With the decisions by USC’s Matt Barkley and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones to return to school for their senior seasons, the quarterback class for the 2012 NFL draft is now one that looks like it will be characterized as Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and everyone else.
After leading the Ducks to a 12-2 season, a Pac-12 championship and their first victory in the Rose Bowl since 1917, Thomas felt fulfilled enough with his exploits in Eugene to leave school a year early and make the jump to the pro ranks, as he’s announced that he will officially declare for the 2012 NFL Draft.
Even though he would have likely entered the 2012 season on the short list of Heisman favorites, leading a team that was expected to go into next year as a top-five ranked national title contender, Thomas instead opted to make an early leap of faith to the NFL, a move that will surely be questioned by many.
It’s not that the 6’3’’, 215-pound junior isn’t talented. You don’t go 23-3 as a starter, and rack up 6,334 yards of total offense and score 71 touchdowns during that time without having a great deal of natural ability.
The very important question is, though, is Darron Thomas ready for the NFL?
After watching Thomas these past few years, there will be a large contingent of college football fans who would give an immediate and emphatic no as an answer to that question based on the fact that Thomas is a spread-specific quarterback.
His stats were enhanced and his success was inflated by the high-powered offense he played in under Chip Kelly at Oregon.
During his two seasons as a starter in Eugene, rarely did Thomas show the type of tools or skills—strong arm, consistent accuracy, decision-making in the passing game, mechanics and mastery of a pro-style system—that scouts are looking for in a legitimate quarterback prospect.
But shockingly, that won't stop Thomas from testing the NFL waters a year earlier than he has to.
Throughout the past week, many people have started to wonder if RB LaMichael James, who was the face of the Ducks for the past three years, could find success in the NFL, but there’s no doubt that James’ future in the pros is a lot more certain than that of his former backfield mate.
Over these next few months, Thomas will have a lot of work to do to prove to scouts that he’s got what it takes to make it in the NFL.
Will he ultimately get drafted?
Well, that will depend on his workouts.
But if he does end up hearing his name called during draft weekend, there’s a very strong chance that it won’t be before the third and final day of the draft.
These days, spread-system quarterbacks with accuracy and arm-strength concerns aren’t exactly in high demand in the NFL outside of the state of Colorado.
In searching for reasons as to why Thomas would choose to walk away from a great situation at Oregon, you have to wonder if the emergence of freshman backup quarterback Bryan Bennett this season has anything to do with this.
Maybe, his new agent Drew Rosenhaus got in his ear and told him he has star potential (Agents have a tendency to lie every now and then).
Or maybe, just maybe, he had an epiphany and felt the time was right to take his talents to the NFL.
Only Thomas and his inner circle will ever know the truth as to why he shocked everybody with this decision to declare for the draft, but in the end, the reality is, he probably won’t get the fate he’s hoping for once draft weekend rolls around.
Instead of being the face of a national title contender in August, Thomas will likely be fighting to make a roster spot or a practice squad instead.
Darron Thomas, thanks for giving us two memorable seasons at Oregon, but it's just a shame that you couldn't have given us one more year before you began your short-lived, forgettable pro career.