Josh Downs DRAFT PROFILE – 2023 NFL DRAFT
Josh Downs NFL DRAFT SCOUTING REPORT INTRODUCTION
Josh Downs, a highly touted wide receiver, began his college career as an early enrollee in the class of 2020 at the University of North Carolina. Downs was highly sought after by numerous college football programs, receiving offers from prestigious institutions such as Tennessee, Penn State, Arkansas, Ohio State, Kentucky, Michigan, Cincinnati, and South Carolina, among others. Despite a flurry of offers, Downs ultimately made the decision to enroll in North Carolina.
His freshman season with the Tar Heels saw Downs assume a minor role, catching only 7 passes for 119 yards, but he managed to score 3 touchdowns and recorded a passer rating of 110.0 when targeted. Nonetheless, Downs showed a glimpse of his potential by hauling in a 75-yard-long pass against the 5th-ranked Texas A&M.
In his sophomore year, Downs displayed an extraordinary connection with QB Sam Howell, who was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2021 with the 144th overall pick. In 2021, Downs accounted for an impressive 43.6% of Howell’s passing yards, hauling in 101 receptions for 1,335 yards. This marked the third time Downs surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in his college career, along with a passer rating of 106.1 when targeted. Downs also scored 8 touchdowns, further cementing his reputation as an elite receiver.
Downs’ final season with the Tar Heels showcased his ability to perform at a high level independent of Howell’s presence. In 2022, he caught 94 passes for 1,029 yards, recording his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season. He also boasted an impressive 134.7 passer rating when targeted and a significant increase in red zone targets, resulting in 11 touchdowns, his most in a single season with the Tar Heels. Downs also caught more than 72% of his contested catches, and his 754 yards after the catch rank third in the country among all receivers.
In addition to his receiving prowess, Downs was also utilized as a punt returner over his final two seasons with the Tar Heels. He caught 27 punts, averaging a return of 10.4 yards per punt and a long return of 38 yards in both seasons.
Overall, Downs’ college career was marked by his impressive receiving abilities, culminating in four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and a strong passer rating when targeted. His remarkable chemistry with QB Sam Howell in his sophomore year, combined with his ability to excel as a receiver and a punt returner, firmly establishes Downs as one of the top wide receivers in college football in recent years.
Josh Downs Draft Profile
Josh Downs is a multi-faceted and highly productive slot receiver, whose abilities have been demonstrated across all three levels of the defense. A skilled and sudden route-runner, Downs excels in attacking the base and leverage of his defensive opponents, using abrupt stops and starts to challenge their coverage abilities. His agility and fluidity of movement, especially in his hips, enable him to change direction quickly and effectively, providing him with an advantage in playing “basketball on grass.”
What sets Downs apart from other receivers is his ability to thrive in contested-catch situations, catching more than 72% of his contested targets despite his limited radius. Although he lacks the physical stature of other receivers, he plays much bigger than his size, attacking the ball at its highest point with impressive results. Additionally, his quick passing option combined with his dynamic run-after-the-catch skills make him a valuable asset for any offense.
Josh Downs 40 YARD DASH- 4.47 SECONDS
SCOUTING REPORT- STRENGTHS
Josh Downs is a remarkable football player who possesses a range of impressive abilities. One of his most outstanding attributes is his elite straight-line speed, which allows him to accelerate to his top speed quickly and cover ground with ease. This speed has been a key factor in his success as a receiver throughout his entire football career, enabling him to make explosive plays and dominate in the red zone.
Another of Downs’ strengths is his strong vertical jump, which gives him an edge in contested-catch situations and allows him to play above his size. He has been an ultra-productive receiver, recording four 1,000-yard seasons across college and high school. This remarkable consistency is a testament to his skill, determination, and ability to elevate his team’s play.
Downs is also an exceptional yard-after-catch receiver, using his vision and honed skills as a special teamer to make the most of his opportunities in space. His advanced route tree allows him to line up all over the formation, making him a versatile and dangerous threat for opposing defenses.
One of the most impressive aspects of Downs’ game is his ability to elevate bad QB play with impeccable adjustment due to his footwork. He has a keen understanding of the game and an ability to read defenses, which enables him to adjust his routes and footwork to create separation and make plays even in challenging situations. This skill has been a key factor in his success as a receiver and has made him a valuable asset for his teams.
Downs is a dynamic and versatile football player with a range of impressive abilities. His speed, jumping ability, and productivity as a receiver have made him a dominant force on the field. His vision and YAC skills, advanced route tree, and impeccable adjustment due to his footwork make him a valuable asset for any team. With his remarkable skill set and versatility, Downs has the potential to be a star in the NFL, and his future in the league is sure to be bright.
SCOUTING REPORT- Weaknesses
Despite his many strengths, Downs may not be the ideal prospect for everyone. His lack of traditional height and weight measurements may not appeal to those who prioritize these metrics, and his limited radius can make him vulnerable to physical coverage. He has yet to face a large number of reps against press alignment with bump-and-run coverage, which raises questions about the extent of his release package at this stage of his career. While Downs moves around the Tar Heels’ offense, he is typically placed in positions that are advantageous and allow him access to space, suggesting that he may function best as a slot-only candidate with specific alignments for optimal chances of success.
There are also some areas where Downs could improve. For example, he is not an ideal play-side run blocker due to his limited frame and lack of play strength. Additionally, he has struggled with drops over the last two seasons, which will need to be addressed if he is to earn and maintain the trust of NFL quarterbacks.
Josh Downs DRAFT SUMMARY
Overall, Downs is a dynamic and versatile receiver with a floor that is highly enticing, even if his ceiling may be limited by his size and frame. His plus-route running and play style, which fits the chain-mover model, make him an excellent option for offenses seeking a reliable and productive slot receiver. Downs would make a fantastic choice route option, and he has the potential to be a valuable asset for any team willing to take advantage of his many strengths.
- Elite Speed and vertical jump
- Outstanding production in college
- Advanced route tree
- Lacks length and height
- Didn’t face a lot of strong corners playing him at the line
- History of drops