by: James Jefferson writer @ChiefsFocus www.chiefsfocus.co
For the Kansas City Chiefs, the next month or so will be a critical time for them to fill in the gaps for improving their roster. I ran three separate mock drafts on Pro Football Focus and in all three currents, wide receiver Josh Downs was the first-round selection at number 31 overall. In many mock drafts conducted by draft analysts, they believe Downs will be drafted somewhere in the area of the late first round or early second round.
As a true freshman at North Carolina in 2020, Downs appeared in 10 games. Playing primarily on special teams, he had seven receptions for 119 yards and three touchdowns. The first touchdown reception of his college career came against N.C. State in Carolina’s 48-21 victory. His breakout performance came in the Orange Bowl, where he filled in for Dyami Brown, who, along with Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, and Chazz Surratt, had opted out of the bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft. Downs caught four passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns, including a 75-yard touchdown on a broken play that gave the Tar Heels a 27–20 lead early in the fourth quarter. He was the team’s leading receiver in the 41-27 loss to Texas A&M.
Heading into the 2021 season, Downs was projected to be the team’s number-one receiver. In the season-opening loss against Virginia Tech, Downs caught eight passes for 123 yards and a touchdown as the Tar Heels failed to mount a successful second-half comeback. Two weeks later against Virginia, he caught eight passes for 203 receiving yards and two touchdowns, setting a career-high in the process. Downs’ 203 receiving yards against the Cavaliers were the eighth most in a single game in Tar Heel history. Against Wake Forest, he only caught four passes for 35 yards, both season lows. However, his 35 receiving yards against the Demon Deacons made him just the seventh player in school history to gain 1,000 or more receiving yards in a single season. With eight receptions against Wofford, Downs moved into second place behind Ryan Switzer for most receptions in a single season as a Tar Heel with 90.
In the regular season finale, a 34–30 loss against NC State, Downs broke both Switzer’s single season receptions record and Hakeem Nicks’ single season receiving yards record. He recorded three more catches in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl loss to South Carolina, finishing his record-breaking 2021 season with 101 catches for 1,335 yards and eight touchdowns.
Solidified as the Tar Heels’ top receiver after his record-setting sophomore season, Downs is once again a featured piece in the Tar Heel offense. He was named to the preseason All-ACC team at the wide receiver and specialist (punt returner) positions and was selected to the preseason AP All-American second-team at the wide receiver position.
In the season opener against FAMU, Downs recorded 9 catches for 78 yards and two scores. On his final catch of the game, Downs was injured and missed the next two games against Appalachian State and Georgia State. He returned against Notre Dame, and caught 5 passes for 32 yards and two touchdowns in the Tar Heels’ 45–32 loss. Against Miami, Downs caught another touchdown pass, moving him into to a tie for tenth place all time in Carolina history with 16 receiving touchdowns. He continued to post solid statistics the rest of the regular season, recording four games with 11-plus receptions, and recording another 1,000 yard receiving season. Against Wake Forest, he caught three touchdown passes, moving him to second all-time behind Quinshad Davis for UNC career touchdown receptions with 22. In what was his final game as a Tar Heel, the 2022 ACC Championship Game against Clemson, Downs caught 11 passes for 100 yards in the 39–10 loss to the Tigers.
Downs finished his Carolina career with 2,483 receiving yards (the fourth most in school history), 202 career receptions (third-most at UNC), and multiple school records at the wide receiver position. He declared for the NFL draft following conference championship week, opting out of the Holiday Bowl in the process.
Downs ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at the scouting combine earlier this month. His biggest strengths as a receiver are the fact he can change the tempo in the blink of an eye against man-to-man coverage and he displays supreme confidence because of his production at North Carolina the last two seasons. In 2022, Downs led the Atlantic Coast Conference in receiving yards with 1,022, receptions with 94, and scored 11 touchdowns.
His weaknesses according to scouts are that Downs needs to be more disciplined with route running and physical cornerbacks can slow him in press coverage because of his small frame Downs is only 5’9, 171 lbs. He has the potential to be a slot receiver for any team if they need one but especially Kansas City so keep an eye on his draft stock and projections as the draft approaches.