Overview – Quentin Johnston
Quentin Johnston is a tall and long receiver, measuring in at 6 foot 4 inches and 215 pounds. For a player of his size he is an incredible mover, projecting to run somewhere in the mid 4.3s at the Combine on March 4, as well as being surprisingly agile in short spaces. 2022 was a breakout year for Johnston, in which he caught 60 balls for 1069 yards and 6 touchdowns, according to the TCU team website. This doubled his career yardage total and almost doubled his career touchdown total. Johnston was the number one threat on a TCU offense that made it all the way to the College Football Playoff final in January, turning in one of his best performances in the semi-final against Michigan.
What first jumps out on tape is Johnston’s speed. He has the coveted “home run” speed to turn slants and drags into breakaway touchdowns, and in the open field he is a difficult player to bring down due to his size and quickness in small spaces. He leverages his speed to be a great deep ball receiver, with the ability to get in behind any and every defense. He builds on this deep playmaking ability with crisp route cutoffs to create separation on curls and comebacks. His long and flexible frame gives him a big catch radius, making him an easy player to target for whatever quarterback gets to throw to him in 2023. What makes him special as a receiver, though, is his body control. Around the boundaries Johnston is able to leverage his size to make acrobatic one and two handed grabs, netting him some catches very few receivers have the capability to make. May that be toe drag catches around the boundary or leaping, leaning grabs in the back of the end zone, Johnston has the ability to come down with it.
Johnston can leverage his physical tools better at the catch point. He often lets the ball come all the way into his frame at short and intermediate distances, which is dangerous in traffic, leading to more pass break ups than necessary. More consistently plucking the ball out of the air will help improve his consistency in contested catch situations. He ran a shallow route tree at TCU, consisting of mostly 8 and 9 routes, slants and comebacks. He also can overthink his release, leading to a slow start out of the gates and failing to create meaningful separation. Johnston has shown flashes of strong route running ability but needs more consistently in his approach, at its best his footwork is very solid but shows up on tape too rarely. For a receiver of his size he can certainly be leveraging that natural advantage more at every level of his game, from the release to the catch point and even in run blocking, a skill he is currently below average at.
Comparison’s to players like Tee Higgins or Dez Bryant feel a little reductive, as Johnston does not win with physicality primarily in the way those two receivers do. A more apt comparison could be to former Steelers’ receiver Martavis Bryant. Bryant measured in very similarly to Johnston, also being 6’4″ and roughly 210 pounds, while running a low 4.4 in the 40 yard dash. Bryant primarily made use of his speed and open field acumen to be productive, and used his frame as a way to accentuate those skills. Johnston is often pigeon-holed as a “big” receiver, when in reality the attributes he uses best are more often associated with smaller receivers. Martavis Bryant’s first few years in Pittsburgh could be a good peek into what Quentin Johnston might look like out of the gate.
Round Projection – Mid First Round
Johnston has the clearest path to being a true X receiver, which will add to his value in the draft. He will certainly be in the first crop of receivers taken, including USC’s Jordan Addison and Boston College’s Zay Flowers. This run of receivers could start as early as the Pick 10, belonging to the Eagles, with receiver being a need for most teams picking in the teens. The latest he possibly falls would be the Giants at pick 26, but with his talent and potential should realistically be going earlier than that.
Quentin Johnston is a unique prospect in this year’s draft, with no player having his unique blend of physical build and technical skills. While Johnston may need a little bit of time to get acclimated to the play speed / strength of NFL corners, while improving his own play strength, he could end up being a very productive receiver as early as his rookie year.
Games Watched: Vs. Baylor 2021, Vs. Kansas 2022, Vs. Kansas State 2022, Vs. Michigan 2022