Here’s a bit of a head-scratcher . . .
North Carolina wide receiver Josh Downs is widely projected as one of the best wideouts in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Pro Football Focus has him as the 40th-best prospect on their Big Board and says this about him:
Downs is a slot weapon that you can feed schemed-up targets to and watch go to work. He racked up 195 catches for 2,364 yards and 19 scores across the past two years.
What’s more, Downs is a “legacy” player.
- His father, Gary Downs, was a 3rd-round selection by the New York Giants in the 1994 NFL Draft and spent his 6-year career playing RB for 3 different teams (the Giants, the Broncos, and the Falcons).
- His uncle, Dre’ Bly, was a cornerback who was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the second round of the 1999 NFL Draft (#41 overall). He spent 11 years in the league (4 teams), recorded 43 career interceptions (+ 150 PDs), and was selected to the Pro Bowl twice.
Yet, according to a recent report by Ian Rapoport, Josh Downs has had zero pre-draft visits with NFL teams.
A pre-draft rarity: #UNC WR Josh Downs, likely a Friday pick, has no official visits set up, source said.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 6, 2023
A clean prospect from strong NFL bloodlines -- his father Gary was a pro RB and his uncle Dre Bly was a pro CB for a decade -- Downs has had a quiet process.
Sure, his size is an issue.
This is “the other part” of PFF’s blurb about Downs:
The only problem is that he’s probably never going to be much more than a slot at his size (5-foot-10, 175 pounds), with only 81 routes on the outside in his career.
Still, NFL teams need good slot receivers, right?
Especially consistently good ones.
Here are Downs’ stats the last two seasons:
- 2021: 101-of-144 (70.14%) for 1,335 yards (13.2 average) with 8 TDs
- 2022: 94-of-116 (81.03%) for 1,029 yards (10.9 average) with 11 TDs
According to PFF, his contested catch rate was elite at 72.2%. His drop rate was an acceptable/respectable 3.1%. He had an elite grade vs. man-coverage (92.1), and while his overall receiving grade was lower (86.5), it still measured out as elite compared to his peers.
And yet . . .
Josh Downs has had zero pre-draft visits with NFL teams.