2023 NFL draft: What WR Quentin Johnston brings to the Chargers

It was a given that the Chargers were going to add more offensive playmakers in the 2023 NFL draft.

The team wasted no time, spending its first-round pick on TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston at No. 21 overall. Johnston finished with 60 catches, 1,069 yards, and six touchdowns. He was a major contributor to the Horned Frogs’ upset win over Michigan in the College Football Playoff semifinal with a 6-163-1 performance.

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When Chargers general manager Tom Telesco called Johnston on Thursday night, he was clear about one thing: the team already has a depth of playmakers, but Johnston was too good to pass up. “We kind of have a stacked receiving room right now, but that’s a good thing,” Telesco said, “so (we’ll) get you in here, have you earn a role, we’ll figure everything else later.” 

Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Josh Palmer figure to play major roles in the offense next season. But even if Johnston has to play second fiddle to those established starters, he can still make an impact with his versatile skillset that brings an explosive element that the Chargers did not have before.

The easiest way to describe Johnston is he’s a prototypical ‘X’ receiver who plays the position as if he were in the slot. Johnston still has all the traditional outside receiver trademarks at 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds – big catch radius, ideal size, proven jump ball winner – but his added danger once the ball is in his hands is rare. 

He is freakishly nimble carving a path through open space and can flat-out separate when allowed to reach full speed. His 40-yard dash time of 4.49 at his pro day is a bit misleading, as he owns one of the fastest GPS times in college football last year at 21.39 mph on this run-after-catch play against Michigan.

Here, Johnston receives the ball on a drag from quarterback Max Duggan and angles toward the sideline away from the pursuing defender. The one-on-one matchup favors Johnston, who is able to turn the corner and force a missed tackle, cutting through the defender’s diving arms with ease. From there, Johnston found the sideline and left the rest of the defense in the dust. Nobody else came close to touching him on the 76-yard touchdown.

Even if there is no open space, Johnston has the creativity and improvisational skills to create it. He can slam on the brakes, rotate his momentum, and overachieve on a slant route without much effort or thought. 

And this element of Johnston’s game shows up time and time again when he played against Big 12 opponents. Half the battle was getting hands on Johnston. The other half was hanging on long enough to bring him down before his thick frame wiped away the contact for good. 



There are moments where Johnston displays how to use his size effectively to shield defenders from the catch point, effectively ensuring a clean window to make a box-out catch. This is a necessary attribute for Johnston to continue in the NFL because he tends to use his body to catch the ball. However, this issue seems to be one that the Chargers feel they can easily correct, and if they are right then it will lend itself to more isolated matchups where Johnston has the advantage.

And this is because there are devastating effects to leaving Johnston on an island with a single defender, especially as a vertical threat. Once Johnston gets downfield, it’s a matter of keeping up with him long enough for the ball to arrive. Then, to force an incompletion requires having to compete with his length, size, and leaping ability.

Several defensive backs learned the hard way exactly how tough that task is. Plus, if they missed the ball, chances are Johnston would already be streaking to the end zone.


It is ultimately going to be Johnston’s comfortability and mastery of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s scheme that will decide what impact he will make on the field during his rookie season. But, just as Telesco said to him on the phone, the Chargers have big plans for him despite their loaded receiving corps.

Surrounding Justin Herbert with dangerous weapons, especially a unicorn like Johnston, will always be a good idea.

Story originally appeared on Chargers Wire