This was not an easy choice. There were arguments made to go with Dalton Kincaid at tight end, or even an offensive lineman in the form of O’Cyrus Torrence or Steve Avila (with Avila being attached to a possible trade-back scenario). Names like defensive tackle Bryan Breese or EDGE Lukas Van Ness were also in the mix.
In the end, Quentin Johnston won the vote but it was close. Johnston has been in the conversation among the best WR draft prospects in this draft, and here is picked fourth among that group after Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11th overall), Jordan Addison (12th) and Zay Flowers (21st) all went earlier.
The Cowboys need at wide receiver is in the eye of the beholder. For 2023, it’s likely that CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and Brandin Cooks will see the majority of targets at the wide receiver spot regardless of what happens in this draft. So Johnston’s importance in 2023 isn’t immediate. But, there is always injury to worry about. And then there are contracts. Lamb needs to be extended. Gallup has an out year in 2024 if he hasn’t returned to form. And Cooks is a wild card pending how he’ll fit in the offense and is signed only through 2024.
Drafting a quality receiver to give you options in the future makes sense since the position is so critical in today’s modern NFL. But, as always with the draft, it all depends on the player you pick.
What the hope is with Johnston is that the Cowboys are getting a package of size and speed that may resemble A.J. Brown or other bigger receivers. Johnston is big (6’3 and 208 pounds) plus has an enormous wingspan. He was very productive in college at TCU and was known for big plays deep, and his ability to get yards after the catch (8.9 YAC in 2022, second-best in top-level college football). Johnston has speed once he gets his long strides in gear and has played both outside and inside. It all sounds great except for one thing.
Johnston has been plagued by the one big no-no at his position: dropping passes. He loses focus, he can use poor technique, and he should be better with contested catches; without this issue he would be a much higher-graded prospect. Can NFL coaches make him better in this phase of the game? That’s the big question, because physically he is everything you would want in an NFL receiver. He’s also reportedly an unselfish, anti-diva receiver who was a team captain.
No player comes without risk, and Johnston is no exception. But any team taking him is banking that all of that talent and potential can be unlocked to its fullest with some NFL coaching and just plain experience at the next level.
Our friends over at DraftKings Sportsbook have odds on all kind of prop bets for the draft, and one of them is the number of receivers drafted in the first round. The O/U is 3.5, and with Johnston being taken here, that makes four in the SB Nation mock, hitting the over. They also have one on who will go first— Dalton Kincaid or Michael Mayer. Even though we passed on Kincaid for the Johnston pick, it wouldn’t have mattered as Michael Mayer went 20th overall in the SB Nation mock.
We’ll give the last word to noted draft observer Dan Brugler at The Athletic, who has this to say about Johnston in his fantastic draft guide, The Beast.
SUMMARY: A three-year starter at TCU, Johnston was the X wide receiver in former offensive coordinator Garrett Riley’s RPO-based offense (played the Z receiver position in 2021). He led the team in receiving yards each of his three seasons in Fort Worth and was a big-play creator before and after the catch (No. 2 in the FBS with 8.9 YAC per reception in 2022). A big man with small-man burst, Johnston accelerates well to stack, track and separate deep or create plays after the catch with his elusiveness, strength and instincts. His length and body control help him make impressive grabs away from his body, but he struggled with contested windows on tape and had more drops than touchdown catches in 2022. Overall, Johnston requires polish with his route-running and ball-finishing skills, but he offers legitimate big-play potential with his size-speed athleticism and catch radius. He has NFL-starting traits with upside as he continues to develop.