Quentin Johnston | TCU 6’3″ 208 lbs. | 09/06/2001 (21)
Quentin Johnston was drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers, becoming the second Wide Receiver and 21st overall player in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Johnston broke out in 2020 as a freshman at TCU, posting an efficient 487 receiving yards on 22 receptions (22.1 YPR) to go along with a couple of touchdowns. As a sophomore, Johnston bumped his production up to 33 receptions for 612 yards and six receiving touchdowns. In his senior campaign in 2022, Johnston reached over 1,000 receiving yards on just 60 receptions, as well as hauling in another six TDs. Johnston checks many basic analytical boxes, as a 19-year-old breakout with a 76th percentile target share in college. However, some areas leave a bit to be desired, as the raw totals are slightly underwhelming, and his dominator rating falls in the 57th percentile – not much to write home about. Additionally, Johnston has a fairly low catch rate, which is concerning and hard to project increasing against better defenders in the NFL. Overall, Johnston was an uber-efficient and fairly effective producer in college and showed enough to warrant the attention he’s garnered as a top-tier receiver in this draft class.
Johnston’s tape is likely the biggest enigma in this entire receiver class. Despite his large frame, Johnston is surprisingly elusive after the catch and has excellent awareness of where defenders are, and is able to quickly put on a move after hauling in a pass. He has great instincts as a ball carrier and runs with power, easily breaking arm tackles in the open field. He’s flashed a good ability to track balls over the shoulder, and he also has a decent feel for settling in zone coverage.
So why isn’t Johnston the consensus WR1 this year? It begins and ends with the more nuanced aspects of the receiver position. Johnston has a solid release package, but he does not quite dominate press corners the way you would hope a 6’3″ 210 lbs. outside receiver should. His mechanics at the catch point are a complete mess, as his film is littered with plays where he pulls off weird jumping body catches instead of high-pointing over defenders. When he does attempt to high-point passes, he loses physicality and can get bodied at the catch point, even by smaller defenders. His hands are not a strength, either, as he has had occasional problems with concentration drops, and isn’t the type of receiver who makes strong hands catches through contact.
Johnston also has an extremely limited route tree, and even on the routes he does run, he doesn’t burst in and out of breaks with very much explosiveness. He’s flashed some quick-stop ability, but overall this is not a strength for Johnston. He doesn’t threaten vertically well with his body language, often telegraphing breaks on his routes by raising up too much. This led to a noticeable lack of separation on most routes, which was masked to a degree this year by the Heisman-candidate-level play from Max Duggan, who consistently bailed Johnston out with some elite ball placement.
Johnston measured 6’2¾ ” and 208 lbs. He clocked a sub-4.50 40-yard dash at his Pro Day but didn’t run at the official combine. He did show off his 40.5-inch vertical in Indianapolis, as well as an impressive 11’2 broad jump, displaying some of the raw athleticism we know he has.
This led to an overall relative size-adjusted athletic score of 8.65 out of 10, which is above average for the top prospects in this draft class.
Johnston was selected with the 21st overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Chargers.
This is excellent draft capital for Johnston, as the Chargers had their pick of receivers after Jaxon Smith-Njigba and deemed Johnston as the WR2 of this draft class. Johnston projects to immediately start on the outside for Los Angeles across from Mike Williams, with longtime veteran Keenan Allen manning the slot role. Johnston pairs up with Justin Herbert, which appears to be a perfect fit. Frankly, I’m not sure we could have dreamed of a better landing spot for Johnston. If he is able to develop and refine his game, he could easily become the lead man in this receiver room as Allen and Williams begin to age out.
Draft Analysis Grade: Great
Draft night bumped Johnston up from my WR4 to my WR2 in this year’s rookie class. Following the consensus top 6, Johnston should absolutely be in consideration as arguably the top choice at the 1.07. Drafters may need to exercise patience with Johnston, as two established receivers are already in place in Los Angeles who have a rapport with Justin Herbert. However, his ceiling is through the roof if he can develop into Herbert’s #1 option. It’s a big swing, but Johnston could absolutely be a home run in your rookie drafts this year. Assess your team, and if you can shoulder the risk, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger.
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