Call Me Matt Millen, but the Detroit Lions Should Draft Quentin Johnston
The Detroit Lions once drafted wide receivers in the top-10 of three straight NFL drafts, when former GM Matt Millen assumed that they would immediately be an unstoppable offensive force. Mike Williams, Charles Rogers and Roy Williams were supposed to become a feared 3-headed-monster. Despite the young receivers’ high expectations, the rest of the Lions’ roster was a mess and they never reached their potential.
As the Lions look to the upcoming draft, some believe they should trade back and pursue other positions. Unless Bryce Young, Jalen Carter or Will Anderson fall to the Lions at #6, I’m also in the camp of wanting the Lions to trade back. However, with a hypothetical pick in the 9-14 range, I say make a strength, stronger. I’d urge Brad Holmes to consider one player who stands out: TCU wide receiver, Quentin Johnston.
The Lions defense has the most room for improvement, and it’s likely that Brad Holmes will focus on it in the upcoming draft. While it would be difficult to pass up on Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon, there is a plethora of CB talent expected to be available in the 2nd round, like Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes. The Detroit Lions should take advantage of this depth and target Johnston, who will be a game-changer for their offense.
Johnston is a true No. 1 option who can successfully run any route in the book.
He is also a menace in the open field, breaking tackles with ease. He dealt with a few minor injuries that kept him sidelined on occasion this past season, so his numbers aren’t as good as they could be. In 2022 as a junior, he played 12 games, hauling in 53 catches for 901 yards and 5 touchdowns. He was a 2021 First-Team All-Big 12 selection.
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QUENTIN JOHNSTON: STRENGTHS
One of his biggest strengths is his ability to make defenders miss in the open field. He forced 45 missed tackles across three seasons at TCU, and he tends to drag defenders along with him when he has the ball in his hands. Johnston is also a deep ball threat, but he also excels at running short and intermediate routes. He does this by utilizing his short-area quickness and lethal spin move to make defenders miss. Additionally, Johnston’s size and speed make him a dangerous player on all levels of the field.
Precise route runner with good stop-start ability and lateral agility.
A savvy, natural pass-catcher with reliable hands and focus.
Excellent downfield, accelerating to top speed quickly and stacking on top of cornerbacks.
Proven force in catch-and-run situations, transitioning upfield quickly after the catch.
Impressive ball-tracking skills and body control, huge catch radius.
QUENTIN JOHNSTON: WEAKNESSES
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On the other hand, there are some areas where Johnston could improve his game. One of his biggest weaknesses is his tendency to drop passes, as he dropped eight passes in the 2022-23 season. He also needs to improve his blocking if he wants to succeed for a Detroit Lions team coached by Dan Campbell. He finished the year with a less-than-stellar 60.5 run-blocking grade. Johnston also struggles at times with press coverage, and he could work on getting a cleaner release at the snap. Additionally, his route-running could use improvement, as he struggles to sink his hips in and out of breaks to run crisp routes consistently.
Not a dominating blocker, needs to develop skills to become a complete number one in the league.
Has only run a limited route tree at TCU, will have to expand in 2022.
Needs to develop a better feel for sitting down against zone coverage.
Had problems with focus drops and occasional issues against press coverage.
NFL PROJECTIONS AND COMPARISONS ON DETROIT LIONS
The deep ball is becoming more and more of a common threat in the NFL and Johnston’s game will fit well in this trend. He is a near-consensus pick as the top wide receiver available and is projected to be a top pick in the NFL Draft. CBS Sports NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson even wrote in his mock draft, “Johnston’s an above-the-rim playmaker whose athleticism and contested-catch abilities make him WR1 at this point in the proceedings,” and slotted him as the No. 9 pick to the Carolina Panthers.
Johnston’s combination of speed, athleticism, and size make him a versatile player who can make plays as a route runner out of the slot or get up outside against physical corners. While there may be an adjustment process, his ceiling is high. In fact, some team sources have compared his skill set to that of A.J. Green coming out of Georgia in 2011. If Johnston can stay healthy, he has the potential to become an elite receiver like Green was in his prime years for Cincinnati.
If I were the Detroit Lions, I wouldn’t be so quick to pass up on A.J. Green.
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