Updated: Dec 12, 2022
It feels like anytime you have a chance to take a deep breath as a Tar Heel fan, there is another piece of news that adds a little more turmoil to the instability that currently surrounds Tar Heel football. Earlier this morning, the team lost another big piece with their leading receiver heading to the NFL Draft.
As first reported by ESPN’s Pete Thamel, junior wide receiver Josh Downs will forgo the final two seasons of eligibility and enter this year’s NFL Draft. Additionally, it was announced that he will not play in the team’s upcoming bowl game as he focuses on the pre-draft process. Downs has been the Tar Heels leading receiver in each of the past two seasons, both of which he has finished with over 1,000 yards receiving. This season, he led the conference in receptions with 94 which he turned into 1,029 yards and eleven touchdowns, both of which were top five in the ACC this season. He earned first team All-ACC honors at wide receiver for a second straight season and also took home second team honors as an all-purpose player. He finishes his Tar Heel career with 202 receptions for 2,483 yards and 22 touchdowns and 26 punt returns for 289 yards.
His departure is a significant one, but certainly isn’t shocking. Downs is seen as a top five wide receiver in the class on most draft boards and there is a legitimate chance that he will be gone before the end of the second round. With him out of the bowl game, expect to see plenty of redshirt freshman Kobe Paysour, who filled in nicely for him earlier this year when he was out injured. In each of those two games, Paysour led the team in receiving, catching 13 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns over that span. This could also allow for Tychaun ‘Doc’ Chapman to see some time to close down his true freshman season.
There have been a lot of things working against the Tar Heel here over the past six days, but this one doesn’t quite fit ithat billing. While this is another blow to the team’s chance to win in San Diego, this is a great moment for Downs and this offensive staff who developed him and it will help to get a head start on the search for new reliable targets around Drake Maye for next season.