Comp Picks is a season-long, weekly series that looks at the incoming rookie class from all angles, tying everything together with an NFL player comparison (or a combination of players) to contextualize upside and risk.
Junior, 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds
Despite his size, Josh Downs has always been considered an effective football player. He was the 17th-ranked wideout in the 2020 recruiting class, earning a four-star rating and landing inside the Top 100 nationally. He accumulated 3,019 receiving yards on 187 catches while adding 32 touchdowns in one of Georgia's top high school football divisions. Downs ran an 11.47-second 100m dash as a high school sophomore before giving up track and field. He also ran a 4.47-second forty-yard dash in his high school career. His high school football career generated much interest from Power Five schools. He received offers from North Carolina State, Boston College, Kentucky, West Virginia, Iowa State, Michigan, Louisville, Oregon, Arkansas, and North Carolina before landing with the Tar Heels. After a quiet first year in Chapel Hill, Downs exploded for 1,335 yards on 101 catches while operating as the starting slot receiver. He started strongly in 2022 before an injury forced him off the field for a few weeks.
Downs's skill set will translate to the NFL, but his draft capital relies on his performance in pre-draft activities. With his small stature, the primary question evaluators will have revolves around his ability to win from outside alignments. Downs is a twitchy athlete, displaying hip and ankle flexibility within his releases and route stems that rival some of the elite separators in the NFL. The way he drops his hips and sits down out of his breaks allows for separation early and often, making him a prime candidate for quick game success at the NFL level. Despite this, Downs is also nuanced enough to win as a field-stretcher. Early signs from his 2022 film indicate a more expansive route tree, running posts, stop-and-gos, and comeback routes early in the season. His ball skills and tracking ability make him a threat in the deep third of the field, something the North Carolina offense doesn't always show off. Downs' skill set will draw safety attention, potentially opening up teammates on underneath and intermediate routes.
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