TCU’s run to the National Championship Game was nothing short of magical, and much was due to the performance of standout wide receiver Quentin Johnston. Being named a first-team All-Big 12 selection in both 2021 and 2022, Johnston is coming off a season in which he caught 60 passes for 1,069 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Johnston is on a trajectory to do something special in the NFL, but is he truly one of the elite receivers in this draft class? It is time to find out.
Reasons to buy in to Quentin Johnston
The first thing that pops out with Johnston is his athleticism. Johnston does an excellent job using his combination of size and speed to get downfield and win on 50/50 balls. He possesses outstanding body control, leaping over and around defenders to make catches with still maintaining balance and staying on his feet to make something happen after the catch. This true acrobatic ability is also a benefit on third downs, as Johnston does a great job of keeping his feet in bounds and maintaining forward momentum to move the chains on passes near the line to gain.
Another intriguing aspect of Johnston’s game is his route-running ability. While it may not be on the level of the other first-round receivers in this draft (i.e. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers, Jordan Addison), his agility and elusiveness is rather impressive for a receiver his size. He ran a somewhat limited route tree in TCU’s offense, but his cuts were typically clean and quick for a big receiver.
Other intriguing traits include a large catch radius, top-notch ball skills, and phenomenal awareness. Johnston always seems to be aware of the current situation, and his accuracy in judgment of the ball when in the air allows him to readjust on the football and put his body in position to make a catch.
Reasons for concern with Quentin Johnston
Johnston may not have a bunch of different issues, but the few issues he has are rather prevalent. The most talked about issue with Quentin is his hands. He struggled with drops throughout his collegiate career, many of which are due to poor concentration. He often turns his head upfield before securing the catch, and his hand positioning is the slightest bit off at times. Johnston also needs to cut back on the body catches and trust his hands more.
Another concern I have with Johnston is his lack of speed at the beginning of his route. He does not have a great first step off the line, and it sometimes takes him a couple steps to really accelerate. I am also not impressed with his physicality as a run blocker. A receiver with his size should be able to win the battle for leverage and gain control of a defender rather easily, but he lacks deception and balance as a blocker on the boundary.
Quentin Johnston’s highlight tape
2023 NFL Combine results for Quentin Johnston
While Johnston did not participate in all the drills at the combine, he made sure to impress in what he did participate in. Measuring in at 6’3, 208 lbs, with 33 5/8-inch arms and 9 5/8-inch hands, Johnston recorded a 40 1/2-inch vertical and a 134-inch broad jump. He did not run the 40, but considering how often he pulls away from defenders down the field on tape, speed was not a major concern for him.
What others are saying about Quentin Johnston
Here is what Mel Kiper had to say about Johnston in a January scouting report:
I thought Johnston was going to have a massive season, but then he had just 12 catches for 114 yards and no scores in his first four games. After that slow start, however, he was stellar. He finished the season with 60 catches for 1,069 yards and six scores. He towers over defenders and runs through them — he is tremendous after the catch. As I wrote in October, Johnston wins contested jump balls with ease and has a rare length and speed combination. He torched Michigan in the College Football Playoff semifinals with six catches for 163 yards and this long touchdown.
Ultimately, I see Johnston as one of the bigger boom-or-bust prospects at the wide receiver position. However, the risk may be worth it, as his physical abilities are among the best in the class. If he can sure up his hands and improve his focus, he could be one of the truly elite receivers in the league.