John Baker

NFL Draft Right Decision For Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas

Created on Jan. 11, 2014 2:03 PM EST

The announcement this week that Oregon playmaker De’Antony Thomas will forego his senior season for the Ducks in search of an NFL career really shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.

Thomas has done all that he needs to do at the collegiate level to make his case as a potential playmaker at the next level, and also learned that good health in the football arena is not a guarantee. Thomas missed nearly five full games this season with leg-foot issues, something he rarely had to deal with in his first two dynamic years at Oregon.

That makes a player think how tenuous health and financial reward are in this game.

Truth is, it simply wouldn’t “pay” to come back and risk that same possibility in 2014 and perhaps drop even further in the eyes of NFL decision-makers. As it is, Thomas will carry a third-round grade into the 2014 NFL Draft, but likely will be picked higher as the search for playmakers is a priority for NFL rosters. Thomas is nothing if not a playmaker and that could mean an earlier selection by a team looking to make a steal in the draft.

Whether Thomas proves to be a steal remains to be seen, but what he didn’t want to see was another season torn asunder by injuries and the whispers of his long-term health started in full as the NFL wonders about his sleight build and durability.

It was worth risk-taking as a redshirt sophomore. As a junior, not so much. Statistically, the 2013 season was his worst in an Oregon uniform.

2013: 96 carries, 594 yards (6.2 yards per carry), long (40), TDs (8)
2012: 92-701 (7.6), long (59), TDs (11)
2011: 55-595 (10.8), long (91), TDs (7)
2013: 22 catches, 246 yards (11.2 yards per catch), long (28), TDs (1)
2012: 45-445 (9.9), long (49), TDs (5)
2011: 46-605 (13.2), long (69), TDs (11)

Tack on two return touchdowns in 2011 and 2012 compared to a single house visit this year and you can see that it’s pretty clear that another similar season would hurt his draft stock — speed and playmaking ability or not.

Given his five offensive touches in the Alamo Bowl, you wonder if there were other factors at work as well.

There are plenty of fast guys looking to make it into the NFL, but there aren’t a lot who are fairly polished offensive performers. DAT is one of those rare few and staying at Oregon for another season simply doesn’t add up. Now was the time to jump to the NFL. It makes sense financially, it makes sense physically and it makes sense emotionally. Thomas has been an electric player and personality in his three years at Oregon.

Now is the time to see if that can translate onto the fields of the NFL — and get paid to do it.

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