Coming into Clemson as a five-star quarterback recruit and the heir apparent to Trevor Lawrence, DJ Uiagalelei had potential to become a top-10 selection in the NFL Draft. With two seasons under his belt, his draft stock has taken a substantial hit, but there is still a chance he can rebound this fall ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.
The rising junior finished the 2021 season with 2,246 yards, nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions, completing 55.6% of his passes. Still, Uiagalelei remains Clemson’s starter for the fall and probably won’t have to deal with the cluster of injuries the Tigers’ offense had last season. Many Tigers will return at full strength, including wide receiver Joseph Ngata and running back Will Shipley, who both missed significant time last year.
Uiagalelei has a lot of ground to make up, but if he can revert to his play from his two starts in 2020, he could quickly climb on teams’ draft boards.
Here’s what Mark Schofield from TouchdownWire had to say about Uiagalelei’s 2023 NFL Draft stock.
There was a time when it appeared DJ Uiagalelei would follow right in Trevor Lawrence’s footsteps. Not only would he step into the starting lineup and lead Clemson to success on the field, but he would also follow his predecessor to the top of a future NFL draft.
He may still fulfill that prophecy, but first…he’ll need to keep his job.
As a true freshman in 2020 he started two games when Lawrence was out with COVID. Uiagalelei and the Tigers won the first against Boston College when the freshman completed 31 of 40 passes for 342 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While they lost the second to Notre Dame in overtime, he fared well, completing 29 of 44 passes for 439 yards and two more scores.
Uiagalelei entered 2021 as the starter, but the season got off to a rocky start in a 10-3 loss to Georgia. Ultimately, the story from that game was the Bulldogs defense, but it was a harbinger of the season ahead for the young quarterback. I have finished the year completing just 54.7% of his passes for nine touchdowns and ten interceptions, and is now locked in a camp battle with freshman Cade Klubnik for the starting job. Following a spring game in which both passers struggled, Dabo Swinney maintained that Uiagalelei was the starter.
If he indeed keeps the job, he is certainly a player to watch in 2022.
As Schofield mentioned, Klubnik poses a significant threat to Uiagalelei’s future in the NFL. Statistically, Klubnik had a more efficient spring game performance than Uiagalelei. Klubnik went 15-23 for 106 yards and one touchdown, compared to Uiagalelei throwing for 175 yards and one interception on 17-36 throwing.
Although Klubnik’s arrival created a potential quarterback controversy, Uiagalelei has taken stride toward becoming one of the nation’s top quarterbacks next season. He has lost significant weight to become faster and impressed Swinney and the coaching staff in the spring. He can still become a highly sought-after prospect, but this next season is his most important yet.