To Quack or Not to Quack: Leaving Early For the NFL

Great football players inevitably face a choice between leaving school early for the NFL draft or completing their education.  It’s a personal decision for each individual and most Duck fans support whichever direction the player goes, but the 2014 roster comes as a surprise to some of us.  Some Ducks, such as DeAnthony Thomas (DAT), should have stayed.  Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, however, probably should have entered the draft this year.  Then there is the quarterback, Marcus Mariota, for whom a case could be made either way.

De'Anthony Thomas

Kevin Cline

De’Anthony Thomas

All eyes were on DAT when the season began.  His blazing speed became synonymous with Duck football in 2011 and 2012, but there is no way to analyze his 2013 season without citing a noticeable drop in performance.  In 2012 he was known for single-handedly changing the outcomes of games; in 2013 he was almost an afterthought.

Injured early in the season, he missed several games, but the Ducks dominated their opponents in every one of those.  When the team needed a game-changing player in November, DAT was often on the sidelines.  Some fans blame the coaches for under-utilizing him, but according to the Washington Post, he rushed the ball four more times from scrimmage than in 2012 but with 100 fewer yards gained; his average dropping from 7.6 yards-per-carry to 6.2.

Some would say he was never built to be a running back to begin with, but with only 22 receptions and one receiving touchdown (as compared to 45 receptions and five receiving touchdowns in 2012), it’s hard to say.  One thing that is clear is that if he had another chance to repeat his sensational 2012 season, he would likely be entering the draft as more than a potential kick returner.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is another one of those special players everyone expects to see playing on Sundays. Indeed, lists him as the second-best cornerback prospect in the nation and projected him as a first-round draft pick.  He was expected to go as high as No. 13, according to Dane Brugler at  Conventional wisdom says if you expect to be picked in the first round, you should probably declare for the draft.  Ekpre-Olomu defied convention, to the joy of Duck fans everywhere, but was it the right decision?

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

Andrew Shurtleff

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

He has received some criticism for being overly aggressive at times, which could lead to penalties and biting on fakes at the next level, but presumably that’s something his pro coaches would address immediately.  With 84 tackles, six interceptions and six pass-breakups in his junior season, some might argue that he underachieved relative to his skill level, but many experts expected the Chargers or the Bears to give him a shot, anyway.

According to Ekpre-Olomu, he turned down the potential millions this year so he could obtain his degree and improve his draft stock. Both are laudable goals and Duck fans certainly aren’t going to argue with him, but when wisdom is conventional, there are usually good reasons.

Compelling arguments could be made either way regarding Marcus Mariota.  One one hand, he is clearly a very talented quarterback in a complex offense that demands a great deal from that position.  He was expected to go in the first round, perhaps even in the first 15.  According an anonymous high-ranking NFL source, “Marcus could be the first quarterback drafted this year . . . that may not happen next year,” meaning that he would likely be up against 2013’s Heisman winner, Florida State’s Jameis Winston.


Marcus Mariota

Kevin Cline

Marcus Mariota

On the other hand, Mariota was considered a likely pick for the Heisman in the first part of the year, prior to his injury.  Another year as a Duck may very well garner that coveted award, which would be a first for the University of Oregon, and of course there is another opportunity to lead what will be a highly-ranked Duck team to the National Championship.  If he is able to avoid injury in the coming year, he is on pace to enter the record books as the greatest quarterback in the history of a school known for talent and quality at that position.

Any way you look at it, the 2014 Oregon Ducks roster is a dream come true for many fans who were expecting some star players to leave early.  It’s easy to make observations from the cheap seats, but the opportunity costs for the ones who decided to stay, and the ones who left early, may prove very high.  Regardless, we wish nothing but success for the 2013 Ducks, wherever they are playing this year.

Top photo courtesy of Craig Strobeck.

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Charles Glenn

Charles Glenn

Charles Glenn obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree while serving in the US Navy as a journalist for nine years. He was trained in print journalism, photojournalism and public affairs at the Defense Information School at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, IN, in 1993-94, and went on to serve in both print and broadcast assignments in Keflavik, Iceland, two Western Pacific deployments aboard on the the USS Tarawa (LHA-1), and as a writer/editor for the base newspaper at Naval Air Station Everett, WA. He continued working as a civilian US Army public affairs editor, photographer, and writer until 2008, and now currently works for Standard Insurance in Portland, OR. Born in Amarillo, TX, where he played on the offensive line for his high school football team, Charles has been an avid Duck fan since before moving to Oregon in 1988. He is 44, married, and is raising four children.

  • Tommy Alwaysright

    Don’t agree about DeAnthony Thomas, I think it was a no-brainer for him to leave. He was definitely underutilized, look at the receiving numbers you cite. He should have been one of the key factors in the passing game all year, nobody can cover him in the slot. He has way more potential in the NFL than to just be a kick-returner. Tavon Austin’s monster end to the season for the Rams certainly helps his stock. Some mock drafts have him going in the first round. While I don’t think that will happen, he is most likely to go in the top three rounds. Huge numbers next year wouldn’t have helped him, his NFL stock is more about potential. The marriage between him and the Ducks offensive staff had clearly gone stale. Maybe Scott Frost just wasn’t high on him (I’m not high on Scott Frost), but some NFL staff is going to be very excited about the different possibilities he brings to their offense.

    • hokieduck

      I agree DAT made the right decision for himself but not for the same reasons as you do … then again, you are AlwaysRight, so who am I to disagree with you at all?

      My best guess is that DAT really pushed being the featured back and did not want to stay in the slot. Frankly, he had earned the right to try that even if it was not his best position. While it is true that he was very close to Chip and probably not as close to the remaining staff, I think his failure to produce can only be attributed to himself in the long run.

      Leaving now and falling to the third round, if that happens which many pundits seem to think will be his fate, may actually be a good thing for him in the long run. With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, falling outside of the first and second rounds allows guys to renegotiate their contracts two years earlier than the first and second rounders. So even though they do not make as much up front, they end up being able to renegotiate a bigger sum earlier which, given DAT’s size and possible longevity issues, may be a really good thing for him.

      In any event, what a thrill to have been given the opportunity to watch this kid in a Ducks uniform for two great and one pedestrian year with still a few awesome plays to remember. I hope he kicks major gluteus maximus in the League.

      Go Ducks. Go DAT.


    Make NO MISTAKE, Marcus Mariota is better than Winston, and it show’s in everything he did on the field, and He got crapped on by that EAST COAST BIAS, as in they have NO IDEA when it come’s too evaluating Talent especially the QB position. Marcus no mater what way you wan’t to look at it was the BEST QB of any in this class of 2014, and obviously the Pro Scout’s know a lot more than any of us, If they indeed said that is the Majority would be the 1st QB picked and this kid could play in any Offense and Manziel whoever picks him is going to be sorely disapointed that College QB play doesn’t always translate to NFL QB and I believe Manziel will be a backup in 3 to 5 years if that. Pretty much every Heisman QB that’s been picked has not made it in the NFL, except maybe Newton and the verdicts still out on that guy. As far as Marcus he will be the next Duck QB that turns into a NFL Franchise QB, and he will do the BEST of the past greats to leave here, and kellen Clemons should of been given the right to be the Jets QB but because of there Retard of a Coach Rex Ryan he chose Sanchez who is no way even close to being as good as Kellen would of been given the chance, and hopefully they realize in St Louis that Bradford was a mistake and let Kellen be their starting QB, because he did really good in there when given the shot, I mean better than Bradford ever did. The Heisman is OVER RATED and I just hope Marcus just put’s it out of his Mind next year and just focuses on the Crystal Ball, because as Oregon fans we all would rather see that Chrystal Football in the Glass case than a Heisman trophy, because that Trophy’s not worth it. Because Marcus still should of been 1 of the 5 invited so what does that tell you, they let Manziel go who threw I know for a fact at least 13 Picks and 2 Losses, and Like those so called IDIOT EXPERT’S on ESPN think that it’s the system here at Oregon, to which I say if either Lockie or Rodriguez would of been behind Center the Duck’s might not of even won 8 Game’s.