Quarterback, Clemson, Eligible for 2023 NFL Draft
D.J. Uiagalelei, a 6’5”, 245-lb. five-star recruit, was the number-one rated QB in the 2020 recruiting class. He filled in a couple of games for the Tigers this season while Trevor Lawrence was out, and showed a glimpse at what 2021 could have in store.
No one expected much from Uiagalelei in 2020 as a true freshman sitting behind Lawrence, the best quarterback in the country. He did get some minor work at the beginning of the season throwing a pass or two in the waning minutes of games that were already well in hand. His breakout came mid-season when Lawrence got placed on the COVID list and was unable to play.
With Lawrence out, Uiagalelei filled in against Boston College and Notre Dame. Against BC he took over without missing a beat and completed 30 of 41 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns. Then he was thrust onto the national stage in a prime-time matchup against a Fighting Irish team that would finish 25th in the nation defensively. D.J. completed 29 of 44 passes for 439 yards and two touchdowns.
He failed to get the win against the Irish, but his passing yardage was the most ever thrown against Notre Dame by an opposing QB, breaking the mark of 425 held by USC’s Carson Palmer in 2002. Lawrence returned the following week, and Uiagalelei returned to his backup role.
The future is bright for the young star. He should be the unquestioned starter heading into the 2021 season, and Clemson looks to return WR Justyn Ross, which will be a huge weapon for Uiagalelei. However, Clemson does lose RB Travis Etienne and WR Amari Rodgers in addition to Lawrence this year. They could also need to rebuild the offensive line with the possibility of losing three starters.
As of right now, Uiagalelei is expected to be a top QB in the 2023 draft class. Two of the last three starters for Clemson have been major players coming out of college, so the program is developing a reputation for producing NFL talent at the QB position. The early flashes show me that Uiagalelei has the tools necessary to dominate the college landscape the next couple of years and put himself in a position to be the number one overall pick come the 2023 draft.
In terms of devy picks, Uiagalelei is the top QB in the 2023 class. The only player from the 2023 draft class that is garnering any comparable attention is Texas RB Bijan Robinson. In SF leagues, I’m comfortable reaching and taking Uiagalelei as high as 1.02 behind only Spencer Rattler. The biggest difference between the two being that Rattler will give me production a year earlier.
— 🌟 DJ Uiagalelei 🌟 (@DJUiagalelei) February 6, 2021
Uiagalelei has a huge arm. He’s won “long ball” contests with throws of over 80 yards. This has led to some analysts dubbing him a “generational” arm talent with comparisons to JaMarcus Russell when it comes to the deep ball.
Clemson did not fully unleash Uiagalelei, and actually might have held the true freshman on a short leash. His yards per attempt and air yards per attempt were about a yard and a half shy of what Lawrence was doing in the offense.
He has the ability to run as well. In a limited role, he had 28 carries for only 60 yards, but he was able to take four of those carries in for touchdowns.
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