Hometown: Lynwood, Washington
High School: Mountlake Terrace
Key Offers: California, Stanford, Washington, Vanderbilt
Previously on The Bootleg, a recent Downs interview.
Devante Downs' profile is more elite than appears at first glance. He is an athlete who is difficult to rate due to his viable prospects at several different positions on the college level. Despite being a "tweener" for various positions, Downs receives consistently high marks across the board. The only seeming outlier is Scout, which rates him as a three-star prospect. However, that rating is likely due to Scout evaluating him as a fullback, a position with a low rating ceiling. Overall, the ratings appear accurate in framing Downs as a special prospect who will continue to garner additional attention from top programs as recruiting progresses.
Devante Downs is a big, athletic prospect who has the tools to make an impact at no less than three different positions on either side of the ball. Options for Downs include running back, fullback, H-back/TE, rush defensive end (in a 4-3), outside linebacker and inside linebacker. This evaluation will focus on Downs' high school positions.
Most of Downs' highlight film showcases his skills at running back. The Washington prospect has great patience and lets his blocks develop in front of him before declaring his direction. Downs has very nifty feet for any back, let alone one who weighs 230 pounds. After utilizing his patience to read blocks, Downs does a great job of putting his foot in the ground to make sharp cuts upfield. He has a very nice short-area burst after his cuts, allowing him to consistently put himself in a position to make positive-yardage plays. In the open field, Downs is quick enough to make defenders miss, or at least not allow them a direct shot. Then, Downs bounces off these glancing blows for at least several more yards after contact due to his size and strength. His long speed is not yet at a level that would make him a consistent big-play threat at the next level, but that aspect of his game has improved substantially over his years in high school, making his trajectory even more positive.
On defense, Downs flashes promising attributes as both a run defender and pass rusher as a 3-4 outside linebacker. His short-area speed is conducive to tracking down scrambling quarterbacks, which he does multiple times in his film. That same skill also allows him to quickly beat pass protectors, leading to situations in which linemen have little margin for error. Though pass-rush techniques are not prominently displayed in his video, Downs' feet, reaction and overall athleticism that make him a strong running back prospect could make him an even more dominant pass rusher. All the skills used to fake out smaller, quicker athletes should translate well for a pass-rushing outside linebacker. Further, there are clips of Downs dropping into coverage and showing good agility and awareness, similar to what is seen in the other aspects of his game, making him a well-rounded defender on pass plays.
Downs' highlights don't reveal much about how he plays against the run, but the clips shown provide evidence that he can succeed as a run defender in college. He is already tough to move at the high-school level at 230 pounds, as he can easily bend his knees and keep his hips low to maintain leverage on opponents. He also shows the ability to quickly disengage and find the ball carrier. How he continues to develop that skill will be critical to his development if he is placed on defense in college.
Devante Downs is an exciting prospect given the athletic versatility that he brings to the table. The coaches at whatever college he chooses will need to do their homework to find the optimal nexus between their team's needs and Downs' broad skill set. He will likely get more looks at linebacker given his size as a junior and injury concerns for RBs of his height. However, if he were to decide on running back himself, there are plenty of strong programs that would jump at the opportunity to sign a big back with the potential to match the styles of former college stars Toby Gerhart or Michael Bush.
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