UNC has been taking a lot of blows this week in personnel, and now they have another one: junior wide receiver Josh Downs has announced that he will forgo his final two years of eligibility in order to prepare for the NFL Draft. His announcement arrived via his Twitter account.
This is an announcement that we all saw coming, but it doesn’t make it sting any less. Downs has been incredible during his tenure as a Tar Heel, and finished this season as a First-Team All-ACC receiver. His season officially concludes with 94 receptions, 1,029 yards, 11 touchdowns, and zero fumbles. For his Tar Heel career, Downs caught 202 passes for 2,483 yards, 22 touchdowns, and averaged 12.3 yards per catch. It is also notable that he was a kick returner, finishing his career with 27 attempts for 282 yards.
It’s really difficult to describe the impact that Downs had on this team to anybody that may not be aware. When former UNC quarterback Sam Howell was on campus, Downs became his favorite target, and he even set the school record for receptions in a single season. Surrounded by more talent this season, Downs still had a lot of success, and led the team in receiving yards and touchdowns. As I mentioned earlier, it was no secret that this would be Downs’ final stint as a Tar Heel, but with all of the announcements this week involving transfers and the loss of Phil Longo, one has to wonder how A.) this team will fare in the Holiday Bowl and B.) how will this team move forward without their star wide receiver. It’s also worth noting that fellow wide receiver Antoine Green is graduating this year, so Drake Maye will have to figure out who his two new favorite targets will be moving forward.
As far as NFL Draft stock goes, where Downs will fall is anybody’s guess, but he likely will be a top 100 pick if I had to guess. Tony Pauline with Pro Football Network agrees, saying that Downs will likely go in the top 75 as of right now. I think the combine will be a great opportunity for him to show off his skills and increase his draft stock, and I can think of a few teams off of the top of my head that would be perfect candidates to land the highly-skilled Tar Heels.
While it’s a sad day for fans, it’s exciting to see Downs move on to the next level. Best of luck to him, and hopefully we will see him on Sunday afternoons sooner rather than later.