UNC Athletic Department

PRO 2023 Rookie Spotlight: Josh Downs, WR North Carolina

Rookie Spotlight: Josh Downs, UNC
Height: 5-9
Weight: 171
Hands: 9 1/4″
Arm: 30 3/8″
40 yard dash: 4.48
2023 Age: 22
NFL Comparison: Tyler Lockett
Breakout Age: 19 (sophomore)

Offensive Market Share Metrics

Receptions: 27%
Receiving Yards: 31%
Receiving TDs: 29%
Total Production Percentage: 29%

As a high school prospect:
Class of 2020; 4-star

– Wins contested catches
– Reported 42” vertical
– Displays suddenness in route running
– Elite long speed
– Sticky hands on short, intermediate routes
– Catches the ball outside of his frame
– Elusive after the catch

– Lacks prototypical size
– Gets manhandled by brutish corners
– Undisciplined route runner

Scouting Notes:
Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and Downs has been willing his way to success his whole football career despite being somewhat undersized. An eventual Biletnikoff Award semifinalist, Downs was a three sport, 4-star athlete when he entered college who succeeded regardless of who was under center at UNC – He had back to back 1,000 yard and 8+ TD seasons with both Sam Howell and Drake Maye. He plays bigger than he is, and that’s a good thing when it comes to contested catch situations. With a purported 42” vertical, Downs can go up and get the ball, and he usually comes down with it – He caught 72% of his contested catch opportunities. Downs often catches the ball outside of his frame, displaying sticky hands, especially in intermediate and short-yardage situations. Downs also possesses elite long speed, but besides that he shows a lot of suddenness in his route running. His release off the line is explosive yet smooth — as it should be as he lines up out of the slot over 80% of the time — and his first move after the catch is dynamic. As a ball carrier, Downs may be at his best, evading would-be tacklers with fluid running on ever quickening feet. Like I said before, Downs plays bigger than he is, but that can sometimes work to his disadvantage, as he’ll take on more than he can chew with larger defenders, when he could just as well have avoided them altogether with his speed and elusiveness. This applies to his work off the line too, as he can get jammed up trying to out-muscle corners and nickel backs instead of just running by them. That being said, you have to admire his willingness to block when called upon.

Fantasy Outlook:
The only real downside for Downs, besides his lack of prototypical size, is that he’s a relatively undisciplined route runner compared to some of the other top-tier options in the draft. He often relies upon his impressive athleticism to win matchups, but the playing field will be more level in the NFL, and he’ll need to sharpen his routes to maintain an edge. Downs is one of several smaller athletic WRs in this year’s draft, but what may set him apart is his dogged fight and his ability to dominate at all three levels of the defense. Capping his upside is the likely outcome that Downs plays primarily out of the slot in the NFL, but he could develop into a PPR monster in the right offensive scheme.

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