Our 2023 Pride of Detroit Community Mock Draft has made it into the second round, and so far, we have seen 54 picks come off the board, bringing us back to the Detroit Lions and pick No. 55 overall.
If you haven’t been following along with all of the selections, you can get caught up in our 2023 POD community mock draft tracker, or if you’re just interested in the Lions picks, you can see those write-ups here:
As we laid out in our latest poll, the Lions could go a few different ways with the pick, and the top options we asked readers to vote on included:
Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee
RB: Devon Achane (Texas A&M), Zach Charbonnet (UCLA), Tyjae Spears (Tulane)
Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee
Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State
BJ Ojulari, EDGE, LSU
It’s worth noting that I made my selection before the fan vote and recent Lions players’ suspensions were announced. And while I ended up selecting the player with the lowest vote total, I like the pick even more following the news of the suspensions.
No. 55: Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
Downs (5-foot-9, 171 pounds, 8.99 RAS) is flying under the radar right now and he represents tremendous value at this point in the draft. For reference, Downs checks in as the 14th-best player in NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein’s rankings, 27th for the good folks over at The Draft Network, 40th on PFF’s big board, and 41st for The Athletic’s Dane Brugler. In fact, of the players listed in the above poll, Downs and Luke Musgrave were the only players to be ranked in the top 50 on every one of the draft boards I just listed.
For those not familiar with Downs, he is legitimately one of the safest offensive prospects in this draft. Yes, he is on the small size, but he is actually slightly bigger than Kalif Raymond, and Downs has a sturdy frame that can handle the wear and tear of making plays over the middle of the field. Per PFF, “Downs brought in 13-of-18 contested catches this past season for a 72.2% catch rate, one of the highest in the class.”
Like Raymond, Downs is tailor-made to work out of the slot, but his speed, quickness, and physicality allow him to win as a field-stretching outside receiver as well. At North Carolina, Downs saw roughly a 75-25% snap distribution between the slot and on the outside respectively.
Downs is electric no matter where he lines up on the field. His ability to be explosive, throttle his speed, and run extremely precise routes allows him to be a consistently open target for his quarterback.
Josh Downs will shake you out your shoes pic.twitter.com/CG3jjorbih— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) February 22, 2023
Downs attacks the ball and defender with a high level of confidence, and he sets up his routes like a seasoned pro. He understands how to bring the pressure to a defender in man coverage, while also navigating through zones with ease. In addition to his contributions on offense, like Raymond, Downs can give special teams units some juice with his return ability.
Downs also has a high level of love for the game. Not only does he play with a chip on his shoulder, due to being doubted because of his size, but he has strong NFL bloodlines. His dad (Gary) was a running back at NC State, was selected by the Giants in the third round and he played for seven seasons in the NFL. Additionally, his uncle is current Lions cornerbacks coach Dre Bly, who was also recently a position coach at North Carolina for the last four seasons.
Downs has drawn NFL comparisons to Kadarius Toney and T.Y. Hilton, but one of my favorite comps is Santana Moss, courtesy of former All-Pro receiver Steve Smith:
Selecting Downs may seem a bit unconventional, but I absolutely love the fit with the Lions. As noted in this piece, Downs brings a lot of what Raymond does to the table, but he has a bit more juice on offense. Combining Downs’ skill set with that of Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams would give the Lions three very unique, stylistically different wide receivers under contract for the next several seasons.
Ok, time to vote.
What grade do you give the Lions for drafting Josh Downs?
This poll is closed