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2023 NFL Scouting Combine

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NFL Combine Notebook: TCU's Quentin Johnston could see himself in blue


As GM Joe Schoen noted earlier this week, the Giants will use "all avenues" to continue building out their wide receiver room.

Isaiah Hodgins, who was re-signed last month, and Wan'Dale Robinson, who is rehabbing a season-ending ACL injury suffered in November, will both likely play solid roles for the team in 2023. But who else joins them in the Giants' wide receiver corps is one of the biggest questions Schoen faces in his second offseason as general manager.

Many draft pundits believe the Giants could use their first-round pick to solidify the position, and one player being projected to them in several mock drafts is TCU's Quentin Johnston.

Johnston is one of the bigger-bodied receivers in the 2023 draft class, coming in at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. He used that size to his advantage during his breakout campaign this past season, where he caught 60 passes for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns on his way to being named AP First-Team All-Big 12.

The former Horned Frog told reporters Friday that he tries to emulate Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams' elusiveness and ability to break off routes in different ways. He believes that ability combined with his size is what sets him apart from other wideouts in this year's draft.

"Just being a taller receiver, my ability to get in and out of my breaks," Johnston told reporters about his strengths. "As a taller receiver, usually unless you've already been in the league, been here a minute, you know it takes taller receivers more time to get in and out of breaks. It makes it easier for DBs. That's something I work on a lot – playing like I'm 5-10."

Johnston, who comes in at No. 27 on Daniel Jeremiah’s top 50 prospects, displayed his big play ability throughout his time at TCU. During his three seasons there, he finished with averages of 22.1, 19.2 and 17.8 yards per reception, which likely led to Jeremiah comparing him to Chargers wideout Mike Williams' skillset after the catch.

The 21-year-old attributes that big play ability to both his size and mental toughness.

"I feel like physicality, that's something to do with it. But if you want to be any type of successful in this game and in this sport, it's all a mindset," Johnston said about his success as a vertical receiver. "It's all that one-two that 'I'm going to go get it.' From play to play, it's basically saying, 'I'm better than you.' I don't mean to be cocky about it, but that's just how I approach every play. I don't go into games talking loud. You're really not going ot catch me doing any of that, but you can for sure see that in my game, 'This is what I'm going to do after I get the ball to help my team win.'"

Johnston did admit that it would mean "everything" to him if he were to be the first wide receiver selected in next month's draft.

While it is unlikely that the first receiver isn't taken until No. 25, Johnston did share that he has not only met with the Giants, but that he could also see himself playing there.

"I met with them Wednesday, I believe, and I'm meeting with them again sometime soon," he exclaimed. "Very, very welcoming staff. I had good talks with them. I for sure see myself in blue just like I was in high school."

View photos from the Giants' suite in Indianapolis, where the team is gathered to evaluate the top draft prospects.

*In a wide receiver room at Ohio State that consisted of Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Marvin Harrison Jr., it was actually Jaxon Smith-Njigba that led the team in receiving back in 2021.

Smith-Njigba finished the season with 95 receptions for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns in 13 games, 25 receptions and over 500 yards more than any of his teammates, which led to him being named Third-Team All-American. His 95 receptions that year were the fifth-most in Big Ten history, while his 1,606 receiving yards stands as the conference's all-time single-season record. Smith-Njigba set Rose Bowl records with his 15 receptions for 347 yards against Utah to conclude the 2021 season, while also finding the end zone three times. He was named the game's Offensive Most Valuable Player.

Wilson and Olave just finished up their first season in the NFL, with each of them topping 1,000 yards receiving and Wilson being named Offensive Rookie of the Year. Following their rookie campaigns, both former Buckeyes said it was actually Smith-Njigba that was the best receiver to come through Columbus in the last few years, praise that the 2023 draft prospect appreciated.

"In my eyes, I think they're the best," Smith-Njigba said about Wilson and Olave. "They're doing it right now: they're showing out in the league. So, I definitely appreciate them saying that. It means a lot. As me being a younger guy, I feel like just me being able to watch how they work and take things from their game I think just maybes gives me the upper hand and the advantage. Without those guys, I definitely wouldn't be where I am today."

Smith-Njigba was unable to put his talents on display this past season due to a hamstring injury that limited him to only three games.

Despite the restricted game action, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound that ranks No. 25 on Jeremiah's prospect list believes the adversity will benefit him moving forward.

"Very frustrating last year," he said on Friday. "Never really had an injury that sat me out for games or even practices or stuff like that. I feel like I'm going to come out a better person, a better man, a better player. So, definitely thankful. Just looking at it as a positive. I think it'll be beneficial for me at the end of the day."

*Most prospects entering the draft have players that have come before them that they try to model their game after. For Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers, those players are former NFL standouts Steve Smith and Antonio Brown.

"I like Steve Smith," Flowers said. "I watch his highlights. I watch Antonio Brown highlights. I take stuff from these guys and try to add it to my own game and try to be my own player… Steve Smith, he was just a dog. He'd go up and get the ball versus anybody. He put his body on the line."

It's easy to make the comparison between Flowers and the two former All-Pro receivers due to their size. Smith (5-foot-9, 195 pounds) and Brown (5-foot-10, 185 pounds) were far from the biggest receivers on the field. The same can be said for Flowers, who comes in at 5-foot-10 and added some muscle since the end of the season to reach 183 pounds.

The 22-year-old's size never slowed him down at Boston College. After totaling 18 touchdowns and just under 2,000 yards receiving in his first three seasons, Flowers broke out for 78 receptions, 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns during his senior year.

Flowers and Brown, both South Florida natives, have trained together over the years, which has served as motivation for the young receiver as he embarks on his own NFL journey.

"He's a hard worker," Flowers said of Brown. "He's one of the hardest workers I've ever seen in my life at the game. Just being around him, motivating me to work even harder than I was working before. He gave me advice on deep balls, tracking the ball, just stuff like that."

*Similar to Smith-Njigba, Tennessee's Cedric Tillman is another wideout who struggled to stay on the field last season after a standout 2021 campaign.

Tillman reeled in 64 passes for 1,081 yards and an impressive 12 touchdowns during his redshirt junior year. This topped teammates Velus Jones Jr., a third-round pick in last year's draft, and Jalin Hyatt, a projected first or second-round pick in this year's draft.

A high ankle sprain derailed Tillman's final season, as he was able to get on the field for only six games. However, he still finished with 37 receptions for 417 yards and three touchdowns as he fought through the injury.

"Just the competitor in me," Tillman, who said he met with the Giants this week, shared about why he played with the ankle sprain. "Like I said, I wanted to come back a few weeks before. I did everything I could to try to go out there. Like I said, I knew I maybe wasn't quite right. But I wanted to try to fight for my team and like I said, you've got to go out there. Everybody's knicked up and bruised up and torn up the back half of the season. So, hopefully my teammates appreciated it. But that's just the competitor in me wanting to go out there and play."

NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah updated his ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.


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