The Tar Heels have their first player off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft. With the 79th pick in the third round on Friday night, the Indianapolis Colts selected Josh Downs, the team’s star slot receiver in each of the past two years.
Downs was the Tar Heels leading receiver in each of the past two seasons, both of which he has finished with over 1,000 yards receiving. In 2022, 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 finished his Tar Heel career with 202 receptions for 2,483 yards and 22 touchdowns and 26 punt returns for 289 yards.
Downs will head to Indianapolis and immediately compete for the starting job in the slot with Isaiah McKenzie. The team acquired McKenzie earlier this offseason in free agency following the most productive season of his NFL career, where he caught 42 passes for 432 yards and four touchdowns. Downs will have his work cut out for him, but his combination of route running, reliable hands and ability to pull down contested catches will be tough to keep on the sideline.