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Miami Needs To Bring Back Jeff Thomas In 2020

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The Hurricanes hope their talented receiver returns for his senior season

Miami v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

As the regular season draws closer and closer to its end, the discussion of juniors leaving early for the NFL Draft becomes a hot topic. The Hurricanes have several juniors currently who could potentially depart Miami following this season. The two main players is running back DeeJay Dallas and wide receiver Jeff Thomas.

While I expect Dallas to declare early for the draft, Miami needs to do its very best in bringing back the very talented Thomas for his senior season in 2020.

If you were to ask 100 Canes fans what they think Thomas is going to do after this year, you'd probably have 50 say that he’s going to stay for 2020, and then 50 say he’s going to leave early. Being perhaps the Hurricanes most dangerous weapon, his future is being talked about almost on the daily.

Thomas’ career at Miami has been very interesting to say the least, a book that has many chapters. He’s undoubtedly one of the most talented receivers that UM has had since Andre Johnson. Even being underutilized during his years with the Hurricanes, his highlights are simply incredible.

Sadly, there’s the other side. Thomas was dismissed from the team last year, was going to transfer to Illinois, and then Manny Diaz brought him back in January. Unfortunately, Thomas has almost received more attention for off-the-field situations than his tremendous plays, and because of that, Canes fans are dying to see JT4 succeed.

When you watch Thomas play, you see NFL potential clear as day. He has good hands, his speed is off the charts, and his ability in the open field with the football is as good as anyone in the country. So I'd say that the pros is definitely in his future.

In 2019, Thomas has been up and down with productivity, some games he gets targeted and some games he doesn't. Currently his season stats read: 31 receptions, 379 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns, 12.2 yards per catch. He’s five catches away from a new career high for receptions in a season.

So as you can see, his stats are ok, but they are below what we thought they’d be at. Coming into 2019, I predicted that Thomas would be one of the top receivers in the nation. Unfortunately though, he hasn't been the game-to-game focus point for Miami’s offense like we all hoped for.

Even with his limited touches, walterfootball.com has JT4 as the 32nd receiver prospect for the 2020 NFL Draft. Though, he was 30th several weeks ago. That’s what happens when you don't target him.

So yes he’s definitely a prospect for the 2020 draft, but if he were to leave early, how high would he possibly go? Thomas would be probably, best case scenario, be looking at maybe a 6th or 7th round draft pick, unless he goes undrafted. And I'm sorry, he’s way too talented to drop that low, or to not be drafted at all.

As you can see that’s one reason why he should stay, to improve his draft stock. That being said, it’s 50/50 in this situation. JT4 needs to come back to Miami in 2020, and Miami needs to bring back JT4 in 2020. Thomas needs to come back in 2020 for Thomas himself.

But let’s focus on why the Canes need to bring him back. It’s pretty simple actually. First things first, K.J. Osborn is gone after this year, so there’s that. Miami needs to replace the 42 catches, 5 touchdowns and nearly 500 receiving yards that he’s produced in 2019.

So Osborn is out, and if Thomas were to also leave, Miami is then limited when it comes to proven receivers. Mike Harley Jr. will be a senior in 2020, and while he’s been productive, he’s not quite as explosive as JT4. Dee Wiggins and Mark Pope will be juniors next year, and again, they’ve had flashes, but you could make the argument that neither are ready to become THE GUY for the Hurricanes at WR.

They’ll also have Jeremiah Payton who will be a redshirt freshman/sophomore, and while he’ll be expected to make a jump, I don't think it’ll be anything major. Then Miami will have several incoming freshman who may contribute.

Fact of the matter is, Miami’s offense will need Jeff Thomas in 2020. Quarterback Jarren Williams, or even if it’s N’Kosi Perry, Tate Martell, Tyler Van Dyke, whoever it is, they’re going to need to a receiver like Thomas out there.

Thomas suffered a back injury and is questionable for Miami’s upcoming game against Duke on Saturday, so we’ll see if that plays into his decision regarding next year.