Skip to main content
Indianapolis Colts

2023 Colts Rookie Review: Josh Downs proves Reggie Wayne right 

Downs broke Bill Brooks' long-standing Colts rookie receptions record with 68 catches in 2023. 

Josh Downs catch

2023 Statistics

  • 17 games
  • 9 starts
  • 788 snaps
  • 98 targets
  • 68 receptions
  • 771 yards
  • 2 touchdowns
  • 11.3 yards/reception
  • 30 first downs

The Big Picture

While general manager Chris Ballard was at Lucas Oil Stadium watching quarterback prospects throw at the 2023 NFL Combine, Reggie Wayne walked over with an observation. 

"Man," Wayne told Ballard, "this Josh Downs – it was incredible."

Wayne, pointing to Downs' athletic skillset, high football IQ and natural feel for the position, was a strong supporter of the UNC wide receiver's through the pre-draft process. The Colts' wide receiver room needed Downs, Wayne felt, to add a guy who can win with short-area quickness and agility from the slot. 

"He's the player that I think we were missing," Wayne said last spring. 

The Colts' scouting staff liked Downs, too, pointing to not just his traits but to his football upbringing: His dad, Gary, coached football after playing in the NFL from 1994-2000, and his uncle, Dre Bly, was a two-time Pro Bowl cornerback (his younger brother, Caleb, is a five-star safety who recently transferred from Alabama to Ohio State). Ask around the Colts facility about Downs and you'd hear a consistent sentiment: This kid just gets it, with his football-steeped background a part of that. 

After being selected in the third round (No. 79 overall), Downs went on to prove to be a dependable target – he led the Colts with 14 receptions on third down that resulted in a first down – while adding a handful of explosive plays, like his spectacular diving catch in Germany against the New England Patriots.

"Josh Downs was really good," Ballard said after the season. "I think we see the upside of what he can be. I think you're just going to see him take off even more."

Downs' 68 catches broke a Colts rookie receptions record set in 1986 by Ring of Honor wideout Bill Brooks, and his 125 yards in Week 7 against the Cleveland Brows were the most by a Colts rookie in nearly a decade. Just as the Colts – and Wayne – expected, Downs proved to be a good fit in Year 1 in Indianapolis. 

"I mentioned this a whole bunch about Josh – the feel he has for the game growing up in a football background being around it, the way he prepares week in and week out is huge," head coach Shane Steichen said during the season. "You see the growth, you see the steps that he makes week in and week out. ...  He continues to make big-time plays in big-time situations for us. If we can continue that, he's going to have a really bright future."

View the best photos from wide receiver Josh Downs' rookie season with the Indianapolis Colts.

Season Highlights

Related Content

2024 Season Tickets - Now Available!

2024 Season Tickets - Now Available!

Season Tickets for the 2024 Season are available now! Get access to the best seating locations, best pricing, and best benefits as a Colts Season Ticket Member!