Will Los Angeles Chargers WR Quentin Johnston Emerge as a Top Player in 2024?

Quentin Johnston has a lot to prove to the Los Angeles Chargers in 2024.

Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

As I attempt to recover from the Keenan Allen trade, I can’t help but think about wide receiver Quentin Johnston. He was drafted in 2023 with the Los Angeles Chargers’ 21st pick of the first round. Given his height of 6’3’’ and weight of 215, the Mike Williams comps came fast and furious. When Williams went down with the ACL injury last year, they ramped up even more. With the Chargers’ contested catch guy out for the year, all eyes were on Johnston. And to be honest, Johnston didn’t live up to expectations. 

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NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots
Dec 3, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Quentin Johnston (1) reacts after dropping a pass during the second half of a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Johnston’s Los Angeles Chargers Rookie Year

Johnston had a fairly hot start to 2023. He made some impressive catches during training camp, showing glimpses of why the Los Angeles Chargers had taken him instead of Zay Flowers, who was picked 22nd in the first round.

The Good

Johnston had a diving catch in Week 4 against the Raiders for an 18-yard gain, when Justin Hebert avoided pressure and rolled out to his right, getting it to Johnston to save the play. And during the Chiefs game in Week 7, he had a catch at the 45 for a 20-yard gain. His first touchdown was in Week 10 against the Lions on a fourth-and-goal, and during that same game when running after a reception, he was tackled, and somehow rolled out of it, setting up a third-and-1. He had 20 first downs in the season. Despite all the good, Johnston had some issues that seemed to overshadow those moments. 

The Bad And The Ugly

Syndication: The Post-Crescent
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Quentin Johnston (1) drops a pass late in the fourth quarter after getting past Green Bay Packers cornerback Carrington Valentine (37) during their football game Sunday, November 19, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Credit: Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK

Though he only had two drops during the season from on-target passes, both happened in critical situations. During Week 9 against the Packers, when the Chargers were down by three in the fourth, Johnston bobbled a pass at the 35, resulting in a fourth and one after an offsides penalty by the Packers. After the penalty, the ball was batted down and the Chargers lost their chance to tie. That matchup in particular was winnable and came down to Johnston making a catch in a high-pressure moment, a moment where Williams tends to thrive.

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He had another such bobble and drop on a third-and-12 against the Patriots in Week 13, and with a delay of game penalty afterward, the Chargers lost their chance again to convert the down. Luckily they still won, but that was really because the Patriots were so bad, that it was hard not to win against them last year. Those drops in particular show Johnston’s inexperience and inconsistency, and though it’s just two examples, they amount to something much bigger. 

Can Johnston Be ‘The’ Receiver the Los Angeles Chargers Need Him To Be in 2024?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Los Angeles Chargers
Nov 12, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Quentin Johnston (1) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Johnston didn’t exactly have a splash like some of the other receivers of his class, though to be fair, he also didn’t get as many opportunities, as his target share (65 targets) was small compared to Allen (145), tight end Gerald Everett (70), and even Austin Ekeler (69). With all of those guys gone and the wide receiver unit being reduced to Derius Davis, Simi Fehoko, and Josh Palmer, it’s clear this season will present more opportunities. This time it’s not just a fill-in situation, it’s a do-or-die, start or backup, situation. 

I know he has talent but I’m a little unconvinced he has the magic and the power that Allen or Williams has. At times he’s this fast, aggressive receiver, but at other times he’s average, good but not great, and teetering between reliable and not. I’m unsure if he can be the receiver they need in the absence of the monumental guys they’ve lost.

I’m excited to be proven wrong though and hope this time next year I’m writing about Johnston’s breakout season.