With just 24 hours left for college football underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft, it’s actually been relatively quiet on the “dumb decisions” front. Most of the guys we expected to declare have (Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson, Mo Claiborne, Matt Kalil), with a few surprises electing to return to campus too (Matt Barkley, Landry Jones, Montee Ball). And of everyone who should’ve decided to stay, just about everyone did.
Well that is, at least until yesterday afternoon… when news broke that Darron Thomas had elected to leave Oregon for the pros. To which my initial reaction was: Which pro league exactly is Thomas planning on playing in next year? The CFL? Arena League? WNBA? Because truthfully, I think that I have as good a chance at playing meaningful snaps in the league next year as Thomas does.
Now, before we get to all the reasons that “Darron Thomas Decision 2012” was dumb, let’s first get to why, in some alternate universe, it may make a tiny bit of sense. In Thomas’ defense, he has already obtained his degree from the University of Oregon, and ultimately, that is the most important thing a college football player can do in his four or five years on campus. Also, coming off a Rose Bowl win, it’s hard to imagine Thomas going out on a much higher note. In regards to his team’s “stock” it will never be higher.
Of course there is his “personal stock,” and well, in a buyer’s market, I’m staying as far away from Thomas as I can get. That’s because with all due respect to a guy who’s won a lot of games over the last few years (23), there don’t seem to be a whole lot of “football reasons” to explain his decision to leave.
Reflecting back on his time at Oregon, I can’t think of a single elite skill Thomas possesses. He was semi-accurate in his Ducks career, but at 62 percent nowhere near the leaders in college football at that category. He is fast, but doesn’t possess elite, game-changing, break away, smoke-coming-from his heels speed that so many of his own Oregon teammates do. Thomas is elusive, but when comparing him with his predecessor at Oregon Jeremiah Masoli (who went undrafted last year by the way), he’s not even close in that department. Plus, while in most cases Thomas could always play the “I’ve got to go pro before my body takes too many hits” card, his preferred position (quarterback) is one where NFL talent evaluators desire mental sharpness to raw athleticism. He isn’t a running back that can claim “I’ve only got so many years before my body gives out,” but instead a quarterback who has hardly mastered his craft.
Beyond that, there are more problems complicating “The Darron Thomas Decision 2012.”
If Thomas does still plan on playing quarterback in the pros, well, he’s coming from a system at Oregon that not only isn’t run by anyone in the NFL, but also isn’t even attempted either. Also it’s got to be asked: How much of Thomas’ success had to do with the literally unstoppable tempo that Chip Kelly’s team play, and with the bounty of quality backs around him? In other words, how good did LaMichael James, Joshua Huff, Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas make Darron Thomas look?
Oh, and by the way, it’s not as if Thomas didn’t have problems with the law in his time at Oregon. He was in the passenger seat when Masoli got pulled over for marijuana possession back in the spring of 2010, and was again riding shot-gun when Cliff Harris got pulled over for driving 118mph last summer (the famous night in which Harris responded to a police officer’s question of “Where’s the marijuana” with “we smoked it all”). Considering that Thomas wants to play quarterback at the next level (a position where intangibles like “leadership” and “decision-making” are essential), Thomas’ lack of awareness will surely scare off some teams. Now obviously coming back next year wouldn’t have eliminated those problems. But it would’ve helped Thomas distance himself from them.
There’s also a belief that if Thomas can’t play quarterback, he may get a look as an athlete/returner type. The problem is that with all due respect, Thomas isn’t an elite athlete. Is he a good athlete? Sure. But elite? Not exactly.
And really, that’s my biggest problem with the Thomas decision. Given what we know about him, is he really worth taking a chance on? Even if we were only talking about his raw football skills, we’d be talking about him as what, a fifth or sixth round pick?
Now you add in the fact that we’re not even sure what position he’s going to play, and his off-the-field drama, and I’ve got ask: Why would anyone take the risk? If you’re looking for a quarterback you’ve got plenty of other options. And if you’re looking for a “raw athlete with upside,” aren’t there a million other guys from smaller schools (most we likely don’t even know about yet) that are much smaller risks? Why not gamble on that cornerback from Troy, that wildcat QB from Alcorn or the wide receiver from Abilene Christian? Why risk it on a kid with so many problems?
To me, there are no winners in “Darron Thomas Decision 2012.”
Well, except maybe the Arena League team that drafts him.
For all his opinion, insight and articles on college football and beyond, please follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.