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How TCU’s Quentin Johnston emerged as the top WR in the 2023 NFL Draft

TCU coach Sonny Dykes has more than 25 years of experience with pass-catchers who went on to the NFL, an all-sizes list that ranges from Wes Welker to Rob Gronkowski. 

That’s why Dykes’ assessment of Quentin Johnston ahead of the 2023 NFL Combine registers with impact. 

“The thing about Quentin is he’s still pretty raw,” Dykes told The Sporting News on Wednesday. “I’ve been lucky. I’ve coached 30-plus receivers who have gone to the NFL and guys who have had Hall of Fame careers. Quentin probably has as much talent as any of those guys.” 

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Johnston enjoyed a breakout season in the Horned Frogs’ run to the College Football Playoff championship game last season. A strong performance at the combine could solidify his status as the top wide receiver in the 2023 NFL Draft. 

Quentin Johnston TCU stats

In 2019, Johnston decommitted to Texas and chose TCU. According to, the four-star prospect is the third-highest ranked recruit in TCU history. 

He had 22 catches for 487 yards (22.1 yards per catch) and two touchdowns as a freshman. Johnston had 33 catches for 634 yards (19.2 yards per catch) and six TDs as a sophomore. 

Dykes was hired ahead of the 2022 season and convinced Johnston not to enter the transfer portal. Johnston benefited from working with receivers coach Malcolm Kelly, a former Oklahoma star who played three seasons with Washington in the NFL.

Johnston also made a switch from Y to X receiver, and the results followed. Johnston had 60 catches for 1,089 yards (18.2 yards per catch) and six touchdowns. He helped the Horned Frogs reach the College Football Playoff, where he had six catches for 163 yards and a 76-yard touchdown in the team’s 51-45 semifinal victory over Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl. 

Johnston was limited to one catch for 3 yards in the CFP championship game against Georgia. Still, that breakout season has put Johnston in the first-round receiver conversation along with USC’s Jordan Addison and Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba. 

Quentin Johnston at the NFL Combine 

Johnston would be the seventh Big 12 wide receiver selected in the first round in the last 10 years. TCU’s Jalen Reagor in 2020 was the most recent. 

The list is a hit-or-miss group that ranges from Corey Coleman, who played just three seasons, to CeeDee Lamb, a two-time Pro Bowl selection. 

Five of those receivers amplified their stock by running well in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Each receiver who ran the 40 finished at 4.5 or lower. 

First-round Big 12 receivers since 2013

Year Player 40 time School Pick Team
2013 Tavon Austin 4.34 West Virginia 8 Rams
2015 Kevin White 4.35 West Virginia 7 Bears
2020 Jalen Reagor 4.47 TCU 21 Eagles
2020 CeeDee Lamb 4.5 Oklahoma 17 Cowboys
2016 Corey Coleman DNR Baylor 15 Browns
2019 Marquise Brown DNR Oklahoma 25 Ravens

If Johnston runs well, then that, combined with his size (6-4, 193 pounds), would enhance his chances of being the first receiver taken in the 2023 NFL Draft. Johnston will impress in the vertical jump, given he has been reported to have a 38-inch vertical while at TCU. 

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Dykes also sees the areas where Johnston can improve. 

“He can continue to develop as a pass catcher, just consistency catching the ball can get better – his consistency of making contested catches can get better,” Dykes said. “There are just not that many guys who have the physical tools that he has.” 

Dykes believes Johnston will continue to develop into a top receiver at the next level. The coach gave his assessment to TSN.

“I think what makes him different is he’s big, he’s fast, he’s explosive, he can change direction, he can get out of his breaks, but he’s also a really good person. He’s a good teammate and he works hard, and there is not going to be any off-the-field issues ever,” Dykes said. “When you look at all that stuff, you sit there and say, ‘Well, he’s a really good player now but I think he’s going to be an even better player two or three years from now in the NFL.’ That’s what is exciting about him.”

Quentin Johnston NFL Draft projection 

TSN’s Vinnie Iyer, in his latest 2023 NFL Mock Draft, has Johnston going to the Jets with the No. 13 pick. Johnston would join 2022 first-round pick and Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson if that happens.

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“The Jets knocked it out of the park by drafting offensive skill playmakers Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall in 2022, on top of landing shutdown corner Sauce Gardner for the defense,” Iyer writes. “They should go after more big plays for their next QB by giving Wilson a complementary big field-stretcher and red-zone finisher outside to upgrade from oft-injured Corey Davis, regardless of QB.”

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