The wide receiver class in the 2023 NFL Draft is a fraught one. It isn’t necessarily weak, but it’s full of physical outliers who don’t fit the NFL’s archetypes for the position. That makes receivers like Quentin Johnston from TCU stand out. He looks almost exactly like an NFL wide receiver at 6-foot 2 3⁄4 inches tall and weighing 208 pounds.
The lack of prototypical receivers has made projecting the New York Giants first round pick that much harder. The Giants certainly need to continue to add talent to their offense and are obviously lacking a classic “X” receiver.
Johnston has attracted attention throughout the process as the prototypical “size/speed” receiver. Could he solve the Giants’ problem there — assuming they’re even interested in that type of receiver?
Games Played: 30
Yards (YPC): 2,190 (19.0. per catch)
Games Played: 14
Yards (YPC): 1,069 (17.8 per catch)
Best: Size, short-area quickness, agility, burst, run after catch
Worst: Ball skills, contested catch, play strength
Projection: An important rotational receiver with starting upside in a Spread or West Coast offense.
(Johnston is TCU receiver number 1)
TCU’s Quenton Johnston is a tall, long, and athletic wide receiver prospect.
Johnston has a long frame for a receiver at 6-foot 2 ¾ inches with 33 ⅝ inch arms. Combined with his 40 ½ inch vertical, Johnston has a potentially massive catch radius. His height belies very good short-area quickness and agility for a bigger receiver. Johnston is able to change direction suddenly and is able to move like a much smaller receiver.
He typically aligned as a wide receiver in TCU’s offense, though he did occasionally play out of the slot and was put in motion on jet sweeps as well. Johnston saw a wide variety of coverages and was able to release efficiently against both off and press coverage. He wastes little time getting into his routes against off coverage, accelerating hard off the line of scrimmage. Johnston uses a quick stutter-step to disrupt the timing of corners who are aligned in tighter coverages.
Johnston wasn’t asked to run a particularly diverse route tree and was largely limited to shallow crossing routes, vertical routes, and the occasional come-back route. However, he showed some encouraging savvy within the structure of TCU’s offense. He makes good use of misdirection and fakes throughout his stem, presses his stem vertically, and is capable of sharp breaks at the top of his route.
Johnston’s burst and lower-body explosiveness also show themselves as a ball carrier after the catch. He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands and is able to turn initial separation into a sizeable gain – though he doesn’t quite have “home run” speed.
While Johnston is a big-bodied receiver, he doesn’t consistently play up to his size. He struggles in contested catch situations and doesn’t match up well against more physical cornerbacks. He can be frustratingly passive at the catch point and isn’t a consistent “hands” catcher who extends to attack the ball away from his frame. There are far too many instances of him simply basket-catching the ball or leaving his feet unnecessarily.
He also lacks the expected play strength that normally comes with his size. Johnston is a willing blocker, but not a terribly good one, and he can be knocked off of his route by bigger corners. Likewise, he can be bullied at the catch point by or tripped up in the open field by incidental contact.
Overall Grade: 7.2
Quentin Johnston’s projection is a complicated one thanks to his inconsistency at the catch point.
He has the physical traits to be a starting receiver at the NFL level, and can be a good player in a system that schemes separation to take advantage of his short-area quickness and burst after the catch. However, if a team tries to line him up as a classic “X” receiver and expects him to consistently win on an island against press-man coverage and double teams, he would have relatively high “bust” potential.
It’s easy to get excited about Johnston’s athletic upside, but his issues with play strength and drops introduce a fair amount of risk.
In his own way, Johnston is an outlier, much like many other receivers in this draft class. While most of the other top receiving prospects fall outside of some NFL teams’ thresholds, Johnston is a big receiver who doesn’t play big. How teams evaluate him will likely come down to whether or not they believe their coaches can fix his consistency issues and teach him to play up to his size.