Josh Downs is the first Tar Heel off the NFL Draft Board, after the Indianapolis Colts decided to select him with the 16th pick of the third round, making him the 79th pick overall. The wide receiver was one of the most productive in college football over the past two years thanks to his combination of electric route running and safe hands, and contributed to a Tar Heel passing attack that has been among the nation’s most effective. After etching his name into the Tar Heel record books, he will look to make a mark at the professional level as well, hopefully finding some synergy with Indianapolis’ first draftee, quarterback Anthony Richardson.
Downs caught 94 passes for 1029 yards and 11 touchdowns for UNC in his junior year, as the favorite target of Drake Maye as the quarterback blossomed into one of college football’s finest. He was an All-ACC First Team selection for both of his years as a starter, and despite only starting for two years, is in the conference’s all-time top 25 for yards, catches, and receiving touchdowns. At UNC, he’s 4th, 3rd, and 2nd, respectively, and has the single-season record for the first two — there’s a serious argument that he’s the best wide receiver UNC’s ever had. While his size may raise some questions about his ceiling at the next level, it certainly didn’t stop him from becoming a star and fan favorite in Chapel Hill.
Downs is the 12th wide receiver off the board, a slide from where most projections had him (which was usually around 6th-8th). It doesn’t help that he’s in a draft where the position seems to be being relatively looked down on by NFL teams. Nevertheless, he can be a Day 1 difference maker from the slot and has return game utility to boot, as he was an above-average punt returner for the Heels for the past two seasons as well. Our draft profile of Downs can be found here.
Congrats to Josh, and we at Tar Heel Blog eagerly await to see what he’ll do as a pro!