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Oregon speedster De’Anthony Thomas will enter the 2014 NFL Draft

Sam Cooper
Dr. Saturday
NCAA Football: Oregon at Arizona
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Nov 23, 2013; Tucson, AZ, USA; Oregon Ducks running back De'Anthony Thomas (right) against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium. Arizona defeated Oregon 42-16. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas, one of the fastest players in the nation, announced Sunday that he will forgo his final season of eligibility and enter the 2014 NFL draft. Thomas, who also starred on the Oregon track and field team, holds school records for kickoff return yards and punt return average and is third in school history with 5,345 career all-purpose yards.

“I am officially withdrawing from the University of Oregon to pursue a professional career in the NFL,” Thomas said in a statement. “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.”

Using his versatility, Thomas was an impact player for the Ducks in each of his three years on campus. He stormed onto the scene as a freshman in 2011 by scoring 18 total touchdowns (seven rushing, nine receiving, two kickoff returns). He followed up with 17 combined scores as a sophomore and scored 10 touchdowns this year as he battled an ankle injury.

“De’Anthony has been a spectacular talent in college football and has been a part of some of the most memorable plays in the history of the University of Oregon,” coach Mark Helfrich said. “We wish him success going forward with his career.”

Thomas' speed and versatility make him a dynamic playmaking threat, but at 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds, questions about his durability will undoubtedly surface. An NFL scout told The Oregonian's Andrew Greif that the best-case scenario for Thomas would be a third round selection and compared him to Tavon Austin of the St. Louis Rams.

"(Thomas) is an extremely explosive player, obviously," the scout said. "Size and durability will be his issues, but he would be a kick returner, punt returner and slot wide receiver/running back. He's pretty unique."

Thomas becomes one of several playmakers who have declared for the NFL draft over the past few days. Yahoo! Sports’ Rand Getlin reported that Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, as well as LSU wideouts Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., will enter the draft. UCF quarterback Blake Bortles will also reportedly go pro.

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