A riser within NFL circles and a talent whose tape this fall presented one of the more enjoyable watches of the entire cycle, UNC’s Josh Downs is a day-one impact athlete. An alignment-versatile weapon whose route-running and explosiveness will see him become a featured set of hands early in his pro career, here are a few offenses that jigsaw with his skill set favorably as we head toward the 2023 NFL Draft.
Cleveland will have their core back from 2022. While Donovan Peoples-Jones took steps forward, another fresh set of legs with the ability to take it to paydirt on every touch should slot in nicely opposite of Amari Cooper. 2022 third-rounder David Bell was extremely disappointing in year one, and adding more weapons is never a bad thing. Downs is an alpha in the air and someone who could haul in 70 or more catches in his rookie campaign.
New England Patriots
We know Bill Belichick isn’t afraid to get his guy no matter where he’s selecting, and while seeing Downs come off the board at No. 14 overall would more than raise eyebrows, this is about scheme fit. The former Tar Heel’s ability to do it all at every level would mesh nicely in Foxboro. Both Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor could hit free agency, which would allow Downs to become an intricate piece of what the Patriots want to do offensively. Whether he’s a YAC monster in the shallow areas or asked to press vertical, he’ll draw the eyes of secondaries early in his career.
Adding a talent like Downs opposite of Justin Jefferson would give coordinators fits for years to come. Unique in the fact that smaller weapons are often labeled as ‘gadget’ guys, Downs can play the ‘X’ if need be at 5-foot-10 and is someone that reminds me of Jahan Dotson coming out of Penn State. The way he tempos and embarrasses corners at the top of routes would present Kirk Cousins another elite talent to pepper with targets.
Kansas City Chiefs
Mecole Hardman and JuJu Smith-Schuster both could be gone in free agency, and while the team used a top-60 pick on Skyy Moore last spring—and he’ll have an impact in 2023—give Mahomes more weapons and let him go to work. A surgeon in the slot or when extended to the outside, Josh Downs would immediately become a favorite of the all-world quarterback in Kansas City.
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