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Steelers Scouting Report: TCU WR Quentin Johnston

Quentin Johnston has gotten plenty of buzz, but should he be considered for the Pittsburgh Steelers' first-round pick?

The Pittsburgh Steelers will look at wide receivers to continue their trend in recent years, with one TCU product on their radar. 

TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston is a former 4-star recruit from Temple, Texas. After being named First-Team All-Big 12 in 2021, Johnston was a player with major potential NFL Draft buzz entering this year’s college football season. 

As a junior, Johnston put together another productive campaign to help lead the Horned Frogs to the College Football Playoffs. He is widely expected to declare early for the 2023 NFL Draft shortly after the conclusion of the season. 

I took a deep dive into the tape to see what makes Johnston so intriguing and where he still has room to grow while trying to nail down a projection for his NFL future.

Primarily a boundary receiver in college, Johnston comes equipped with a massive frame, standing 6-4 while weighing nearly 215 pounds to pair with long limbs. He possesses an intriguing blend of size, speed, and length which makes him a dangerous prospect with incredible potential as he continues working on some of the finer points of his game.

Strengths

Johnston does his best work on a vertical plane where he can best utilize his superb athleticism. When defenders elect to play off coverage, Johnston routinely eats up cushion with ease thanks to plus acceleration and long strides, getting to his top gear quickly. 

Press coverage isn't a huge deterrent for him, Johnston has a sufficient release package to win with quickness underneath or pressing vertically upfield. The 4.4 rumored speed is legit and shows up on tape, as a go-ball machine as he can stack even the faster boundary cornerbacks that he lines up across.

Johnston boasts the ideal frame that teams typically covet to work the middle of the field at the next level, and he showcases plenty of toughness to hang on the catches through contact. When working over the middle against zone coverage, he’ll work to find the void in the defense. 

He’s also a willing and capable blocker, who can stalk block on the outside or as the point man on screen-plays while also working inside, throwing his weight around with bigger linebackers or safeties.

One of the more impressive parts of Johnston’s game is his body control, as he’s shown the ability to contort his body mid-air to make some spectacular grabs. Johnston is a natural at tracking the football in the air, whether it’s understanding the appropriate time to box out defenders or hauling the ball in over his shoulder. When given the chance, Johnston flashed potential as a ball winner, aggressive at the catch point with what appears to be a jaw-dropping vertical leap.

Even beyond his ability to win down the field consistently, Johnston is an incredibly useful asset with the ball in his hands. He’s the type of playmaker where you can scheme him touches via screens or jet motions and let him work his magic in the open field. Whether it be with strength or wiggle, Johnston can create for himself, forcing plenty of missed tackles. There’s a seamless transition from operating as a receiver to instantly becoming a ball carrier as soon as he gets the ball in his hands.

Weaknesses

The catching technique itself was mostly clean, but there are some odd instances of concentration drops where the ball just clangs off of his hands. Johnston also needs to utilize his strengths more by selling vertical speed on his other routes, far too often you see him get really tall and upright multiple steps before the break point, tipping off the nearby defender that he’s about to cut. 

He’s capable of dropping his weight in an impressive fashion for his size. However, there is still room for refinement in terms of his route running, and learning how to manipulate defenders' leverage among other nuances for the position. Johnston could also stand to be more diligent in terms of avoiding getting too close to the sideline on go-balls unnecessarily which shrinks the throwing window for his quarterback.

When you witness the things that Johnston is capable of doing, you’re left wondering why he wasn’t more dominant at the collegiate level. He was a three-year producer at TCU, and while he did function within a run-heavy offense, that alone doesn’t quite explain how hot and cold he was throughout notable stretches throughout his career. The highs are exhilarating but seeing a player this insanely talented vanish was rather perplexing.

Numbers to Note

- Career totals: 108 receptions, 2,024 receiving yards, 18.7 yards per catch and 13 receiving touchdowns

- 2022 totals: (12 games played) 53 receptions, 903 yards, 17 yards per catch and five receiving touchdowns.

- Eight drops in 2022 which accounted for 13.1% of on-target passes in his direction (PFF)

- Nine catches of 20+ air yards in 2022, five of which went for touchdowns (PFF)

- 7.8 yards after the catch per reception in 2022, eighth most among power five wide receivers with at least 75 targets (PFF)

Projection

Johnston’s a sure-fire first-round caliber player whose mesmerizing tools place him firmly in the WR1 conversion for April’s NFL Draft. Furnished with some God-given abilities that simply can’t be taught, the upside is off the charts as it’s clear that he has the necessary talent to become the go-to guy in an NFL passing attack. 

While he provides clear day-one value as a field stretcher and explosive playmaker, NFL teams will be banking on his traits and work ethic leading to a more consistent, well-rounded player later in his career.

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