The Indianapolis Colts made a calculated move in the 2023 NFL draft, ensuring that their rookie quarterback would have a viable weapon to rely on in the middle of the field. Their selection of wide receiver Josh Downs in the third round could prove to be a brilliant move. Downs possesses a unique skill set that could instantly transform a Colts' offense that has been lacking. While he may be undersized at 5-foot-9 and 171 pounds, Downs compensates with his crafty route running, reliable hands, and ability to play bigger than his stature suggests.

Undersized but reliable

Despite his smaller frame, Josh Downs has shown time and again that he can outwit and outmaneuver defenders with his pristine route running. As a two-year starter at North Carolina, he thrived primarily as a slot receiver, setting school records for catches and receiving yards in 2021. Downs possesses the catch radius of a bigger player, allowing him to excel in one-on-one matchups. His competitive drive, honed from always being the smaller player on the field, fuels his determination to get open and move the chains. Although he may face challenges against bigger, physical NFL coverage, his ability to find open spaces and make crucial catches makes him a tough cover in the slot. Downs will provide a significant boost to a Colts' passing game that was relatively non-existent last season.

Filling a void

The Colts' lack of productive receivers has been a persistent issue, but the addition of Josh Downs addresses this critical need. With questionable depth behind Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce, the Colts were in desperate need of a playmaking wide receiver. Downs, a two-time first-team All-ACC selection, brings a proven track record of production to the Colts wide receiver room. He led the ACC in receptions in both 2021 and 2022, amassing an impressive 195 catches, 2,364 yards, and 19 touchdowns during his two seasons as a starter. His dynamic potential in the slot and ability to make plays in the middle of the field provides the Colts with a game-changer they have been sorely missing. Downs's is an immediate upgrade to this lacking Colts receiving corp.

Rookie to rookie impact

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First-round draft pick Anthony Richardson struggled with accuracy during his college career while at Florida. However, the addition of Downs as his primary target could be a game-changer for Richardson's development. Downs's reliable hands and crafty route running make him an ideal security blanket for Richardson, alleviating some of the pressures associated with the passing game. As Richardson adjusts to the NFL, having a dependable receiver like Downs will hopefully boost his confidence and improve his accuracy. Downs's ability to get open and make contested catches will not only benefit Richardson but may also open up the entire Colts' offense. The potential connection between Downs and Richardson has the makings of a dynamic partnership that could revitalize the Colts' passing attack.

Reggie Wayne's approval

The endorsement of receivers coach Reggie Wayne during the NFL scouting combine speaks volumes about Downs's potential. Wayne, a former Colts star wide receiver and future Hall of Famer, recognized Downs's abilities and praised him as the best receiver in his group, even with first-round talents present. Such high praise from a respected NFL figure provides a solid foundation for Downs as he enters the professional ranks. Wayne's guidance and belief in Downs's explosive playmaking abilities will undoubtedly motivate the rookie to maximize his talents and reach new heights in his career.

Wayne's belief in Downs as the best receiver in his group, despite the presence of first-round talents, speaks to the rookie's exceptional abilities and potential impact. It indicates that Downs possesses the skills, work ethic, and competitive drive necessary to thrive at the professional level. With the guidance of a seasoned veteran like Wayne, Downs has the opportunity to further develop his explosive playmaking abilities and become a true force on the field.

The selection of Josh Downs by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2023 NFL draft is a testament to the team's foresight and determination to bolster their receiving corps. Downs's crafty route running, reliable hands, and ability to play bigger than his size make him an exciting prospect. The stage is set for Josh Downs to shine as a rookie sleeper, making an immediate impact in the 2023 season.