Unlike this past year’s draft, the 2023 NFL Draft will be loaded with Clemson Tigers prospects. Considered a down year in 2021, the 2022 season for Clemson should be back to the standards of the Dabo Swinney era. Before we get to the fall, let’s take a look at the Clemson players to be mindful of this season with eyes toward the 2023 NFL Draft.
Clemson prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft
As mentioned, the Tigers should be very influential in the 2023 NFL Draft class. However, their talent-laden pool lies on the defensive side of the ball entering the 2022 season. As we go through their prospects, it’s imperative to understand that the success on the field for Clemson will be largely determined by their quarterback situation. There are a ton of draft-eligible prospects expected to light up the field for the Tigers, but they may not present a national championship-caliber team unless they get better quarterback play in 2022. So, let’s start there.
D.J. Uiagalelei, QB
D.J. Uiagalelei has untapped potential. There’s a lot to like about his physical tools. But the 2021 season was one to forget. He struggled to get his footing and threw 10 interceptions against just nine touchdowns. Uiagalelei showed promise with his arm strength, but accuracy and decision-making were lacking throughout his season. Again, the tools are there for Uiagalelei to vault himself back into this stacked quarterback class, but the troubles that plagued his 2021 season could return and ultimately force Swinney’s hand to move on to highly-touted Cade Klubnik at quarterback.
Kobe Pace, RB
A talented back in a shared backfield, Kobe Pace returns with sophomore Will Shipley to lead the charge for Clemson. Pace has great contact balance and can make defenders miss all over the field. He also has a sound receiving ability that should round out his NFL skill set.
Joseph Ngata, WR
At 6’3″ and 220 pounds, Joseph Ngata has plenty of size at the wide receiver position. He wins incredibly well at the catch point and in contested situations. Creating separation along his routes will go a long way toward progressing up the wide receiver ranks this season.
E.J. Williams, WR
Following Justyn Ross’ departure, E.J. Williams could see the benefit of more targets to go around in 2022. His slim frame is deceptively fast, and he proved he could win at the catch point in a limited capacity a season ago. Like Ngata, creating separation from his defensive back will go a long way at improving his draft stock while also helping his quarterback.
Davis Allen, TE
The leading upperclassman returner in terms of receiving touchdowns, Davis Allen hauled in three TDs a season ago. Shockingly, that led the team, and Allen is back to do it again. He’s a reliable threat in the passing game as he possesses soft hands. Allen is also far from a liability in pass protection or in the run game.
Jordan McFadden, OT
A contender to have come out early a season ago, Jordan McFadden returns to Clemson for one final year. A sound pass protector, McFadden also has proven to be a dominant run blocker. He has great balance through contact and sound fundamentals. McFadden has a chance to rank among the top tackles in the entire 2023 NFL Draft class.
Will Putnam, G
After starting 10 games a season ago, Will Putnam returns at right guard. He’s a mauler in the run game but did suffer at times with breakdowns in technique in pass protection. He’ll have to improve his pass protection against faster interior defensive lineman in 2022, but he could be a name to watch in a murky guard class.
Walker Parks, OT
The other tackle, Walker Parks possesses a surprisingly long frame that could bulk up in the NFL. Still, Parks is terrific in space, spotting defenders to block with ease. He can increase his pass protection skills, including a quicker recovery, but like McFadden, he has a chance to hear his name called sooner than later as one of the many Clemson 2023 NFL Draft prospects.
Myles Murphy, DE
A massive man at 6’5″, 275 pounds, Myles Murphy moves incredibly well. Murphy is a dominant pass rusher and has improved in each of his two seasons at Clemson. He has great positional versatility as he can play inside but thrives off the edge despite his massive size. Murphy can bully smaller tackles or simply run by slower tackles all the same. This edge class is sound at the top, and Murphy belongs right there with the best of them.
Xavier Thomas, DE
A longtime Clemson Tiger, Xavier Thomas has one more season in him in Orange. After exploding on the scene during his freshman campaign, his career has largely been hampered by injuries and playing time. He has all the tools to be a productive edge rusher both at the college and professional level, but putting it all together in one star-studded final season would go a long way at getting himself drafted.
Bryan Bresee, DE
Speed is the name of the game for Bryan Bresee. The ACC’s 2020 Defensive Freshman of the Year played in just four games a season ago but displayed his speed, elite hands, and dominant get-off plenty before tearing his ACL. If all goes well with his rehab and return to the field, the former No. 1 overall recruit should be back to his dominant self, wrecking backfields in the passing game and stopping running backs either on the play side or from the back.
K.J. Henry, DE
Yet another piece of a dominant defensive line, K.J. Henry really picked up his game down the stretch last season. He essentially got better as the year went on and could be in line for more snaps in 2022 as the rotation of this defensive line will allow each of them to stay fresh. Henry has great strength for his size but loses nothing in terms of speed.
Tyler Davis, DT
Tyler Davis, the big man in the middle, hasn’t quite grasped the form he showcased during his freshman season in 2019. But that’s arguably because of injuries, COVID-19, and the fact that his freshman season was among the most dominant we’ve seen at the position. Davis is a bully as a pass rusher but also possesses a knack for finding the ball carrier in the run game. He’s as sound as they come technically. Maintaining his health will be key for his season.
Ruke Orhorhoro, DT
An underappreciated defensive tackle, Ruke Orhorhoro had himself quite the season a year ago. Lining up square over the center, Orhorhoro uses his leverage and strong first step to flood gaps in both facets. He rarely misses an assignment, and though his game isn’t flashy, he could break out for a big season in 2022.
Trenton Simpson, LB
Like so many players on this Clemson defense, speed is the name of the game for Trenton Simpson. There’s a lot to like about his overall play, but his speed flashes right away. Whether it’s the pursuit of the run, instinctual gap fills, or dominance in coverage, Simpson can do it all. A candidate for LB1 in the 2023 NFL Draft, Simpson should also be on the preseason watch list for every major award in college football this season.
Sheridan Jones, CB
Don’t be fooled by the lack of “plays” on the ball by Sheridan Jones. He forces incompletions left and right and hardly allows much after the catch. Jones is sticky in coverage and has a nose for the football in the run game. He’s hardly beat deep, and that’s impressive considering he was the focal point of the opposing offense’s attack at times.
Jalyn Phillips, S
There are a lot of snaps to fill in the middle of this Clemson defense, and Jalyn Phillips is a prime candidate to see many of them. After starting the Iowa State game with a bang to close out his 2021 season, he’s primed to burst onto the scene in 2022. Phillips has a terrific coverage game when he’s allowed to roam free as he quickly closes space due to his speed and sheer size. Phillips is a sound tackler and can separate ball from carrier just as easily.
B.T. Potter, K
Rounding out the Clemson prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft is none other than longtime kicker B.T. Potter. Perfect on extra points a season ago, Potter is 185 for 186 on point-after tries in his career. He’s also knocked home seven field goals of at least 50 yards and 19 from at least 40. A career 74.6% field goal percentage is great, but he also serves as the team’s kickoff specialist, averaging a whopping 68.5 touchbacks per season in his four years in Death Valley.
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