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Josh Downs Colts

How Quickly Can Josh Downs Contribute To Colts’ Offense?

  • Justin Melo
  • May 4, 2023
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The Indianapolis Colts drafted former North Carolina wide receiver Josh Downs with the No. 79 selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. Downs joins an exciting room alongside Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce. Downs should be an immediate contributor as Indianapolis’ starting slot receiver.

Downs joins a position group that desperately needed a capable slot receiver. Parris Campbell commanded the position for the Colts last season, playing 756 of his 974 snaps in the slot, per Pro Football Focus. Campbell signed with the New York Giants in free agency. Downs qualifies as an exciting like-for-like replacement.

The Colts now have three receivers with clearly defined skill sets and body types. Pittman and Pierce are big-bodied boundary receivers. Together, they combined for 1,490 snaps out wide. They won’t get in Downs’ way. All three playmakers have specific roles in three-receiver sets.

Downs is a dynamic receiver and a quick-twitched, sudden route-runner. Downs’ stop-start ability makes him a nightmare assignment for cornerbacks in man coverage. Elite change of direction skills were evident throughout his tape and reinforced via a 6.75 3-cone. Downs will provide Indianapolis’ offense with a quick-developing passing option due to intriguing run-after-the-catch potential.

Downs is a bit of a departure from general manager Chris Ballard’s usual suspects at receiver. Prior to the 2023 NFL Draft, Ballard had drafted 10 receivers throughout stints with the Chiefs and Colts. Nine of them were 200-pound plus receivers (Tyreek Hill being the lone exception), and eight of them were above six feet tall ( minus Campbell and Hill), per Zach Hicks. Downs comes nowhere close to checking either box at 5-foot-9 and 171 pounds.

Downs does satisfy Ballard’s cravings for elite athletes though. Downs ran a blazing-fast 4.48 with an elite 1.151 10-yard split. Downs also leaped a 38.5-inch vertical and 10-foot-11 broad. Downs scored a Relative Athletic Score of 8.99. The Colts made 12 selections in the 2023 NFL Draft, with an average RAS score of 9.47. Downs is Ballard’s type of athlete.

The Colts are revamping their offense and Downs has a role to play. New starting quarterback Anthony Richardson is at the forefront of the design. Downs’ ceiling ultimately depends on Richardson’s first-year output.

It would qualify as a surprise if Richardson wasn’t Indianapolis’ Week 1 starter. Alternative options include Gardner Minshew, Sam Ehlinger, and Nick Foles after Matt Ryan was released from his contract following yet another failed veteran experiment. Minshew has experience with new head coach Shane Steichen, but I’d be shocked if the Colts drafted Richardson fourth overall to sit.

The Colts averaged a 23rd-ranked 201.9 passing yards per contest last season. That’s largely why the entire offense has been redesigned after hiring Steichen, who helped oversee the Philadelphia Eagles’ ninth-ranked passing offense. Downs will factor into Steichen’s immediate plans.

Expectations should still be somewhat tempered. Richardson is an exciting dual-threat quarterback, but his passing-down abilities are a work in progress after serving as a one-year inconsistent starter at Florida. The Colts will likely ease Richardson in by featuring a run-heavy offense with workhorse back Jonathan Taylor. Taylor and Richardson are candidates to execute an effective run-pass option. Steichen had an overwhelming amount of success with such concepts alongside Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia.

Receiver has been a sore spot for the Colts in recent campaigns. That’s precisely why Ballard utilized top-100 selections on the position in back-to-back drafts. Downs adds new hope to what’s now an ascending trio capable of creating headaches for opposing defensive coordinators. Downs projects as an immediate contributor despite the typical question marks that come with a new head coach and a rookie quarterback.

Written By

Justin Melo