Quentin Johnston

Chargers Rumors: Ekeler, Johnston, Salary Cap

Within a limited salary cap, as other positions begin to see an increase in the average value of their contracts, the space in the salary cap for those increases has to come from somewhere. As positions like quarterback and defensive tackle are reaching new highs, it seems that the value of running backs is slowly diminishing.

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler went on The Rich Eisen Show this week to voice his opinion on the situation. Ekeler is entering a contract year and was interested in renewing his deal for more time in Los Angeles. When it became clear that the Chargers weren’t willing to meet his demands on a new deal, they allowed him to seek a trade. Unfortunately for Ekeler, it soon became apparent that no one was willing to meet his demands, sending him back to the negotiating table. Without extending his time with the team, Los Angeles did show a bit of their appreciation for Ekeler, reworking his contract in a way that allows him to make more money in 2023 through incentives.

Ekeler understandably left the situation frustrated with the development of the running back market. His view is that running backs carry the ball and impact the game more and that they’re not getting compensated in a corresponding fashion. While he certainly has a point, being concerned that top running backs are getting nearly the money they should be able to, the overall market of the position is being dragged down by the success of its younger players. Due to the recent successes seen by running backs on rookie contracts, several teams feel much more comfortable going to the draft for their primary rushers, making them less inclined to pay out large contracts to veterans, regardless of their caliber.

As a result, Ekeler sees backup wide receivers making more money than him, despite their lesser impact on the team’s success. It’s an unfortunate development that, this offseason, has resulted in contract disputes from four of the league’s top-eight running backs in yards from scrimmage last year.

Here are a few other rumors coming out of Los Angeles this summer:

  • The Chargers used a first-round pick on wide receiver Quentin Johnston this year, and there is not an expectation that he will be coming off the bench much as a rookie, according to Daniel Popper of The Athletic. Despite Josh Palmer stepping up in a big way during his sophomore season while position leaders Keenan Allen and Mike Williams each missed some time with injury, Popper expects Johnston to jump Palmer for the WR3 role at some point this year. Johnston has some development to undergo still before claiming the spot, but Palmer’s absence in the spring (due to injury) certainly helps Johnston’s case. Popper expects the position battle to take place in training camp, and he expects Johnston to eventually win out.
  • Additionally, Popper addressed the team’s reluctance to spend on free agency this offseason despite having a little more the $12MM in open cap space for 2023. It’s a popular opinion that the Chargers are already looking ahead towards the 2024 season. Next year, four players will have cap hits over $30MM, and that’s not including quarterback Justin Herbert who, if forced to play out his fifth-year option, would hold a $29.50MM cap hit in 2024. Instead of spending their money this summer on contracts that may have an impact into next year, Los Angeles may be angling to take advantage of rollover cap space. According to Popper, “teams are allowed to roll over any unused cap space from one season to the next.” $12MM of rollover could do a lot towards what could end up being a pricey 2024 season. In contrast, the highest cap hit the team is dealing with in 2023 comes in at $17MM.

WR Rumors: Ravens, Chiefs, Giants, Mooney, Lockett, Chargers, Falcons

Although the Ravens gave Lamar Jackson the biggest contract in NFL history — in terms of average annual value — their top two outside investments this offseason have gone to wide receivers. Following their Odell Beckham Jr. signing, the Ravens chose Zay Flowers 22nd overall. Baltimore took calls from teams during the first round, and GM Eric DeCosta indicated teams wanted to move up. Leery of losing their chance to add a first-round-caliber wideout, the Ravens passed on offers.

We had gotten some calls from some teams behind us. It didn’t take a rocket scientist … to tell me that they were coming up for receivers,” DeCosta said during The Lounge podcast (via BaltimoreRavens.com). “We decided to stand pat at that point because we knew there was a legitimate risk that we were going to lose the guys that we coveted. The Giants being one of those teams. The Chiefs were behind us as well.”

Both teams showed interest in wideouts, with the Chiefs being connected to moving up for Jordan Addison. The Giants made an effort to trade up for a receiver — with their target believed to be Flowers — but after the Vikings chose Addison at No. 23, Big Blue moved up one spot (to No. 24) for cornerback Deonte Banks. DeCosta also expected the Chargers to pass on Flowers at No. 21, indicating the Bolts generally like “the bigger receivers, the route runners.” The biggest of this year’s first-round receiver lot, 208-pound Quentin Johnston, went to the Chargers. The Ravens have added Beckham, Flowers and Nelson Agholor to their receiver group, one previously headlined by Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay. Both holdovers are coming off season-ending foot injuries.

Here is the latest receiver news from around the NFL:

  • Darnell Mooney missed the final five games of the Bears‘ 3-14 season due to an ankle injury. The three-year starter underwent surgery, with NFL.com reporting he had sustained ligament tears. But Mooney is on track to return to football work fairly soon. The contract-year wideout has a chance to be cleared before the end of Chicago’s offseason program, per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Should that benchmark not be met, Mooney will be expected to be full-go by training camp. Mooney totaled 1,055 receiving yards in 2021 and will be expected to join D.J. Moore as Justin Fields‘ top targets this season, one that will potentially set him up for a lucrative extension or free agency accord.
  • The Chargers did not retain DeAndre Carter this offseason; the veteran returner/auxiliary wideout signed with the Raiders. They are expecting the other TCU wideout they drafted — fourth-rounder Derius Davis — to pick up the slack in the return game, Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com notes. Davis posted the second-fastest wide receiver 40-yard dash time (4.36 seconds) at the Combine and tallied six return touchdowns (five on punts) with the Horned Frogs from 2018-22. While Brandon Staley is not limiting the 5-foot-8 rookie to return duty, the Bolts did draft Johnston and are also still rostering Josh Palmer and Jalen Guyton as Keenan AllenMike Williams backups.
  • The Seahawks created some cap space recently by restructuring Tyler Lockett‘s contract. By converting $8.5MM of Lockett’s base salary into a signing bonus, the Seahawks created $5.7MM in space (per ESPN’s Field Yates). As Lockett’s 2023 cap hit drops to $11MM, his 2024 and ’25 numbers balloon to $26.7MM apiece. Lockett is tied to his third Seahawks contract, a four-year, $69MM deal agreed to in April 2021.
  • Former Eagles second-round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside received a tryout opportunity at the Falcons‘ recent rookie minicamp, according to Fox Sports’ Greg Auman (on Twitter). Arcega-Whiteside has been unable to establish himself as a pro, being tried at tight end and then traded to the Seahawks before last season. The Seahawks cut the Stanford product in November. He remains unsigned.

Chargers Sign First-Round WR Quentin Johnston

The Chargers have signed their first-round pick to a rookie contract. Per Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com (via Twitter), the Chargers have signed wideout Quentin Johnston.

The rookie’s four-year rookie pact includes $14.18MM and training-camp guarantees in both 2024 and 2025, per Wilson (on Twitter). Johnston will also have a chance to earn a significant chunk of money via his fifth-year option. While Johnston was technically the 21st pick in the draft, he’ll earn the contract of the 22nd selection as a result of Miami’s forfeited selection.

Johnston was the second wideout off the board during the first-round run on receivers. The 6-foot-2, 208-pounder showed off his potential during his time at TCU, but he truly established himself as a first-round pick during the 2022 campaign. This past season, the wideout hauled in 60 catches for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns, resulting in his second-straight All-Big 12 nod.

The wideout did have an issue with drops, leading to some inconsistency in his draft projections. However, it was generally agreed that Johnston had one of the highest upsides at his position, and the Chargers are fortunate that they won’t need to rely on the rookie right away. Johnston will join a depth chart that’s highlighted by Mike Williams and Keenan Allen.

The Chargers will now shift their focus to signing the rest of the 2023 draft class. Johnston is the first of the team’s seven draft picks to be signed.

Chiefs Notes: Taylor, Smith, Pacheco, Anudike-Uzomah, Rice

The Chiefs had planned to move career right tackle Jawaan Taylor to the left side. Instead, they are flipping their tackle salary structure. Donovan Smith is now in the fold, and Taylor is now the NFL’s second-highest-paid right tackle.

Andy Reid confirmed (via ESPN’s Adam Teicher) the Chiefs will begin their offseason work with Smith, signed to a one-year deal worth up to $9MM late last week, at left tackle and Taylor on the right side. Considering Smith has only played left tackle as a pro and Taylor spending his entire Jacksonville tenure as a right-sider, it is logical the Chiefs will not rock the boat here.

This is an about-face given the Chiefs’ initial Taylor plan, and while it is interesting the defending champions are abandoning it months before pads come on, Reid did leave the door open last month for Taylor to be kicked back to the right side. A right tackle at Florida and with the Jags, Taylor represents an upgrade for the Chiefs at that post.

Smith will replace Orlando Brown Jr. While the latter earned back-to-back Pro Bowl nods with the Chiefs, Smith manned the Buccaneers’ blindside spot for eight seasons. During an offseason in which the team needed to shed almost $60MM in cap space, Tampa Bay made Smith a cap casualty in early March. The soon-to-be 30-year-old blocker resided as one of the few players left unsigned among PFR’s top 50 free agents.

Kansas City making right tackle its top O-line investment deviates from recent years, when the team used low-cost vet Andrew Wylie and third-round pick Lucas Niang as its primary options at the position. But the Chiefs’ initial Patrick Mahomes Super Bowl-winning team did have two tackles — Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz — signed to veteran deals. While the team prioritized Brown in 2021 via the trade with the Ravens, right tackle did not bring similar attention. The Smith signing changes that, as Taylor signed the top O-line deal — AAV-wise, at $20MM — in free agency. Smith’s $9MM deal checks in at $4MM in base value, Albert Breer of SI.com notes.

Elsewhere on the Chiefs’ roster, Reid confirmed running back Isiah Pacheco and first-round defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah are recovering from surgeries. Pacheco underwent procedures to repair a broken hand and a torn labrum, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets. He does not have a return timetable, though the Chiefs do not sound concerned the 2022 seventh-round pick will miss regular-season time. Anudike-Uzomah, this year’s No. 31 overall pick, underwent thumb surgery before the draft and could be ready by the time the Chiefs begin OTAs later this month.

At receiver, the Chiefs had Mahomes work out with a few rookie prospects. Zay Flowers and Quentin Johnston were among those to train with the reigning MVP in Texas. But Chiefs second-round pick Rashee Rice also linked up with Mahomes for a pre-draft training session. The SMU product, whom the Chiefs took in the second round, formed a connection with the superstar quarterback, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes.

The Chiefs have now taken a second-round receiver in each of the past two drafts, with Rice following Skyy Moore. These two join Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Kadarius Toney as the Chiefs’ top receivers. Kansas City has been connected to a DeAndre Hopkins pursuit, but the Cardinals may now be prepared to keep him. The Chiefs, who lost J.J. Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman to the AFC East in free agency, are also preparing to give Toney — his injury past notwithstanding — a bigger role heading into his first full K.C. season.

Chargers Choose Quentin Johnston At No. 21

The run on receivers has started. After no wideouts were selected through the first 19 picks, we’ve now got our second WR pick in a row. The Chargers are using pick No. 21 on TCU WR Quentin Johnston.

While Johnston is technically the 21st pick, he will actually receive the contract of the 22nd pick as a result of Miami’s forfeited selection. The Dolphins lost the true No. 21 pick following an investigation into their pursuit of Tom Brady and Sean Payton. If Johnston can live up to his potential, he will be in line for multiple deals after his rookie contract expires.

The 6-foot-2, 208-pounder flashed plenty of potential in three seasons with the Horned Frogs, and took a considerable step forward in production last season. Johnston made 60 catches for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns, helping lead the team to the national title game. His 17.8 yards per catch average came not from his skillset being built on vertical speed as much as it was on run-after-catch ability. His prowess in that regard is especially intriguing given his size.

Drops were an issue, however, which led to a variance in Johnston’s draft stock. The fact that he has become WR2 in the 2023 class shows the Chargers, at a minimum, are comfortable with banking on his upside. Johnston should have a notable role both in the short- and long-term in upon arrival in Los Angeles.

Keenan Allen came up in trade talk earlier this offseason. Although the team remains adamant that the five-time Pro Bowler will not be on the move, an addition to the Chargers’ pass-catching corps comes as no surprise. Johnston will provide a speed element to complement that of Mike Williams, and give new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore an expanded array of options to work with in the passing game. Johnston’s upside is among the highest in the class, so his development over time will be a factor worth monitoring, especially when weighed against the other top WRs selected around him.

WR Notes: Flowers, Vikings, Chiefs, Giants, Addison, Bucs, Johnston, Robinson, Moore

Zay Flowers does not appear likely to fall out of the first round, and his final pre-draft meetup looks to have gone well. The Chiefs organizing a Flowers-Patrick Mahomes workout in Texas has led to interest on the defending Super Bowl champions’ part, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. They are not alone. The Giants and Vikings are Flowers fans as well. Previous reports also indicated the Bears and Chargers are intrigued by the speedy Boston College product, despite his 5-foot-9 stature. Flowers would be an atypical first-round pick, with Marquise Brown (2019) and Tavon Austin (2013) the only receivers chosen in Round 1 at 5-9 or shorter in the 21st century. But Flowers made a number of pre-draft visits and, coming off his only 1,000-yard college season, will be one of the first receivers off the board.

The Vikings released Adam Thielen earlier this year and have K.J. Osborn going into a contract year. Considering Justin Jefferson‘s likely extension price, Minnesota paying multiple wideouts notable veteran sums might be difficult. The Giants have performed an extensive examination on the top wideouts available.

Here is the latest from the rookie and veteran receiver landscape:

  • Regarding the Giants‘ receiver studies, Ralph Vacchiano of Fox Sports indicates they are also believed to be considering USC’s Jordan Addison in Round 1 (Twitter link), indicating Addison might be ahead of Flowers on the team’s board. A Pitt transfer who finished his career with Heisman winner Caleb Williams, Addison spent time with the Giants during the pre-draft process. The team adding Parris Campbell and Jamison Crowder and re-signing Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton — along with the 2022 second-round selection of Wan’Dale Robinson — certainly does not point to this Giants regime mandating big-bodied wideouts. While Flowers is 5-9, Addison is only 5-11. One of these two stepping in as a potential No. 1 target would round out an interesting receiver room.
  • Shifting to a taller target, the Buccaneers are believed to be interested in 6-3 TCU alum Quentin Johnston, ProFootballNetwork.com’s Tony Pauline offers. The Bucs would make for an unexpected Johnston destination, as they have Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and 2022 free agency addition Russell Gage on the roster. Gage, however, underwhelmed in his Tampa Bay debut, while Evans is entering his age-30 season. The Chiefs are also interested in Johnston, with Pauline confirming previous reports Kansas City is both pro-Johnston and interested in trading up from No. 31.
  • Being moved to the Steelers, Allen Robinson will be prepared to work with yet another starting quarterback this year. But the well-traveled wideout will have a delayed start for on-field Steeler work. The team will hold its new receiver out of voluntary offseason workouts, per The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly (on Twitter). Robinson is recovering from late-season foot surgery. He missed the Rams’ final seven games last season due to injury.
  • Ryan Poles confirmed D.J. Moore was indeed mandatory in the Bears‘ March trade with the Panthers. “You go back and forth and have those conversations that go over a couple of weeks, and there are some non-negotiables that you say, ‘Well, I need to have this in the package.’ DJ was that for us,” Poles said during an interview with former NFLers Charles Tillman and Roman Harper on the NFL Players: Second Acts podcast (h/t Pro Football Network). “We wanted to add more playmakers to this roster. We wanted a player that can really help Justin [Fields] be successful. So that’s kind of [what] we stuck with and went hard on that, and it worked out.” The Bears also discussed Brian Burns and Derrick Brown with the Panthers but ended up prying away their No. 1 receiver in the deal for the top pick.

Chiefs High On Quentin Johnston, Arrange Patrick Mahomes-Zay Flowers Workout

Zay Flowers logged some travel miles during this pre-draft visit period. The Boston College prospect has met with the Titans, Ravens, Patriots, Raiders, Cowboys, Giants and Bills. While Flowers did not have any other visits booked, the Chiefs will use the final day for pre-draft visits to have their franchise centerpiece gather additional intel.

The Chiefs arranged for a Flowers workout with Patrick Mahomes in Texas, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Flowers visited the Titans on Tuesday and was not planning any additional meetings, but the Chiefs are in need at wide receiver and figure to be on the radar for Flowers — depending on how far he falls in Round 1.

Evaluators are split on the 5-foot-9 Flowers and USC’s Jordan Addison, per ProFootballNetwork.com’s Tony Pauline, who notes some teams do not have first-round grades on either. Both undersized pass catchers have been popular on the March-April interview circuit, but this year’s receiver draft class has not produced the same type of rave reviews as the past three years did.

Ranking just outside the top 20 in the view of ESPN’s Scouts Inc. and NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, Flowers played four seasons at Boston College and upped his draft stock with his first 1,000-yard year — a 1,077-yard, 12-TD showing — in 2022. The diminutive target’s explosiveness has caught certain teams’ eye, though the Chiefs might not be out of range for him at No. 31. The Chiefs, who hold 10 picks (two fourth-rounders), traded up in last year’s first round to select Trent McDuffie.

Flowers is not the only wideout the Chiefs are being tied to as the draft nears. They are “very high on” TCU’s Quentin Johnston, per Pauline. Standing 6-3, Johnston joins DeAndre Hopkins as big-bodied wideouts on the Chiefs’ radar. The Chiefs are among the many teams who brought in the former Horned Frogs standout. Johnston finished last season with 1,069 receiving yards, helping the Big 12 program make an unlikely appearance in the national championship game. While drops were an issue for Johnston, his frame differs from the other top wideouts available next week.

Kansas City lost both J.J. Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman in free agency, though the team made an attempt to keep Smith-Schuster. The Chiefs return Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore. The latter two are expected to play bigger roles in 2023, with Toney in particular — injuries notwithstanding — ticketed for a responsibility upgrade. But the Chiefs have been connected to both veterans and first-round-caliber wideouts. Kansas City has not chosen a receiver in the first round under Andy Reid, but the team is making an effort — after passing on a monster Tyreek Hill third contract — to keep costs low at the position.

Meanwhile, in Kansas City, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets team brass is meeting with Georgia tackle Broderick Jones on Wednesday. Also expected to go in Round 1, Jones has met with a few teams already. The Chiefs are planning to move $20MM-per-year tackle Jawaan Taylor to the blind side, after he spent his career as a Jaguars right tackle, but they lost starting right tackle Andrew Wylie to the Commanders. After backing up future Charger Jamaree Salyer in 2021, Jones became Georgia’s left tackle starter last season. Jeremiah ranks Jones as this draft’s 17th-best prospect.

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: TCU WR Quentin Johnston

We all know the recent history of drafting TCU wide receivers, especially in the first round. Since 2000, only Jeremy Kerley has surpassed 600 yards receiving in a season, while former first round picks Josh Doctson and Jalen Reagor both failed to finish out their rookie contracts with the teams that drafted them. Doctson was released just before his fourth year in the league, while Reagor was traded around the same time last year. The latest Horned Frog to attempt to erase the dreadful history of receivers out of Fort Worth is junior wideout Quentin Johnston.

Johnston was a consensus four-star wide receiver out of Temple High School (Texas) in the Class of 2020. After initially committing to Texas before his senior year, Johnston would eventually flip to TCU after the dismissal of Longhorns wide receivers coach Drew Mehringer. With Reagor leaving for the NFL, a spot at the top of the depth chart was wide open for the taking.

Johnston earned a starting role in Fort Worth immediately as a freshman, leading the team with 487 receiving yards and earning honorable mention All-Big 12 honors. As a sophomore, he would earn first-team All-Big 12 honors after leading the team in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Then, this past year, Johnston lead the Horned Frogs in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns en route to his second straight year on the All-Big 12 first team. Over his three-year career at TCU, Johnston totaled 115 catches for 2,190 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Among the other top receiver prospects, Johnston reigns as the biggest of the bunch, establishing himself physically as a potential WR1. His size obviously assists him, with length and strength inherent in his frame, but it doesn’t keep him from being as agile as the smaller receivers in the draft. Johnston used his burst and acceleration to rank second in the nation in yards after catch per reception. His combination of size and elusiveness make him one of the tougher receivers to bring down after the catch. Before the catch, he has great awareness to track the ball and use his leaping ability and body control to make grabs.

The biggest problem showing up on Johnston’s film is drops. Whether it’s a lack of confidence in his hands that results in inconsistent body-catching or a lack of focus as he fails to secure the ball before turning his eyes upfield to run, drops plagued Johnston in 2022. Luckily, drops have been a bit of an issue for the rest of the receivers expected to be first-rounders, as well, making his eight drops hurt a little less. Boston College’s Zay Flowers surpassed Johnston with nine drops of his own this year. Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba dropped six passes in his only full season of play. USC’s Jordan Addison only had two this year but had 21 during his two years at Pittsburgh. Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt may be the exception of the group, with only eight drops in his collegiate career, but five of those came in 2022.

Looking past the drops, Johnston has only a few other things to work on. Tight hips and a lack of variety at TCU mean that he has some work to do on route-running. Also, despite his size, Johnston didn’t have the best track record with contested catches.

Plenty of teams have done their homework on Johnston. So far, in the pre-draft process, Johnston has met with or planned to meet with the Giants, Ravens, Chiefs, Cowboys, Cardinals, Falcons, Vikings, Jaguars, and Titans. Basically, any team looking to add some size to their receiving corps has done some research on Johnston.

The 21-year-old makes a lot of sense for that purpose. The disastrous history of TCU wideouts going pro and Johnston’s drops will be overlooked fairly easily. Not only will teams overlook them because of his size but because he uses his athleticism to blend that size congruously with speed and strength. He’s almost certain to hear his name on Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft later this month, but at what point in the night he is selected has yet to be determined.

Draft Rumors: Young, Panthers, Stroud, Texans, Colts, Smith, Lions, WRs, Cardinals, Titans, Falcons, Johnston, Jaguars, Vikings

The Panthers have not locked onto Bryce Young just yet, but the pendulum continues to swing toward the Alabama prospect over C.J. Stroud. David and Nicole Tepper spent extensive time with Young’s parents at Alabama’s pro day last month, Albert Breer of SI.com notes, and Michael Lombardi said during his GM Shuffle podcast the Carolina owner met with Nick Saban in the Crimson Tide HC’s office during the pro day. This comes after reports last week began to stray from the Stroud-to-Charlotte narrative, one that formed largely because Young stands 5-foot-10 and plays under 200 pounds (despite his 204-pound Combine weight).

Carolina will meet with Young on Tuesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, with Breer adding Young has already impressed Frank Reich in previous settings. It will be interesting to see if more smoke emerges here, as the Panthers do not exactly have to keep this a secret given their updated draft position, or if Stroud remains in the mix. Many scouts and execs polled by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler said Stroud’s 6-3, 214-pound frame make him safer and will help him become Carolina’s choice, though that poll still produced a slim advantage for Young to go No. 1 overall. Despite the Panthers meeting with Anthony Richardson and Will Levis, it certainly looks like Young or Stroud will be the pick.

Here is the latest from the draft scene:

  • The Colts discussed the No. 1 pick with the Bears before the Panthers won out, but Breer adds Indianapolis was not ready to do a deal before free agency. The team was still in the process of evaluating the QB prospects and was not prepared to part with significant capital to move up from No. 4 to No. 1. Houston also backed out, having been farther down the road in trade talks with Chicago. Bears GM Ryan Poles spoke of his team trading down twice — moving from 1 to 2 to 9, allowing the Texans and Panthers to climb up for QBs — but Breer notes Nick Caserio‘s team became uncomfortable with the deal later in the process.
  • Texans ownership is more involved in this year’s draft process, per Breer, who is less bullish on Houston selecting a quarterback compared to how this situation looked ahead of the Combine. The Texans’ negotiations with the Bears unmasked them as being willing to trade up for one particular quarterback, potentially pointing to the team being high on either Stroud or Young but not as sold on the other. Since the Panthers obtained the pick, the Texans have been connected to possibly punting on their QB need and taking Will Anderson Jr.. A trade-down scenario, per Breer, should also not be discounted.
  • Nolan Smith is gaining steam during the pre-draft process, with Fowler noting some scouts are pegging the edge rusher as a top-10 pick. The Lions (Nos. 6, 18) have done homework on the Georgia outside linebacker, per Fowler, and the Patriots (No. 14), Buccaneers (No. 19), Ravens (No. 22) and Jaguars (No. 24) have met with Smith. Scouts view the 238-pound defender as a better fit for a team in a 3-4 scheme, and the Steelers (No. 17) — long users of that base alignment — have emerged as a potential Smith floor.
  • More teams are bringing in TCU wide receiver Quentin Johnston. Following a report that indicated the Ravens, Cowboys and Chiefs were hosting Johnston, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson notes the 6-foot-3 pass catcher will meet with the Cardinals, Falcons (No. 8), Vikings (No. 23) and Jaguars. Most of these visits will occur this week, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, who adds the Titans (No. 11) huddled up with the ex-Horned Frog on Monday (Twitter link). Barring a fall into Round 2 or the Cards moving down considerably from No. 3 overall, Johnston would not seem in their range. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has the Vikings selecting Johnston. This receiver class has generated mixed reviews, with NBC Sports’ Peter King adding teams have the higher-end wideouts in varying orders on their respective boards, but Johnston has consistently been mocked as a first-rounder.

Chiefs, Cowboys, Ravens Meet With WR Quentin Johnston

Although the Cowboys traded for Brandin Cooks last month, they continue to do extensive homework on this draft’s top wide receiver prospects. After meeting with Zay Flowers and Jalin Hyatt, Dallas hosted TCU pass catcher Quentin Johnston on Tuesday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Johnston, who met with the Chiefs on Monday, is Baltimore-bound today for a Ravens meeting. Those two teams present needier wide receiver situations, but the Cowboys’ intel-gathering operation at receiver is a bit more interesting. The Giants have been connected to Johnston as well.

Dallas did not appear to capitalize fully on Amari Cooper‘s value last year, trading the Pro Bowler to Cleveland for fifth- and sixth-round picks. The team dealt the $20MM-per-year receiver just before the market boomed, and Cooper’s presence ended up being missed during a year that featured trade offers — one for Broncos wideout Jerry Jeudy — and a nonstop Odell Beckham Jr. free agency courtship. But the Cowboys now have Cooks, Lamb and Michael Gallup — more than a year out from his ACL tear — in the fold now. It would represent an interesting best-player-available move for Mike McCarthy‘s team to pull the trigger on a receiver early in this draft.

Then again, the Cowboys did let Dalton Schultz walk in free agency and have Cooks going into an age-30 season. Cooks’ contract runs through 2024, but the oft-traded speedster is only on the team’s books at $6MM and $10MM over the next two seasons. The veteran makes for an affordable Lamb complement. Gallup’s five-year, $57.5MM deal runs through 2026. Lamb is signed through 2023, but the team will undoubtedly exercise their WR1’s fifth-year option. Lamb is also on Dallas’ extension radar.

The Chiefs and Ravens have each been connected to both Beckham and DeAndre Hopkins. Baltimore has made Beckham an offer, though the ex-Giants Pro Bowler may well be waiting on a Jets-Aaron Rodgers trade to be finalized. But that process has stalled, potentially opening the door for other suitors. The Ravens have used first-round picks on receivers twice in the Lamar Jackson era, selecting Marquise Brown in 2019 and Rashod Bateman in 2021. The team also chose Breshad Perriman in the 2015 first round. Kansas City, conversely, has not taken a wideout in Round 1 during Andy Reid‘s tenure. The team’s last such investment — Jonathan Baldwin — came 12 years ago and did not provide much help.

ESPN’s Scouts Inc. grades Johnston as this draft’s top wide receiver, slotting him as the pool’s 12th-best prospect. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah is slightly less bullish on the ex-Horned Frog, placing him 30th overall as the fourth-best receiver talent available — in a draft that has not generated receiver hype on the level with the previous 2020s crops. Todd McShay’s most recent mock sends Johnston to the Ravens at No. 22. Johnston, who goes 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds, was instrumental in the Big 12 program completing an unexpected journey to the national championship game; he hauled in 60 passes for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns as a junior.