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With the 79th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts select: Josh Downs, Wide Receiver, University of North Carolina


Standing just 5 feet, 9 inches tall, Josh Downs found himself sliding much further than most anticipated. It wasn’t until midway through the 3rd round that he heard his name called. An extremely talented player found himself wearing a different shade of blue.

The Tools

Downs, the former Tar Heel, lacks the size that is so sought after when teams look for a wide receiver. He very much makes up for that with explosiveness. When the ball touches Josh’s hands, he is a touchdown waiting to happen. Many had him pegged as a top-5 receiver in this draft class.

A 4.48-second 40-yard dash doesn’t catch the eye of scouts, but a 1.49 10-yard split certainly does. Pairing that quickness with elite footwork is a dangerous sight for cornerbacks everywhere. When watching film on Downs, you notice an extraordinary ability to change tempo when running routes. He can create separation whenever he wants to, seamlessly.

Confident Catch

Tough catches are another point of emphasis when speaking of the former Tar Heel. He just plays so much bigger than his small frame. Some of the bigger, more physical corners of the Atlantic Coast Conference couldn’t stop Downs from getting the ball over the top of them.

Josh is viewed as a quarterback’s best friend, especially a young quarterback. You would be hard-pressed to find a route that he cannot run and find success. The explosive receiver has a knack for finding the “soft spot” in zone defenses. He doesn’t lack creativity when it comes to getting open either.

There isn’t any question about the confidence in the hands of the young guy. In 2021, Downs caught 101 passes and didn’t slow up much in 2022 with 94 more catches. Averaging 13.2 yards per catch in 2021 and 10.9 yards per catch in 2022 tells me there are plenty of Indianapolis Colts… first downs to come.

What To Expect

Downs has drawn many comparisons to Kansas City wide receiver, Kadarius Toney. It’s likely he will strictly be a slot receiver, but an absolute weapon that can exploit mismatches from that spot. No one expected the Tar Heel to be on the board past the second round.

Size will always be the biggest knock on Downs. Many doubt his ability to block, but he won’t be asked to do much of that in the league. Josh could provide some special teams help as he did in college. He was a slippery, elusive returner that could break away at any moment. I expect the Colts coaching staff to take advantage of that.

Chris Ballard sure does love prospects with an exceptional RAS (Relative Athletic Score). Downs falls right into that category, posting a score of 8.99. That being paired with Colts WR Coach, Reggie Wayne’s thoughts on the prospect made this an easy selection.

During the NFL Combine, Reggie Wayne then-future Colts’ WR Josh Downs that he was, “the best receiver in this class — and it wasn’t close.” Reggie didn’t just want Downs, he NEEDED Downs in his stable. Wish granted.

Although a non-typical Ballard wide receiver pick, Josh Downs was a necessary selection. I fully expect him to step right into the starting slot receiver role and build a great connection with young quarterback, Anthony Richardson. Downs expressed the excitement by stating, “They’ve got Anthony Richardson at quarterback, it’s going to be a great time.”

When we look back at this draft, Josh Downs will be a popular name that comes up when talking about a steal. Many Colts fans have already compared the QB-WR duo to the Andrew Luck – TY Hilton pairing. Let’s allow them to become special in their own right, as Area 5-1.


More from The Blue Stable:

Check out our latest article from Jack Guiley which covers all nine of the Colts’ Day 3 selections in the 2023 NFL Draft: HERE


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