In our Scouting Reports, we will give you a quick debrief to get you the information you need to know. We go a step further, providing an in-depth review showing off examples of what we do and don’t like. We’ve included a date from the initial scouting report. Updated notes may get added and dated over the course of the the year. With that, welcome to the Josh Downs scouting report!

If you’d like to see more, below are all the completed scouting reports for this season:

Will LevisTank BigsbyJordan AddisonTBD
Spencer Rattler* (2024)Sean TuckerQuentin Johnston
Anthony RichardsonZach CharbonnetJaxon Smith-Njigba
Michael Penix Jr.* (2024)Blake Corum* (2024)Jalin Hyatt
Josh Downs

Josh Downs finds himself in potential first round discussions since declaring from UNC after two hugely productive seasons with NFL caliber QBs: Sam Howell and Drake Maye. How much of the hype is pre-draft smoke, and how much is fire? Let’s take a look.

Date: 1.25.2023 (updated 3.6.2023)
: Josh Downs | WR | North Carolina #11
DOB: 08.12.2001 | 21 years old
H/W: 5’ 9″ | 171 lbs

NFL Combine results (updated 03.06.2023):
40-yd dash: 4.48s
10-yd split: 1.49s
Vertical jump: 38.5″
Broad jump: 10′ 11″

YearGamesTeamReceptionsRec YardsRec AvgRec TDsRush AttemptsRush YardsRush AvgRush TDs
20204NORTH CAROLINA711917.031-3-3.00
202113NORTH CAROLINA101133513.280000
202212NORTH CAROLINA94102910.9110000


NFL Draft Projection (updated 03.06.2023):

Mid 1st to 2nd Round Pick – Downs has a lot going for him that would warrant first round consideration: outstanding hands, creative use of varied speeds running solid routes, great burst and overall athletic ability, and boy does he climb the ladder well for his size. Unfortunately that’s what’s holding him back: size. While his talent could earn him first round consideration, I think it’s more likely he goes in the second due to just that. His combine performance wasn’t great: he’s smaller than listed and the 40 time didn’t burn, but I don’t think it will impact his draft stock too much.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Projection – 1QB (updated 03.06.2023):

Mid to Late 1st Round Pick – Downs is a great talent and could be a three-level asset for whatever team picks him up. His size and difficulties when aligned on the line of scrimmage will keep him a tier below the other top receivers, but he should be firmly in that next tier of receivers drafted.

Dynasty Rookie Draft Projection – Superflex/2QB:

Late 1st to Mid 2nd Round Pick – Pencil in two, up-to four quarterbacks going before Downs and that nudges him down a bit, potentially into the second round.

Scouting Brief

If size wasn’t a consideration, Downs would be near the top of the short-list for the first receiver taken in the upcoming NFL Draft. He’s an incredibly well-rounded receiver; creative, athletic, and plays much bigger than his size.

He does show issues when aligned on the line of scrimmage. Strong, patient, long-armed corners have given Downs lots of trouble in press. If he can’t release clean, he loses some luster. The way he runs his routes is just so heavily dependent on speed variance and timing.

Downs often uses an extreme speed variance to win. For example, he’ll slow-walk release to the DB – just out of arms reach – feign an outside release before bursting inside.

The extreme difference between his slow release and his outstanding burst can often catch DBs off-guard or force them to guess at his route. I think really good, patient DBs at the NFL level will be able to smother him though.

This style of routes also sees the occasional extra steps and wasted motion, which gives patient DBs another leg-up. Interrupt the timing of his routes, and he might as well be taken out of the play entirely.

Making matters worse, being only 5’10” and 175lbs doesn’t allow for much trust in some of his best assets: jump ball timing, large catch radius (for his size), and extremely solid hands.

Don’t fully write off Downs yet though. There are a number of similarly sized receivers who have seen success, or shown great potential, in recent years. Waddle, Lockett, Marquise Brown and others come to mind. Downs has similar potential to all of these thanks to his positive traits.

In 2022, with Drake Maye, he was tasked with lots of short and intermediate routes. He was very successful earning space in these areas with great routes; quick feet, fluid hips, the aforementioned speed variance, and appropriately attacking leverage.

He also showed excellent burst, both when exploding into his route and when picking up yards after the catch. His long-speed is solid too, and I can see him performing very well at the combine, boosting his draft stock a bit.

In 2021, with Sam Howell, Downs had even more success. While still mixing in quick-hitters, he was called to win routes in the deep third far more often. Those deep routes further showed off Downs’ tendency to play bigger than his listed size.

With great body control, perfectly timed jumps, a phenomenal ability to climb the ladder, and great propensity to fully extend and catch with strong hands, Downs is outstanding in contested catch situations and size-appropriate 50/50 scenarios.

I absolutely love his hands. He plucks the ball from the air with consistency and immediately moves to secure it. In the six games I watched, I only saw one (arguably) catchable ball hit the ground, barely scraping off the fingertips of his fully outstretched arms.

Detailed Breakdown

One of the first things that caught my eye when watching Downs was how creative he is with speed variance. He’s incredibly explosive, and he uses that to his advantage in a number of different ways.

In his releases, he likes to come off the line slow, seemingly lulling defenders into a slower tempo…all before breaking off into his route, slamming on the gas and gaining loads of separation. You’ll see this in both the first and third snap of the video below, and it works like a charm in both.

Downs also runs his routes with different tempos. Watch closely in the second snap and you’ll see him start off in a quick slant look before – once again – slamming down the gas pedal and bursting upfield on a sort of climb/wheel route.

He loves to use this speed variance early and often. I feel like this sets him up for wasted motion/steps, and could cause miscues in timing the route with the quarterback though. It’s certainly a tool to keep on the toolbelt, but he relies on it a lot at the CFB level.

I also question whether this will work quite as well against more patient and savvy DBs in the NFL. Though in the right matchup it almost certainly would be a space creator, especially with the awesome burst and explosion he possesses.

Downs’ ability as a route runner isn’t limited to speed variance though. He also attacks leverage nicely, and shows clever improvisation. Whether adjusting his route to the defense, or sneaking through the defense on a scramble drill, Downs is quick to apply his creativity in looking to get open.

In general he runs crisp routes, he sinks his hips violently and snaps down well. His hips are fluid and allow him to change direction quickly and with speed, and he’s extremely explosive out of his breaks.

In the first snap of the clip below, we see a whip route. Downs breaks down well, uses his hand as a pivot point, and gets himself into a runners block stance before exploding to the flat for an easy touchdown. Nice catch with extension, good concentration and great job securing the ball.

Next snap, Downs angles his route straight into the defenders blind spot. He pushes off to get separation even though a rocker step probably would have had a greater effect. Again, note the soft hands and solid concentration. Also, it’s hard to miss the RAC ability here. Great play.

In the third snap…I mean, just watch it. Phenomenal route, and yet somehow an even better catch. This was one of his “wow” snaps, but what’s most impressive is he shows these traits on a consistent basis.

For almost every receiver, the release is crucial and often determines a win or loss in the route, especially against press or tight-catch coverage. For Downs and the way he varies the speed in his routes, and how that already impacts the timing of the route, winning the release is even more crucial.

Downs had just an okay win rate against tight coverage. When he was able to create even a sliver of space, he was typically able to get excellent separation thanks to his explosive first steps.

Unfortunately, against patient defenders, especially strong and long-armed defenders, he can get swallowed up and instantly lose the route. We see one such instance in the first snap of this next clip.

Downs is aligned in a tight split in the slot against a Notre Dame’s slot corner. The corner plays tight enough that he doesn’t just get hands on Downs, he completely erases his route.

Throwing a head-fake, but not really selling it with his hips and chest, Downs initial move fails to shift the DB, who can sit on the route and wait for Downs to get in arms length. Downs has to make a second move to release clean.

At this point, he doesn’t have the space for it, misses his rip, and gets caught by the DBs hands. He’s swallowed up completely. I caught four similar instances, so it’s definitely something that could hinder early production in certain circumstances.

Keep watching though, as you’ll see in the second snap of the clip that Downs can get clean even against tight/press coverage. In the second snap, Downs is lined up against Andrew Mukuba (S #1), the 2021 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Mukuba has range, length, and plus instincts – a tough matchup against an NFL talent for sure – though Downs wins this route handily.

Downs times his swipe much better and releases clean, exploding hard into his route and creating loads of space. Combined with the rub, there’s really no chance for Mukuba here.

What I love here is that Downs knows where the sticks are and adjusts his route to get there. When he realizes he’s free, past the rub, he climbs to gain depth and convert this critical red zone third down.

I’ve included one more snap still. In the third, I wanted to highlight the shoulder dip. I never saw Downs utilize this against a jam, though I did see it against off coverage a few times, so it’s clearly in his repertoire and something he should use to win off the line more often.

For as many good clips we’ve seen of Downs so far, we haven’t even touched on his best attributes. His hands are absolutely stellar – possibly best in this class (or very near it).

He extends to catch the ball away from his body, except when in traffic and he needs to shield the ball immediately. He shows effortlessly soft hands when uncontested, and violently strong hands in contested catch situations. And more, his high-point timing is genuinely impeccable.

If Downs were Quentin Johnston‘s size, he’d be a faster AJ Green.

I couldn’t take clips of every nice catch, but I grabbed a few for your viewing pleasure. In the first snap, we see the ball is thrown a bit behind Downs. He checks up, works back to the ball and makes the catch with ease. Being between three defenders, he also tucks it away immediately to make sure it’s secure.

Second snap, Downs fakes a block before sliding past the defender. To make this catch, Downs has to perfectly time the jump, high-point the ball at maximum wingspan, and secure the reception before landing. Outstanding catch, but the third snap takes the cake.

Diving, fully outstretched horizontally, Downs shows incredible concentration to secure this catch. He gets his hand on the bottom of the ball and somehow tucks it before landing, securing this amazing touchdown reception.

This is obviously a compilation of the best catches, though Downs made tough catches look routine every game. Whether climbing the ladder for a jump ball or securing in traffic, Downs regularly showed his hands are at or near the top of this class.

Downs adds another element to his game as a quality RAC receiver. Not the best in this class, he is nonetheless dynamic with the ball in his hands, possessing excellent athleticism and smooth, fluid movement skills. When paired with a natural balance and body lean, he’s capable of ripping off extra yards with ease.

In the first snap of the clip below, we see the athleticism. Chasing Downs is Fentrell “Deuce” Cypress II (DB #23), who has since left Virginia, was one of the top transfer portal players, and committed to Florida State. He is obviously a decent corner in his own right.

Deuce – last tested with a 4.51 40 yard dash time – is barely able to keep pace with a jaunting Downs, even coming from a good angle. While I can’t back this up, it even feels like Downs had a bit more available if he needed.

In the second snap, Downs takes a bubble screen and shakes off an arm tackle. This is one example of a handful where he simply played bigger. Not only did he show the strength and balance to churn through the arm, but a quick-twitch redirection behind his blocker to gain a few extra yards.

We see another screen pass in the third snap, but this time Downs shows the vision, acceleration, and speed to beat everyone to the endzone.

In the fourth snap, well it’s just ridiculous. It really doesn’t need much commentary. Balance, strength, focus, burst, pad level, and determination. Nice score.

While he was occasionally scheme-protected, acting as the motion man, lining up in the slot, or generally lining off the line of scrimmage, this wasn’t nearly as common or egregious as – for example – Jalin Hyatt. Downs wasn’t shielded to the same degree, and UNC even occasionally set him single-side X or Y.

He’s not going to be limited to a package guy in the NFL. There won’t be many restrictions on his usage. If he checks in around 185lbs, he’s going to be roughly the same size as Lockett or Waddle, and he certainly has the skill-set to be a quality flanker for an NFL team.

For fantasy purposes, I think Downs is one of the more underrated receivers in this class. I wouldn’t take him above Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and he’s probably still behind Jordan Addison…but in my eyes he’s right up in that same tier. With his current projected draft slot being a few picks later, he could be a great value.

Additional details

Does Downs make it into the 1st Round? Drop a comment in the comment box below to let us know your thoughts!

For more scouting reports, click any of the links below:

Will LevisTank BigsbyJordan AddisonTBD
Spencer Rattler* (2024)Sean TuckerQuentin Johnston
Anthony RichardsonZach CharbonnetJaxon Smith-Njigba
Michael Penix Jr.* (2024)Blake Corum* (2024)Jalin Hyatt
Josh Downs

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