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NFL Draft Profile: Josh Downs

School: North Carolina

Position: WR

Year: Junior

The Good: Downs is a great athlete. He’ll probably crush the 3-cone and the jumping drills at the Combine, and I expect he’ll run well too – particularly in his 10-yard split. Downs gets to his top speed in an instant. He’s at his best working vertically, where he can lose safeties at the last level of the defense. Downs is particularly effective in lighter personnel packages where the patience in his routes complements the other WRs, and he’s put some highlight reel routes on tape as well. 

The Bad: Downs’ athleticism and quickness doesn’t translate well into his general route running. He wastes a remarkable amount of movement when working to get open; more of his routes have unnecessary hitches in them than not. Against man coverage, Downs doesn’t possess much ability to physically separate. His recognition is also lacking at this stage, which shows up when he struggles to feel and sit in holes against zone coverages. Downs isn’t THAT short at 5’10” but he plays small with a limited catch radius, and he certainly plays as light as he is at 175lbs. He’s a total non-factor as a blocker; I’m not even sure if he’s playable on early downs right now. Downs is generally effective with the ball in his hands but he’s not elusive enough to handle screens and handoffs in the NFL given his inability to break tackles.

The Bottom Line: If it hasn’t already come through clearly, I’m not a fan of Downs as a prospect. His plus athleticism and strong college production will get him drafted in the earlier rounds, but I find his skillset ultimately replaceable – which isn’t great given his lack of size. I think he needs maturation from his current game to crack a starting NFL offense, including in his route running, timing, and general on-field demeanor – he wasn’t a willing blocker and took his share of off plays at UNC. I wouldn’t be surprised if Downs’ greatest impact in his first couple of NFL seasons is as a punt returner.

Grade: Fourth Round

Pro Comp: Richie James

Games Watched:

  • Virginia 2021
  • Florida State 2021
  • Miami 2021
  • Florida A&M 2022
  • Pitt 2022

Plays That Matter [LINK]


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