio, from April 29 through May 1, the Minnesota Daily spoke with Daniel House to preview Gophers prospects Rashod Bateman and Benjamin St-Juste. Bateman and St-Juste are the only players from the Gophers football team expected to be drafted this season, House said.

House is the founder of GophersGuru, a subscription-based website covering Gophers football and other University sports, as well as Vikings Corner, a blog about the Minnesota Vikings. Parts of the conversation with House have been edited for clarity.

What are some of the skills Bateman has as a receiver that will make him successful in the NFL?

Bateman knows how to get open and is a great separator. When I’m analyzing pass catchers, I want to see a player who can run routes at an extremely high level. He’s learned how to run routes from wide receivers coach Matt Simon and head coach P.J. Fleck, two guys that have consistently shown they can take wide receivers to the next level. I value his separation and his athleticism.

The 2019 season is where you saw the whole package with Bateman. He ran a diverse route tree and that’s what NFL teams are looking for: Players who can run routes at a high level, have great body control, can make adjustments in traffic and high point the football along with making plays after the catch. He has all the skills teams are looking for in a receiver.

How would Bateman’s draft value be different had he decided to sit out all of the 2020 season?

I don’t think it would have changed much just because the wide receiver class that’s coming out this year is so deep. You look at all the options that are available for teams and it feels like every year we say, “This wide receiver class is better than the last one.” Bateman could be taken in the late first round based on 2019. Teams are taking the 2020 film with a grain of salt because they are facing the challenge of deciding how much to weigh 2020 and COVID-19 when evaluating players.

How did Bateman influence his value at the recent Pro Day?

His Pro Day was the thing that probably took his draft stock to another level. Teams wanted to see what time he’d record in a 40-yard dash, and his time of 4.39 seconds was very good. Before the draft process even started, one person in the NFL asked me if Bateman could run faster than 4.5 seconds because he will definitely get teams’ attention if he can. Rashod has definitely helped himself based on what he’s done in the pre-draft process and what he did in 2019 on the field.

Who are some teams that could be good fits for Bateman?

I see him as a player who could be picked later in the first round. One team to keep an eye on is the Green Bay Packers. General manager Brian Gutekunst was at the Pro Day and as a secondary fit to Davante Adams, that fit makes a lot of sense. If Bateman is paired up with a really good receiver in the NFL, it’s going to pose tough matchups for opposing coordinators. Other teams that are looking for receiver help and could take Bateman later in the draft are the Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens and a deep sleeper could be the Minnesota Vikings if they find another way to address the offensive line.

Moving to St-Juste, how does his size as a 6-foot-3-inch defensive back help an NFL team?

St-Juste’s size with his height and wingspan is really important for the versatility of his game. A team can use him in a variety of different schemes and positions depending on what they are looking for. But it’s not only his size that impressed me, but also the agility metrics. St-Juste ran a good shuttle and has the ability to break on the ball and then use his length to get into passing lanes.

Ball production is one of the things that people will be concerned about. During his time at Minnesota, St-Juste had 10 pass breakups but never had an interception. But with the agility metrics and his size, I think teams are going to fall in love with what he brings to the table.

What round do you see St-Juste getting drafted?

He could be a Day 2 pick, I would say the third round would be the sweet spot at this point. He played cornerback throughout college, but I think he also has the versatility to play safety, which would increase his value. There will be a team, in my opinion, that likes the skill set, the upside and the versatility and might take him earlier than maybe originally expected. I see him going before the fourth round.