There’s still a sizable amount of projection that goes into the 2023 NFL Draft scouting report of TCU WR Quentin Johnston. But if we’re projecting what he can be, it’s hard to argue that he deserves a heavy stake in the WR1 discussion. If potential alone is your most important factor, then few receivers — regardless of year — have what Johnston has.
Quentin Johnston NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: TCU
- Current Year: Junior
- Height/Weight: 6’4″, 215 pounds
Everything is bigger in Texas — even wide receivers. Johnston, a product of Temple, Texas, was coveted by several prestigious Big 12 schools for his length and athleticism coming out of high school.
Johnston had offers from Texas and Oklahoma, and even signed with the Longhorns initially. 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.
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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.
In 2022, despite missing several contests, Johnston was able to take on greater volume and finally realized his potential as TCU’s premier weapon in the passing game. Through the regular season and the Big 12 Championship, Johnston put up 53 catches for 903 yards and five touchdowns.
Early on, it looked as though Johnston would not experience the breakout that many sought from him. But after a slow start to the season, he caught fire, accumulating 41 catches for 789 yards and five scores in his final seven games.
Even with his strong 2022 campaign, Johnston doesn’t have the dominant statistical breakout that many prefer to see from early first-round WR prospects. With Johnston, however, it’s a case of athleticism over analytics.
Numbers aside, Johnston has shown more than enough promise to be a coveted 2023 NFL Draft prospect, and his best moments put him above anyone else.
Quentin Johnston Scouting Report
Johnston is one-of-one in the 2023 NFL Draft wideout class. 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 well on his way to reaching.
Johnston has excellent height and elite length, with a wiry but compact frame. He’s a truly effortless accelerator for his size and can gear up instantly with outrageously long, explosive strides off the line. He also has exceptional long-strider speed — enough to accelerate, stack defensive backs, and sustain separation.
Johnston can explode across the field after executing his break, but he also has impressively loose hips for his frame. The TCU WR can send defenders off-balance in the open field with quick, subtle lateral moves. He also shows good finesse for his size and uncanny fluidity between movements.
Johnston is an amped-up athlete with arguably elite lateral twitch at his size. He moves with constant energy and brings exciting short-area quickness and foot speed. The TCU WR employs sudden lateral moves at the line, then carries 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 — both as a separator and a RAC threat.
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 can corral throws in stride.
Going further, Johnston makes quick adjustments on the fly, even in close quarters. He rises and contorts to adjust for off-target throws. Johnston also uses his frame to box out defenders and, naturally, extends beyond his frame.
Moving onward, Johnston tracks the ball very well downfield. He has the awareness to wait until the ball is close before making adjustments to avoid keying in the DB. But at the same time, Johnston has shown to actively seek out the ball with his hands away from his body
In contested situations, Johnston is authoritative in securing the football. He plays with an alpha mentality and a physical edge, working through contact with his coordination and play strength. With his vice-grip hands, Johnston dominates in contested situations, and he also makes an effort to protect the ball with his frame once he has it secured.
As a route runner, Johnston is still developing, but he shows elite flashes of both ability and application. The TCU WR uses quick, methodical releases — including jab-steps and splits — to generate displacement, then capitalizes with his explosive long-strider acceleration. He can quickly chop his feet and redirect momentum. But beyond that, he tempos his releases, stays square, and gathers 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 can quickly stop and sink his hips at the top of routes, then accelerate out of breaks and employ throttle control upfield. Additionally, Johnston quickly expands his strides and then retracts 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’s combination of size and athleticism is truly enthralling in all phases. But his brand of athleticism, for his size, is especially appealing as a route runner. Few receivers at Johnston’s size have the twitch, explosiveness, and fluidity that he does. He has the suddenness to quickly displace defenders, the fluidity to effortlessly stack moves, and the burst to capitalize and enter space. It’s a devastating combination that only Johnston possesses.
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. After the catch, he uses stiff arms to pry away defenders. Johnston 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 uses his long arms to extend and wall off defenders. He’s generally an assignment-sound blocker who’s shown to latch and extend, then direct defenders upfield with his wide reach and leg drive.
Areas for Improvement
Most notably, Johnston has room to expand his route tree and be more consistent and efficient overall as a separator. This remains true even after his standout 2022 campaign. 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 could better sink his hips on breaks. He has the requisite hip sink and fluidity, and has improved at maximizing it. But with his tall frame, he still plays a bit too upright at times.
On occasion, Johnston’s timing on breaks could also improve, especially against tight coverage. He sometimes works too far upfield and allows DBs to blanket routes.
Additionally, Johnston should be more consistent in recollecting his feet out of releases to effectively channel his burst capacity. He also sometimes defers to raw physicality to separate, 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.
Johnston has occasional focus drops, especially when he has to extend beyond his frame. Additionally, while he’s shown to have the requisite hand-eye coordination, Johnston does let the ball get into his frame more often than desired. This occasional body-catching tendency can result in drops or bobbled passes.
Among other things, Johnston must be more consistent against press. He has the tools to beat press and will fight jams with hand usage, but should improve his timing and placement. He’s not incredibly consistent in breaking through direct contact and has occasional lapses with ball security. And finally, as a run blocker, Johnston’s effort can be inconsistent.
Current Draft Projection for TCU WR Quentin Johnston
Johnston entered the 2022 season as my WR1 in the 2023 NFL Draft. Entering 2023, he remains my WR1. He grades out as a top-10 prospect on my board, near the elite tier. He’s a worthy Round 1 selection, and as the arguable WR1, it’s not brash to say he could go early in the first.
In the preseason, Johnston was a fairly large projection. Even now, he still is, and some teams may have questions about his durability as well. But the brand of talent Johnston possesses is simply so rare, and it’s so exciting to think about in the modern NFL.
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The 2023 NFL Draft’s WR group isn’t short on upside, by any means. Josh Downs, Rashee Rice, Jordan Addison, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba all have their calling cards. But no receiver possesses the ultimate ceiling that Johnston brings to the fold. His three-level threat framework — evaluating his appeal before the catch, at the catch point, and after the catch — is truly unmatched.
Before the catch, Johnston’s mix of explosiveness, twitch, throttle control, fluidity, and physicality is a potentially fool-proof separation formula. At the catch point, his elite wingspan, coordination, vertical athleticism, and hand strength allow him to dominate smaller defenders and withstand contact. And after the catch, he’s the ultimate weapon with that same twitch, agility, explosiveness, and leg drive — all at 6’4″, 215 pounds.
While Johnston showed modest progression as a route runner in 2022, he still has room for further refinement. There are times where he could bring more efficiency and variability in his routes. But Johnston does have the bedrock traits to grow into a high-level independent separator. He has excellent stopping ability, hip sink, lateral quickness, and foot speed for his size, and his explosiveness allows him to seal the deal.
With his all-encompassing talent, Johnston can be a versatile, dynamic catalyst for an NFL offense — a true centerpiece with the potential to be a game-changing force. This is the kind of talent that’s reserved for early Round 1, and it’s what could elevate Johnston to new heights in April.