Quentin Johnston's mood shifted quickly when the questions in his Combine interview shifted from TCU's 65-7 loss to Georgia in the NCAA championship game to the 51-45 win over Michigan in the semifinal game.
"Michigan?" he said, his face lighting up in a big smile. "I can talk about Michigan."
Johnston did not duck any questions about the loss to Georgia, or about his receiving style when he gets to the NFL as a likely first-round pick.
"I feel like mentally as a team we weren't all the way there," he said. "We weren't ready for the stage – that matchup at that time.
"They showed up, and we didn't."
The 2023 draft class lacks the stars of some previous years. That doesn't mean there won't be a gem in the fourth round like when Detroit Lions GM Brad Holmes drafted Amon-Ra St. Brown in the fourth round in 2021.
He had 90 catches as a rookie and 106 his second year with a trip to the Pro Bowl.
At 6-3 and 208 pounds, Johnston used his size to be a big-play threat at TCU where he averaged 19 yards on 115 receptions for his three-year career.
His combination of agility and size made him a threat in college. He wants to improve on that in the NFL.
"I feel like that's something I want to work on," he said. "Play like I'm 5-foot-10."
View photos of the top wide receiver prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Following is a preview of the 2023 wide receiver draft strength, the Lions' depth and draft priority at the position, and five prospects who could interest the Lions.
Wide receiver draft strength: Not as strong or deep with quality prospects as in recent seasons.
Lions' depth, draft priority: Bringing back veteran Marvin Jones Jr. took away some pressure to draft a receiver early, but the Lions are likely to add depth via the draft.
Five prospects who could interest the Lions:
(40-yard dash times are from Combine and Pro Day workouts as available.)
1. Jordan Addison, Southern Cal:
5-11, 173. 4.49 40.
In 2022 after transferring from Pittsburgh, Addison caught 59 passes for 875 yards, eight TDs and an average of 14.8 yards per catch. That was far below what he produced in two seasons at Pitt: 60 catches, 666 yards and four TDs in 2020; 100 catches, 1,599 yards and 17 TDs in 2021.
Bottom line: Addison won the 2021 Biletnikoff Award as the country's top wide receiver.
2. Quentin Johnston, TCU:
A big-play producer for the Horned Frogs from the start of his three seasons. Averaged 19.0 yards per catch on his 115 career catches.
Bottom line: Johnston was a consistent big-play producer. From 2020 to 2021, Johnson had averages of 22.1, 19.2 and 17.8 yards per catch.
3. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State:
A three-year player with 23 games played, but only three games in 2022 because of injury. With only 10 catches in his first season and five in his third, he showed his worth in Year 2 – 12 games played, 95 catches, 1,606 yards and nine TDs.
Bottom line: Smith-Njigba is another in a long line of elite Ohio State wide receivers who get drafted every year like sports cars rolling off an assembly line. They arrive in the NFL highly tuned and ready to roll.
View photos of NFL prospect Quentin Johnston.
4. Josh Downs, North Carolina:
5-9, 171. 4.48 40.
A three-year player, with super stats in his last two seasons. After seven catches as a 2020 freshman he exploded – 101 catches for 1,335 yards in 2021 and 94 catches for 1,029 yards in 2022.
Bottom line: Downs gave future opponents a look at what was to come in his freshman season. He had seven catches, but three were for touchdowns, and he had a long reception of 75 yards.
5. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee:
6-0, 176. 4.40 40.
Three-year player whose first two seasons were a brief preview of what was to come in Year 3. Caught 20 passes for 276 yards in 2020 and 21 for 226 in 2021. Exploded in 2022 – 67 catches, 1,267 yards and 15 TDs.
Bottom line: A highly decorated player, 11 receptions in 2022 were of 40 yards or longer.