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Chargers GM Joe Hortiz believes WR Quentin Johnston is 'really going to launch' in second season

The Los Angeles Chargers eschewed drafting a receiver at No. 5 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft to take offensive tackle Joe Alt. While the club turned around and added Ladd McConkey in Round 2, the decision puts Quentin Johnston in a spot to be the club's No. 1 entering the season.

Chargers general manager Joe Hortiz joined Up & Adams earlier this week, and the former Ravens executive said that Johnston owns the talent to be that go-to target.

"Quentin was a player we liked in Baltimore as well last year -- a player that I liked," Hortiz told Kay Adams. "When you look at him, when he was coming out of college, he was an elite size/speed athlete. And you saw some rawness to his game, but you also saw the ability, for as big as he is, (6-foot-3), I think, and 220 pounds, you watch him drop his weight, getting in and out of breaks, come to balance at the top of the route, get out quickly. He can do some rare things for a player his size. (Coach) Jim (Harbaugh) was on the other sideline in one of his better games (in college), and so we've all seen it. We believe in it. He's a great kid, he's a great worker. Everyone here has a high opinion of him. I believe he's really going to launch. I really do. His skill set is great. We're gonna work with him, make him better and better."

Hortiz began to smirk when discussing the rest of the receiver corps, indicating the club likes the room more than perhaps those outside the building.

"You stack Ladd, (seventh-rounder) Brenden Rice and (seventh-rounder) Cornelius (Johnson), a couple free agents after the draft," Hortiz said. "So we've got a really good completive room. Adding DJ (Chark) is going to be huge, and so it's a really good room right now."

Johnston struggled during his rookie campaign. The first-round pick caught 38 of 67 targets for 431 yards and two touchdowns. In an era in which rookie receivers have hit the ground running, Johnston's lack of production -- particularly given the injuries in the Chargers' WR room last season -- was notable. He struggled to gain separation, was outmuscled at the catch point too often for a player his size, and suffered drops.

However, the new regime in L.A. will give the 22-year-old a chance to wash away those struggles.

"It's up to Quentin what he becomes," Hortiz said when pushed by Adams regarding whether Johnston can be a true No. 1. "We're going to push him and work with him and develop him. I'm not going to anoint Quentin as anything. Quentin is going to develop and show what he is to the league and everyone out there, but I believe his work ethic and his talent, he's got a high ceiling, for sure."

Johnston's development this offseason will be worth tracking during training camp. McConkey has a shot at overtaking the former first-round pick as Justin Herbert's top target early in the season.

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