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Where would Quentin Johnston have been drafted if he wasn’t a ‘body-catcher?’

Quentin Johnston has been piling on highlight-reel catches in camp, casting doubts on his pre-draft scouting reports

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers Rookie Minicamp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 draft was described as barren of true standout receiving prospects, with each of the top-ranked receivers having significant questions to their potential as true WR1’s in the NFL.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba dominated college ball before an injury ended his 2022 season very early. He was criticized for having low top-end speed, but praised for his dominant route-running, topping-out as a young Keenan Allen.

Zay Flowers’ tape suggested a dominant route-runner as well with incredible playmaking ability. However, his 5’9” frame will be a hurdle to overcome at the next level, limiting his appeal as a team’s top receiving option.

Despite Jordan Addison’s incredible college production and route-running, he didn’t quite score high enough in speed and agility testing to counterbalance the concerns about his 5’11”, 171 pound frame.

Quentin Johnston was seen as the top receiving prospect by many pundits, and perhaps personified the general theme surrounding this receiving class the most. He boasted prototypical size and playmaking ability, but couldn’t squeeze into the 4.4’s during his combine 40-yard dash, and was tagged as a “body-catcher” by analysts. His hands were the biggest cause of concern, as many noted he wasn’t aggressive enough at the point of attack to benefit from the mismatch his size should create.

All four of these receivers were taken in rapid succession in the draft. Smith-Njigba was drafted at 20th overall, with Johnston, Flowers, and Addison selected sequentially afterwards. Comparisons amongst these four receivers will undoubtedly follow them throughout their careers. In the three drafts preceding this one, a respective six, three, and three receivers were selected before the 20th pick, making 2023 an outlier in early receiver selections.

After the first week of Chargers’ training camp, some analysts are ready to mic-drop on Johnston’s doubters as he continues to flaunt his talents. Specifically, it appears Johnston does in fact have hands.

Dov Kleiman kept the receipts Quentin’s pre-draft reports, and isn’t afraid to dunk on them early.

Naturally, this invites research into what analysts missed in their assessments of Johnston. Here are a couple observations from members of our own Bolts From The Blue community:

Buck Melanoma:

Funny how having a QB who throws a nice tight spiral vs a wounded duck makes a receiver look much better, huh?

I continue to maintain the QB play at TCU was part of QJ’s supposed issue. The catches I’ve seen from him via Herbert have done nothing to dissuade me of that take.


He had to come back on so many routes cuz those were floating. He’s probably happy to catch in stride

Looking back at some of Johnston’s highlights, it appears this was a fairly consistent theme. When Max Duggan hit Johnston in stride, he didn’t shy away from catching with his mitts.

Here, the ball is perfectly high-pointed, and Johnston makes an aggressive contested catch... again, with his hands.

Here’s another clip with the ball thrown in front of Johnston, where he shows his ability to extend for a pass. He does trap it against his body, but that’s what you’re looking for in the modern NFL, where failing to secure the ball when going to the ground often results in an incompletion.

Let’s look at some of these “body catches” that hurt Johnston’s draft stock.

You can’t fault Johnston for a “body catch” when he’s underthrown by multiple strides and has to slam on the breaks to secure a catch. The ball was so underthrown on this play that Johnston had to drive half the way to the endzone in reverse.

Here is another highlight-worthy play where Duggan’s underthrown pass led to a slowed Johnston catching the ball against his chest.

Quentin Johnston making the most out of underthrown passes is a regular occurance in these highlight reels. Here is another, where Johnston is underthrown in traffic and he takes the pass for a touchdown.

The following compilation starts with an example of a Duggan throw hitting Johnston at center-mass instead of leading him, which Johnston secures against his chest but turns it into a chunk play with his YAC ability.

If Johnston had a quarterback that was maximizing his potential in college, it’s plausible his resume would elevated his stock closer to Mike Williams’ seventh overall selection in 2017, who shares very similar size and speed measurables.

What do you think, Bolts From the Blue? How optimistic are we that Quentin Johnston will emerge as a true WR1, and gift us with years of highlights like this?