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NFL Draft Profile: Josh Downs, Wide Receiver, North Carolina Tar Heels

NFL Draft profile scouting report for North Carolina WR Josh Downs

North Carolina WR Josh Downs
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#11
Pos: WR
Ht: 5102
Wt: 180
DOB: 8/12/2001
Hometown: Suwanee, GA
High School: North Gwinnett
Eligibility: 2023

Josh Downs
North Carolina Tar Heels


One-Liner:

A special athlete with refined technique, Josh Downs has the movement skills, flexibility, route running, run after catch ability, and versatility to be an elite offensive weapon in the league. His size and underwhelming play strength may limit him at the next level. He can start from the slot immediately.

Evaluation:

The 2021 North Carolina offense was a dynamic group that featured multiple draft prospects; however, the team lost three of its top pass-catchers to the draft and injury before the 2022 season. In their absence, Josh Downs became the team’s top weapon and one of the best players in the nation. A versatile option who can play from the slot and as a receiver out of the backfield, Downs wins with his stellar movement skills and refined game. He is a sudden, fluid, and flexible athlete who makes sharp cuts on a dime back to back. He has angle-beating long speed. The talented pass-catcher beats press with shiftiness and movement skills. In his routes, Downs avoids telegraphing his pattern and uses quick feet, nuanced salesmanship, directional work, and speed adjustments to force defensive backs into false steps and errors before snapping off sharp breaks. He has the wherewithal to sell his routes at the line of scrimmage, up the stem, and through and after his cut. Downs exhibits the speed, fluidity, and intelligence to capitalize on any of his opponents’ mistakes. Further, the Tar Heels’ star flashes hand usage to keep defenders off his frame. By forcing opponents to respect his speed, Downs opens opportunities for himself and his teammates underneath. What’s more, the star receiver has reliable hands and a large radius for his size. He is not afraid to lay out for the ball and can secure passes through contact. After the catch, Downs is extremely shifty and hard to wrap up. He strings his cuts well and uses salesmanship to force defenders to whiff. He boasts strong contact balance and a nose for space. That said, Downs’s school-listed size of 5102 and 171 pounds is small for any position in the NFL. Consequently, his play strength is underwhelming. Physical coverage slows him down substantially and he does not fight hands frequently enough. His size profile does not inspire confidence in a projection to the outside, nor should he be seen as a 50-50 or contested-catch player. Though impressive for his size, Downs’s catch radius is below average. With the ball, the explosive talent is not a true tackle breaker and fails to separate away once defenders have him wrapped up. Downs is a somewhat unreliable blocker. Finally, he has been called on too many false starts and should have been called on even more.

Grade:

1st Round

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Background:

Josh Downs, a four star prospect coming out of high school, has been a key part of the Tar Heels Football Program. Even as a freshman he had over one hundred yards and some touchdowns to come with it. During his high school career at North Gwinnett he had over three thousand yards and thirty two touchdowns in three years at that prep school. Born on August 12, Josh is the son of Gary and Tanya Downs and he will also certainly be an impact player on the Tar Heels offense in 2022.