CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 30: Josh Downs (11) wide receiver of North Carolina misses a pass thrown his way during the Dukes Mayo Bowl college football game between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the South Carolina Gamecocks on December 30, 2021 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 30: Josh Downs (11) wide receiver of North Carolina misses a pass thrown his way during the Dukes Mayo Bowl college football game between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the South Carolina Gamecocks on December 30, 2021 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. (Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Tar Heels’ Josh Downs Is “Explosive”

Reading Time: 3 minutes

That’s the one word I would use to describe this North Carolina wide receiver.

Downs has it all.

Out of the receivers I’ve evaluated so far for the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft, Downs looks the crown jewel of the class.

Downs is a complete receiver

What makes Downs a franchise wide receiver prospect, is he can hurt a defense from anywhere on the field at any time.

He’s capable of turning a short bubble-screen into a big gain.

He can additionally accelerate in and out of route breakpoints like a race car and he can change direction on a dime, which makes him about practically impossible to cover at the intermediate level.

Then there’s his speed…

Downs can flat-out fly

He was toying with corners

This is another tell tale sign of his impending greatness in the NFL.

He consistently does a masterful job of setting up and exploiting corners in the college game.

Downs has this trademark “skip” move when heading into his routes. That’s what I call it. He starts out on his route, does this “skip” move and then explodes at the blink of an eye into full throttle either vertically, or he snaps it off into an underneath route.

I have little doubt, Downs will draw every NFL team’s top cover corner week in and week out. It’s going to take elite speed, burst and athleticism for any corner at the next level to be able to keep up with him.

He was fun to watch and to evaluate

The greats are always fun to watch and they always leave me wanting to watch more game film, not because I need to, but because I want to.

Downs leaves me wanting to see more.

The greats are also easy to write up. I had barely any notes on the negative column in my notebook on Downs, and the positive side was filled with ink from my pen.

I found myself repeatedly saying, “Wow,” or literally laughing out loud watching Downs do his thing.

#11 Josh Downs 5-foot-10, 175 pounds

Daniel Kelly’s Grade: First-Round – Early Fall 2022 Report

First Round Mock Big Board: TBD

Projected by 47.7% of the NFL Draft Community to be a first-round pick as of September 28, 2022 (nflmockdraftdatabase.com)

2021 game film reviewed: Virginia, Miami and Wake Forest (click to watch games viewed to form this evaluation)

2021 stats: 101 receptions (148 targets) 1,335 yards (13.2 avg.), 8 TD, 63-long

Level of competition: High

NFL comparable: Joey Galloway

2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report:

Explosive gamebreaking receiver with elite quickness, speed and he has good hands. Dangerous at all three route-levels. Able to catch short bubble screens and turn them into nice gains. Determined runner after the catch. Accomplished route runner with good initial quickness. Able to effortlessly change direction and burst at the breakpoints. Crisp looking. Accelerates in and out of breaks with second-gear and he is and excellent at creating separation. Catches with his hands and has above-average, not great catch radius (can’t handle passes that are thrown too high). That’s really the only knock on him. Tremendous deep threat who can blow the doors off secondaries. Can also take a five-yard pass and go the distance. Solid blocker who holds his own. A threat as a return specialist as well when he has the ball in his hands in the open field. Home-run hitter.

What to watch for during the 2022 college football season:

  1. How does he look high pointing deep passes?
  2. Can he put together back-to-back high production seasons?
  3. How does he look as a return specialist?
  4. Does he get incorporated into the run game more?

My NFL scouting mentor taught me to “stick with the dynamic ones,” and Downs fits that description.

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL Scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated New York Jets and he is the Editor-in-Chief for First Round Mock. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @firstroundmock.

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