Dynasty Dilemma: Josh Downs
The Indianapolis Colts must have been elated when Josh Downs fell to them in the 3rd round of the 2023 NFL draft. Downs has similar college production to the wide receivers that were drafted in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft, the Colts must have been ecstatic getting Downs at such a discount. In his final 2 years at UNC, Downs played 24 games, in those games he earned 268 targets, which led to 195 receptions, 2364 yards, and 19 touchdowns, better numbers than, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison, and Quentin Johnston. Downs has been one of the more productive rookies, and when you consider the draft capital spent to acquire him, he is arguably one of those most valuable. After 12 games, Downs is currently the WR41 in PPR formats, he has earned himself a 62% snap share, adding an impressive 19.4% target share. Downs has earned 78 targets, which led to 51 receptions, 580 yards, and 2 touchdowns ranking 5th amongst rookies on fantasy points. Those are impressive numbers for this young rookie. Josh Downs is gaining value rapidly in dynasty leagues, has the buy-low window on Josh Downs closed already? Let’s dive in.
Anthony Richardson and Run Heavy Offense
Josh Downs has had his most production this season after Anthony Richardson sustained his season-ending shoulder injury, and Gardner Minshew took over the helm. To add to this, Jonathan Taylor didn’t even play in any of those early Richardson games other than in Week 5 when Richardson exited that game ending his season with that shoulder injury. Richardson is not known for dink and dunk passing which tends to lend well to the slot receiver. Richardson, known for his scrambling ability did not favour Downs in the games they played together targeting him only 19% target share vs games with Minshew’s 23% target share. The Colts will certainly be a run-heavy team next year with Jonathan Taylor in the middle of his prime, and Richardson being the running prototype quarterback. With Michael Pittman establishing himself as the undisputed alpha receiver in this offense, it may be tough for Downs to carve out enough of a role and targets for him to sustain consistent weekly fantasy production.
Limited Size, Limited Upside
Undersized, Downs is only 5 ‘9, 171 pounds, injuries and durability concerns have already come up with Downs. Downs has already been in and out of games this year due to a looming knee injury that occurred in training camp. These smaller prototype players have found plenty of success in the league, however, they have also found themselves in the blue medical tent on a consistent basis as well. Smaller players like Tank Dell, Devonta Smith, and Josh Downs have all missed time this year due to injury. Relying on Downs as a consistent fantasy starter might be asking too much if he finds himself banged up on a consistent basis. In addition to this, when used downfield, we’ve seen Downs get pushed around and knocked off his routes, capping his upside and relegating him to strictly a slot receiver. Almost exclusively playing the slot role in college, Downs was averaging an 89% slot rate in his 3 years at UNC. Downs has also been mostly limited to playing the slot to start his NFL career, playing 75.3% of his snaps there, and hardly playing in 11 personnel. He is currently being outsnapped by Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce, playing mostly only in 3 wide receiver sets. Downs will need to leapfrog Pierce, especially when Richardson returns in order for him to return to consistent weekly fantasy production in 2024 and beyond.
Elite Ability to Get Open
Downs has played through injury this season, so his numbers in Week 9 and 10 suffered. Downs is still ranked 5th amongst rookies in receiving yards and receptions. Downs has been able to use his limited speed to get downfield and get open no matter who is throwing him the ball. Downs is not known for his speed, running a 4.48, quick enough when used with his size to get open in the intermediate routes is where he has found success this year. Downs has been great against man coverage, especially off the line of scrimmage where he uses his burst to get quick separation. Prior to reinjuring his knee in Week 9, Downs had a nice stretch in weeks 3-8 where he ranked 19th in targets, 13th in receptions, and 13th in receiving yards (Nick Skirp Fantrax). In week 12, after the Colts’ bye in week 11, with time to heal up that knee, Downs came out and is averaging 8 receptions per game. Even with Downs only playing 70% of the snaps, he is getting open and earning targets at an excellent rate. Even though Downs is still being outsnapped by Alec Pierce, Downs has been much more efficient with his opportunities, it’s only a matter of time before Downs fully takes over the #2 wide receiver role behind Michael Pittman.
Talented Young Team
The Colts are a young team on offense with a lot of optimism heading into 2024 and beyond. Jonathan Taylor signed a 3-year, $42 million extension this offseason, investing in their stud running back and changing the market for future running backs. In addition, the Colts invested big draft capital and drafted Anthony Richardson with the 4th overall pick in the 2023 NFl draft. Furthermore, Michael Pittman is playing his best football of his career and the Colts will surely make a push to sign him long-term or franchise tag him when his contract expires after this season. Alec Pierce is under contract through 2025, so the pieces are all in place for this Colts team to be a good competitive team in a vulnerable division without a perennial powerhouse. Downs has shown to be a target earner and a player the Colts rely on. Downs is the WR2 on this young team waiting to take off in 2024 and beyond!
Josh Downs is currently ranked on FantasyPros as the dynasty wide receiver 38, Downs is currently the WR41 after 14 weeks. I see an immediate opportunity to buy Josh Downs before he emerges further in this offense. Downs’ early usage and target share in 2023 is very encouraging and he should continue to build off his great start. The Colts and Downs have shown me enough through 12 games, that I am willing to invest as if Downs is a Top 32 dynasty wide receiver. Furthermore, the target share Downs is earning this early on is telling me Downs is a baller and will continue to command this share no matter who is throwing him the ball. His size, quarterback, and run-first offense are definitely a concern, especially in dynasty, however, this is already baked into his price. I wouldn’t be selling the farm for Downs, however, I see value in his current price and would be sending feelers out now before the market balances out.
Mike Lindberg has been playing fantasy football since 2008. He specializes in Dynasty, Keeper and Redraft leagues.
He spends a lot of time reading, listening to podcasts, and mock drafting in order to give you the best fantasy advice possible.
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