American Football

Top wide receiver prospect Quentin Johnston among players scouted by Bill Belichick, Matt Groh at TCU Pro Day

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New England’s top decision makers got a first-hand look at a projected first-round wide receiver.

The TCU Horned Frogs took the college football world by storm this past season making a surprising run to the National Championship game. It seems that the Patriots took notice.

As TCU hosted its Pro Day on Thursday, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Matt Groh were in attendance. They were spotted talking with projected first-round wide receiver Quentin Johnston, who was one of the biggest catalysts for TCU’s 13-2 season.

Johnston will likely be one of the first receivers off the board come late April. In a draft full of shifty and smaller wideouts, Johnston is a true X-receiver at 6-foot-3, 208 pounds who will line up mostly along the boundary. Despite his size, he is not a true jump ball specialist instead a more explosive vertical threat.

His fit in New England is interesting, as he relied mostly on a vertical route tree at TCU. While he’s more explosive than a certain wide receiver the Patriots selected in the first-round several years ago, Johnston has similar troubles running routes and separating underneath.

While he may not project as the best stylistic fit for the Patriots, this is the second time New England has seen him in person during the pre-draft process. They met with Johnston during the NFL Combine, in which the receiver explained to patriots.com was his “best meeting of the week.”

Beyond Johnston, Belichick and Co. met with TCU running back Kendre Miller down in Fort Worth.

Miller had an ultra-productive junior season for the Horned Frogs, tallying just under 1,400 rushing yards to pair with 17 touchdowns. He’s a logical fit for New England due to his downhill running style and strong contact balance — drawing comparisons to when Rhamondre Stevenson was coming out of Oklahoma.

Miller, who will likely be an early Day 3 selection, has not participated in any pre-draft testing after suffering an MCL injury late last season. He reportedly is ahead of schedule with his rehab and should be good to go for next season.

One of Miller’s lead blockers from last season also tested in front of New England on Thursday. The Patriots likely won’t be in the guard market on Day 2 of the draft after selecting Cole Strange in the first round and having Michael Onwenu under contract for a year, but Steve Avila was one of TCU’s best players last season.

Avila was named a Consensus All-American last season after not allowing a sack on 540 pass blocking snaps, via PFF. He primarily played left guard last season, but also logged snaps at center, right guard, and right tackle during his collegiate career.

On the defensive side of the ball, cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson — the nephew of LaDainian Tomlinson — was given the Jim Thorpe Award winner as college football’s top defensive back last season. Playing 78 percent of his snaps along the boundary and showcasing his top-notch athleticism at the NFL Combine, he seems like the perfect fit for New England’s secondary.

The issue, however, is his size. New England already does not have a starting caliber cornerback over 5-foot-11, and Hodges-Tomlinson measured in at just 5-foot-8, 178 pounds with 29-inch arms. Despite his talent, his size will likely restrict him to a slot role in the NFL which makes his fit with the Patriots questionable.

Beyond their top four prospects, Belichick and Groh got a first-hand look at several other TCU players who are expected to go hear their name called in the draft. That includes QB Max Duggan, WR Derius Davis, RB Emari Demercado, LB Dylan Horton, and LB/S Dee Winters.

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