Two names — Kayshon Boutte and Jaxon Smith-Njigba — always come up first in the 2023 NFL Draft WR1 conversation, but perhaps TCU WR Quentin Johnston deserves a seat at the table with his scouting report. Johnston’s evaluation still features a great deal of projection. But if we’re projecting what he can become at his maximum potential, then there’s plenty to be excited about.
Quentin Johnston NFL draft profile
Everything is bigger in Texas — even wide receivers. Johnston, a product of Temple, Texas, was coveted by several high-profile Big 12 schools for his length and athleticism coming out of high school. He had offers from Texas and Oklahoma and initially signed with the Longhorns. But the process soon saw him de-commit from Texas to join up with the TCU Horned Frogs.
A basketball and track star out of high school, Johnston’s athleticism easily translated to the football field. The four-star recruit took on an immediate role as a big-play threat for TCU in 2020, accruing 22 catches for 487 yards and two scores. Averaging 22.1 yards per catch, Johnston entered 2021 as one of the most dynamic returning Big 12 receivers. He only maintained that reputation as a sophomore, compiling 33 catches for 634 yards and six scores.
On the surface, Johnston’s stats don’t pop off the page. But in 2021, he accounted for 22% of the Horned Frogs’ passing output and did so while averaging 19.2 yards per catch. While a surefire breakout hasn’t happened quite yet, Johnston has shown more than enough promise to be a coveted 2023 NFL Draft prospect. And 2022 could be the year that locks him in.
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: TCU
- Current Year: Junior
- Height/Weight: 6’4″, 201 pounds
Quentin Johnston scouting report
Johnston is a unique prospect amongst most of the 2023 NFL Draft wide receivers. He brings size that few can match while also possessing rare athletic gifts. That physical foundation grants him an incredibly high ceiling — one he’s already on his way to reaching.
Johnston has excellent height and elite length, with a wiry but compact frame. He’s a very easy accelerator for his size, and he can gear up instantly with outrageously long, explosive strides off the line. He also has exceptional long-strider speed — enough to stack defensive backs and sustain acceleration.
Johnston can explode across the field after executing his break, but he also has fairly loose hips for his frame. The TCU WR can send defenders off-balance in the open field with quick, subtle moves. Moreover, he shows good finesse with his micromovements. He’s not an elite twitch receiver, but Johnston still has great lateral twitch for his size.
Johnston is an amped-up athlete who moves with energy and has definite short-area quickness and foot speed. The TCU WR can employ sudden lateral moves at the line, then carry explosiveness upfield without missing a beat. Additionally, his fast feet capacity allows for abrupt, explosive movement in short ranges. This can assist him in many phases.
At the catch point, Johnston has excellent vertical athleticism and a great sense of timing and reaction quickness. He knows when to high-point passes, and he can corral throws in stride. Going further, Johnston can make quick adjustments on the fly, even in close quarters. He can rise and contort to adjust for off-target throws. Johnston can also use his frame to box out defenders, and he naturally extends beyond his frame.
Moving onward, Johnston tracks the ball very well downfield. Furthermore, he has the awareness to wait until the ball is close before making adjustments to avoid keying in the DB. Johnston actively seeks out the ball with his hands away from his body and is authoritative in securing it. He plays with an alpha mentality and a physical edge and can work through contact with his coordination and play strength. With his vice-grip hands, Johnston can dominate in contested situations.
As a route runner, Johnston is still developing, but he shows bright flashes of both ability and application. The TCU WR can use quick, methodical releases — including jab-steps — to generate displacement, then capitalize with long-strider acceleration. He can quickly chop his feet and redirect momentum. But beyond that, he can tempo his releases, stay square, and gather displacement with hop-steps.
Expanding on his route running, Johnston has impressive stopping ability and hip sink for his size and flashes efficient footwork at stems. He’s shown he can quickly stop and sink his hips at the top of routes, then accelerate out of breaks and employ throttle control upfield. Additionally, he can quickly expand his strides and then retract at stems, pushing DBs upfield and capitalizing on space generated. The TCU WR also shows good field awareness and can find open zones to sit in.
Johnston is a proactively physical receiver who shows that edge in all phases. Before the catch, he can employ targeted physicality and violent swipes at route stems to compound separation. And after the catch, he uses stiff arms to pry away defenders. He can squirm through arm tackles and wrench himself free with urgency. Moreover, he actively resets his feet after catches to set up run-after-catch opportunities.
Lastly, Johnston brings solid utility as a blocker. He understands leverage and can use his long arms to extend and wall off defenders. He’s generally an assignment-sound blocker who’s shown he can latch and extend then direct DBs downfield with his wide reach and leg drive.
Johnston’s areas for improvement
Most notably, Johnston has room to expand his route tree and be more consistent and efficient overall as a separator. He can improve his feel for spacing and further maximize his ability to exploit leverage this way.
Johnston sometimes remains too upright as a route runner and can better sink his hips on breaks. His timing on breaks can also improve, especially against tight coverage. Johnston sometimes works too far upfield and allows DBs to blanket routes. Additionally, Johnston can be more consistent in recollecting his feet out of releases to effectively channel his burst capacity. He also defers to raw physicality to separate at times, which can draw penalties.
Elsewhere, Johnston naturally struggles to manage his height at times. He can be a bit leggy on transitions, which sometimes delays direction changes. While Johnston has high-end speed, he doesn’t quite have elite breakaway speed once he gets ahead. And his frame, while wiry and compact, does appear lighter than listed. The TCU WR can be rocked by direct contact at higher speeds.
Among other things, Johnston has occasional focus drops, especially when he has to extend beyond his frame. He will fight jams with hand usage but can improve his timing and placement against press. He’s not incredibly consistent breaking through direct contact and has occasional lapses with ball security. And finally, as a run blocker, Johnston’s effort can be inconsistent at times.
Current draft projection for TCU WR Quentin Johnston
There’s a group at the top of the 2023 NFL Draft WR class that’s commonly mocked in Round 1. It consists of Boutte, Smith-Njigba, and Jordan Addison — but it should include Johnston as well. Though Johnston isn’t quite as established as the others, he has the high-end physical tools and multi-phase appeal to eventually command Round 1 capital.
Already, Johnston is a dynamic threat with the explosiveness and speed to stretch the field. He also owns the length, play strength, and catching instincts to consistently convert against smaller defensive backs. And although his RAC opportunities have been relatively limited to this point, he’s shown he can deploy agility in the open field and manipulate space as a runner.
For his 6’4″ size, Johnston is incredibly explosive and amped-up, and those traits also tell of upside as a route runner. He’s fairly unrefined at the moment, with the need for increased efficiency and variability in his routes. But Johnston does have the bedrock traits to become an independent separator — among them high-level stopping ability, hip sink, lateral quickness, and fast feet.
Much of the appeal with Johnston comes with his upside. He’s a rare physical talent with the dual-sided size and athleticism to be a dominant physical spectacle. But beyond that, there’s reason to suggest that he’s trending up with his refinement. And 2022 could be the year he puts it all together. If he does, he’s a worthy first-round 2023 NFL Draft prospect and a WR1 candidate.