This Sunday, Oregon Duck star running back and all-purpose player De'Anthony Thomas declared for the 2014 NFL Draft, making him the second Duck to forego the rest of his collegiate career.
"I am officially withdrawing from the University of Oregon to pursue a professional career in the NFL. I want to express my deepest appreciation and thanks to the University and all of my teammates, coaches and fans. I look forward to staying connected to the University and visiting the sidelines as often as possible," Thomas said in a statement on Sunday.
Thomas's decision comes after a subpar 2013 performance in which he was hampered due to an injury suffered following Oregon's 4th game of the season. Thomas's right ankle injury sidelined the star junior for almost 4 complete games, resulting in his lowest production yet as an Oregon Duck.
Before his injury, however, Thomas was one of the most explosive players in collegiate football in quite some years. In his freshman season, Thomas accumulated 2,235 all-purpose yards, ranking second all-time in Oregon school history for total yards in one season.
Thomas capped off a stellar freshman season by totaling 314 all-purpose yards in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin, 91 of those yards coming on a single touchdown run, marking the second longest run in Oregon history.
Thomas's sophomore season wasn't as productive as his first, finishing with 1,757 all-purpose yards, but his finish that season was just as spectacular, running the opening kick-off of the Tostitos Bowl back 94 yards to score a touchdown.
Overall, De'Anthony Thomas finished his Oregon career with 5,345 total yards, ranking third in school history behind LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner. "De'Anthony has been a spectacular talent in college football and has been a part of some of the most memorable plays in the history of the University of Oregon. We wish him success going forward with his career," stated Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich.
Despite his stellar freshman and sophomore seasons, Thomas's draft stock may not be as high as many would think, most likely due to the recent injury which obviously impacted his performance once he returned to the field. Early draft boards show dissent amongst the ranks in terms of deciding when Thomas will be drafted, with CBS Sports projecting the running back being drafted in the 5th or 6th rounds while, ESPN's Scouts, Inc. have Thomas listed as the 37th overall draftee.
NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang gave his assessment of the running back's draft potential, stating, "Despite his gaudy production, Thomas' lack of bulk makes him a tough evaluation for the NFL. Some are sure to question his role in the pros, as he won't see the wide-open running lanes in the NFL as he's found in college football. However, as evidenced by (the 2012 draft), the NFL is evolving into a league in which players who can make defenders miss in the open field are much more highly valued than ever before."
If Thomas is able to recoup from his injury and impress at the NFL combine, he could be drafted high by a team that needs an energy player in the likes of Darren Sproles or Danny Woodhead. If not, Thomas could easily slip down the draft-board and become another player who wishes they would have stuck it out during their senior year.
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