“I am officially withdrawing from the University of Oregon to pursue a professional career in the NFL,” Thomas said in a prepared statement Sunday. “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 leaves Oregon as perhaps the best all-purpose player in school history. His 5,345 career yards in just three years is third all-time for the Ducks. Thomas holds Oregon records for kickoff return yards (1,885) and punt return average (17.1), and he’s fourth in career scoring (278 points). This past season, he missed three games but still rushed for 594 yards and eight touchdowns.
He and cornerback Terrance Mitchell are one of two Duck juniors to declare for the draft so far.
Will Oregon miss Thomas that much? Probably not. While he was a very talented player, he displayed poor judgement in his words to the media at times. And while he made a ton of spectacular plays, his failure to make a very easy block on a defender on a Marcus Mariota run against Stanford in 2012 might’ve cost the Ducks a spot in the BCS title game.
The question now is, what position will Thomas play in the NFL? He’s very slight and not the kind of player who can take a pounding. His best bet for success is probably to serve as a wide receiver/return man and maybe carry the ball 3-5 times per game. As is often the case, his success will likely depend on where he ends up and how the team decides to use him.