After bolstering its linebacker corps with first-round pick Jamin Davis, the Washington Football Team shifted its attention to the offense Friday and selected tackle Samuel Cosmi in the second round and speedy wide receiver Dyami Brown in the third round. In between, Washington added to its secondary by taking Benjamin St-Juste, a versatile defensive back out of Minnesota, at No. 74 overall.
The picks fit the team’s offseason mission of finding players with versatility, speed and the personality traits that adhere to Coach Ron Rivera’s vision for Washington’s cultural makeover.
“These guys that we’ve drafted, starting yesterday and into today, are guys that we believe bring that to the table," Rivera said. “... If you can build predominantly through the draft and be able to keep your own and do it the right way, you give yourself an opportunity to keep a group of players together longer, especially if they’re the right kind of guys and they’re playing the kind of football you need them to play.”
For the second day, Washington bypassed a group of available quarterbacks in Kyle Trask, Kellen Mond and Davis Mills to make its first pick Friday, selecting Cosmi at No. 51 overall. By showing faith in its current group of quarterbacks, Washington instead focused on building out another area of its young roster and found a player who could compete for a starting spot and perhaps fill its longtime void at left tackle.
Cosmi, a redshirt junior, was a three-year starter at Texas. He started 13 games at right tackle in 2018, then started 25 games at left tackle over the last two years. He was voted second-team All-America and first-team all-Big 12 in 2020.
At a minimum, Cosmi creates competition and becomes a backup swing tackle.
But the hope for Washington is he becomes its new starter at left tackle, a position that has been vacant since Trent Williams began his holdout in 2019. The team traded Williams to the San Francisco 49ers during the 2020 draft.
Washington cycled through three starters on the left side last year, ending with Cornelius Lucas. It made no promises about the starting job going forward and stressed a need for competition across the roster.
“I feel comfortable on both sides of the ball,” Cosmi said. “I played both at Texas, and I felt just as comfortable at right as I did at left. I really don’t have a preference on that.”
Cosmi (6-foot-6, 314 pounds) was voted a team captain at Texas in 2020, checking one of many boxes that make him a good fit for Rivera and his vision for Washington. Cosmi’s ability to play multiple spots and his improvement at Texas checked off two more. His athleticism is yet another check in his favor; Cosmi ran a 4.85-second 40-yard dash at his pro day and ran for a 12-yard touchdown against West Virginia in 2019.
Cosmi said he spoke to Washington officials, the most of any team throughout the pre-draft process. What stood out to Cosmi the most, however, was his one-on-one conversation with Rivera. He didn’t have one-on-ones with any other NFL head coaches.
“It was awesome,” Cosmi said. “It was just sitting down and having a great conversation talking about football and life and that aspect of it. I was really happy about it and really honored to be one of those guys he took the time to talk to one-on-one.”
Washington used the third-round pick (No. 74 overall) it received in the Williams trade last year to add St-Juste.
Washington has all but overhauled its group of cornerbacks this offseason, losing Ronald Darby in free agency and signing William Jackson III and Darryl Roberts. The addition of St-Juste, a Montreal native, gives Washington another defensive back with press-man coverage skills to go with good size and length. It also gives the team another versatile defensive back — one who could be asked to play safety in Jack Del Rio’s scheme.
Washington’s depth in the secondary was tested last year because of injury, but it is expected to get Landon Collins (Achilles’) and Deshazor Everett (pectoral muscle) back from injury and probably will find more ways to get Kam Curl, a seventh-round pick in 2020, time on the field. But the only true free safety on Washington’s roster is Troy Apke, who was demoted twice last season.
“Whatever the team needs me to do, whether it’s safety, nickel, corner,” St-Juste said of his potential role during a video conference call Friday. “And I think that’s why they picked me. I think that’s why I separated myself from the other corners because maybe they can just play corner or were seen as a corner. But with my size, my speed and my quickness and even the reps that I was able to play at free safety and strong safety at the Senior Bowl, I showed that if they’re lacking at a certain position that I can be plugged in and have an instant impact for the team.”
St-Juste, 23, began his college career at Michigan but left after two years following an injury that cost him the 2018 season. The school labeled him a medical retiree to give his scholarship away, but St-Juste said he never planned to retire. He transferred to Minnesota, where he played the past two seasons. He started 14 of 30 games at Michigan and Minnesota combined and totaled 62 tackles and 13 passes defensed at cornerback. At the Senior Bowl in January, he took reps at safety to show his potential at the position.
“He really did a really good job at the Senior Bowl, really caught my eye there," General Manager Martin Mayhew said. “The guy is 6-3, runs well, uses his hands, uses his length very well. A lot of times you see big corners and they aren’t as aggressive at the line as they could be. This guy utilizes his length at the line of scrimmage, does a good job triggering versus the run. He brings a lot to the table as far as his overall skill set and size. Our defensive coaches were very convicted on him and very excited about having him join us.”
Rivera said Washington received multiple calls from teams looking to trade up, including one who later got back to Washington and admitted it was eyeing St-Juste. Mayhew added that Washington chose to select a tackle earlier, despite liking some of the receivers still available in the second round. The receiving class, they believed, was deeper than the tackle group.
Washington turned back to receiver at No. 82 by taking Brown, a 6-1, 189-pound wideout out of North Carolina with big-play ability and top-end speed. Brown led the ACC with 1,099 receiving yards last season and provides yet another offensive weapon for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, to go with leading receiver Terry McLaurin, recent signing Curtis Samuel, second-year running back Antonio Gibson and tight end Logan Thomas.
“He’s a guy that seems to come down with a tough catch,” Rivera said. “He had a couple of concentration drops on some easy balls, but, man, when he competed for it, he went out and got it. I like the way he runs his routes, gets off the line of scrimmage and is able to stack the defender right away and use his speed to keep the ball between himself and the defender.”
Brown could vie for the team’s third wideout spot, an unofficial starting role because Washington — like most teams — plays the majority of its offensive snaps in “11 personnel,” with one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers.
Washington now heads into the final day of the draft with four remaining picks — one in each of the fourth and fifth rounds, plus two in the seventh round.
“This is an exciting time for us,” Rivera said. “We came in and, as I’ve said before, we inherited a pretty good group. We got them coached up this past year and we got better at the end of the season, at the right time. And I hope we can carry that momentum going forward. That’s what our intention is, is to come back, start at the bottom, work our way back up and build that momentum up as we get into the regular season.”