UCLA wide receiver Thomas Duarte will forgo his senior season and enter the 2016 NFL draft.
He announced his decision with a statement, via Twitter:
Thomas duarte @thomas_duarte18
Go Bruins... https://t.co/43WaeaFG202016-1-13 00:34:16
Duarte was second on the Bruins roster with 53 receptions for 872 yards in 2015.
Per Kaufman, he "is the sixth UCLA underclassman to declare for the draft, following linebacker Myles Jack, defensive tackle Kenny Clark, offensive guard Alex Redmond, running back Paul Perkins and offensive tackle Caleb Benenoch."
It was Duarte's father, Tim, who told Kaufman of his son's intentions to leave UCLA. He was given a third-round evaluation from the NFL's draft advisory committee, according to Kaufman.
Duarte does have options on where he could play at the next level. At 6'3", 225 pounds, he has plenty of size and has shown the ability to block well enough where he could be considered a tight end.
It's something that former UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone saw in Duarte early on, as he told Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times: "This is what I always thought he would be, the prototype for that flex tight end. That's what I saw when we signed him."
He has the speed and the athleticism to be a vertical threat which could wreak havoc on opposing secondaries. Pac-12 Networks showed what he's capable of in terms of receiving:
Pac-12 Network @Pac12Network
In emoji, Thomas Duarte's one handed TD snag for @uclafootball was ✋🔥8⃣👏. What say you? http://t.co/k76AnXXOHH https://t.co/xxhWbmbfuh2015-9-29 21:03:39
Duarte doesn't possess flashy playmaking ability and isn't the fastest receiver, but he has a great set of hands that could excel at the next level.
Wherever he lands, the possibility of becoming a big, safe option for an NFL quarterback should have plenty of teams interested in him. Secure hands like his could prove invaluable to offenses around the league.
Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.