UCLA receiver Thomas Duarte (18) is the latest Bruin to forgo his senior season in favor of the NFL draft. He led the team with 10 touchdown catches as a junior. (John McCoy/Staff)
UCLA receiver Thomas Duarte has become the latest Bruin to declare for the NFL draft.
His father, Tim, told the Orange County Register on Tuesday that the 6-foot-3, 225-pound inside receiver had filed his official paperwork a day earlier — after receiving a third-round grade on his draft evaluation. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone’s recent departure for Texas A&M, he said, was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” in terms of Duarte’s decision.
As a junior, Duarte excelled in Mazzone’s spread offense, working the middle of the field and becoming the team’s most dangerous red zone target. After totaling seven scoring catches through his first two seasons, the Fullerton native found himself on the receiving end of 10 of freshman quarterback Josh Rosen’s 23 touchdown passes.
UCLA will enter next season with just one player who made at least a dozen catches in 2015: soon-to-be redshirt junior Darren Andrews, who recorded 42 catches for 429 yards and a score.
Duarte is the sixth UCLA underclassmen to enter the draft. Linebacker Myles Jack — who suffered a season-ending meniscus tear — and offensive guard Alex Redmond both left the team before the end of the season, while defensive tackle Kenny Clark, running back Paul Perkins and offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch declared shortly after the Bruins’ loss to Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl last month.
Only three players had left early after head coach Jim Mora’s first three seasons: offensive lineman Xavier Su’a Filo (No. 33 overall, 2014), quarterback Brett Hundley (fifth round, 2015), and defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy (undrafted).