NFL Draft Daily: How the transfer portal could help NFL draft scouting

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 129 until the 2023 NFL Draft.

Entering the transfer portal is the thing to do these days in college football. Over 1,600 players had entered the portal as of this past Thursday. That staggering number could climb even higher as bowl games wrap up over the next month. The portal will not close until January 18.

What this means is that upwards of one thousand college football players will be looking for new homes, stepping into new programs, learning new systems and working with new coaches. If that sounds anything like NFL free agency, that is essentially because it is. Players are allowed to pick new schools if they are unhappy (maybe they want more NIL money). However, the programs need to be interested as well. It’s basically college free agency.

USC Head Coach Lincoln Riley quickly rebuilt his program through the transfer portal in his first season. (Wikimedia Commons)

It sounds great in theory, but there are plenty of cautionary tales for why the transfer portal does not always work out how players want. Not every player who enters the portal is going to land with a Power 5 program. There are going to be tons of players disappointed by the options they have available to them.

However, there could be a huge benefit down the line for NFL teams with players switching schools. For evaluators, it is an opportunity to see prospects in different systems, which helps answer questions about scheme fit at the next level. For example, if you have a corner that plays in a mostly man-to-man defense before transferring to a school whose defensive coordinator favors zone concepts, you now have way more information on that player than you would have had they stayed at the first school. You can evaluate how they fare in both schemes and better identify both strengths and weaknesses in their game.

There is also something to be said for small school or even non D-1 school players getting the chance to prove themselves against better competition. Jared Verse is the perfect example. Verse dominated at the University of Albany, which competes at the FCS level. We’ve seen several FCS stars in recent years work their way through the draft ranks and wind up as early draft picks, such as Trey Lance, Trevor Penning and Jeremy Chinn.

Unfortunately, those players are often few and far between, facing questions about the level of competition and their ability to make the jump to the NFL level. Verse erased any of those concerns after transferring to Florida State in 2022. He dominated the ACC, racking up 7.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. Under the previous system, we likely would have seen Verse transfer and sit out a year, or wait until he completed his degree before moving as a graduate transfer. Instead, Verse is getting genuine first-round draft buzz for 2023. There will likely be several more to join the ranks of the FCS to FBS to NFL draft pipeline. Washington State’s Cam Ward (formerly at Incarnate Word) and Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders (previously with Jackson State) figure to be two high-profile quarterback recruits in 2024 who began their collegiate career playing in the FCS.

Even for players who started out at the FBS level, the portal offers a second chance and a chance to rebuid their draft stock. I wrote about how D.J. Uiagalelei needs to go through that process right now, and how he could follow in the footsteps of Bo Nix (who announced he is returning for another year at Oregon) and Spencer Rattler. Nix in particular is a great example of a player who struggled to find his footing at his first school before really turning it around during his second stop.

Daniels is back in the transfer portal after one season with West Virginia. (

On the flip side, the portal helps weed out players who maybe don’t quite make the cut that might have previously been drafted based on potential because coaches believed they could “fix” the player. Former highly-touted quarterbacks like Kedon Slovis and J.T. Daniels stand out here. Both arrived in college football with a ton of fanfare and showed flashes at USC. However, neither managed to prove that the Trojans and the former coaching staff were really the problem, struggling with injuries and consistency in subsequent stops. Daniels is now searching for his fourth college team. Slovis is seeking his third. Neither seems to have legitimate draft hopes at this point due in large part because there is no mystery left surrounding them. No coach can look and believe that he has the perfect system to unlock either of these players after seeing both struggle to take hold in multiple schemes at this point. Hopes of a change of scenery will only get you so far.

For as flawed and maligned as the transfer portal might be at this stage, there could be a ton of good that comes out of it when it comes to evaluating players. Scouting is all about gathering information on prospects, and the more you have, the more likely you are to get the evaluation right. It will never be an exact science, but there is a chance we start to see fewer players fall through the cracks and more players given a second chance because they were able to turn things around at a different school. College football is a rapidly changing landscape, and I think there is plenty to be excited about.

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NFL Draft Daily: Does D.J. Uiagalelei have an NFL future?

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft.

What a wild offseason this is shaping up to be in college football. Over 1,000 FBS players entered the transfer portal on December 5th when it opened. One of the most notable names seen on that list is now former Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei. The former five-star recruit improved on a rocky 2021 season, throwing for 2,521 yards while completing nearly 62 percent of his passes for 22 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He added 545 yards and 7 scores on the ground as well. Despite the clear improvement from the year before, where he tossed more interceptions than touchdowns, he ended up being benched several times down the stretch for the Tigers.

Uiagalelei threw for 22 touchdowns and 7 interceptions in the 2022 season. (

Uiagalelei is far from the first big-time recruit to fall flat. Expectations were sky high for him following Trevor Lawrence’s tenure in Death Valley. Uiagalelei flashed potential and even dazzled at times for Clemson. His 2020 start in place of Lawrence and his incredible performance against Wake Forest this year come to mind.

However, there is no question this is Cade Klubnik’s team now and Uiagalelei will look to start fresh elsewhere. While fans are undoubtedly curious where he will land and its impact on the upcoming college football season, I am more interested in what this means for his NFL future.

It might be a bit hard to see exactly how a player who lost their starting job to a true freshman, despite the coaching staff giving him every chance to keep hold of his role, winds up being an NFL draft pick. I get it. If Uiagalelei were to enter the draft right now, it is hard to imagine he would be anything more than an undrafted free agent. Maybe a team would be willing to take a flier on him in the seventh round given his measurables and pedigree as a five-star recruit.

However, in the modern era of the transfer portal, it is becoming more common to see players rehab their draft stock after landing in a new home. Uiagalelei’s situation immediately makes me think of a pair of fourth-year quarterbacks who have an NFL draft decision to make in the coming weeks: Bo Nix and Spencer Rattler.

Both were highly recruited and seemed poised for superstardom at the NFL level. Unfortunately, Nix struggled with consistency at Auburn, ultimately deciding to leave for a change of scenery at Oregon. Rattler lost his starting job at Oklahoma to the uber-talented Caleb Williams, who won the Heisman trophy on Saturday, now playing for Lincoln Riley at USC. Entering this season, no draft analyst would reasonably tell you that Nix and Rattler had clear paths to the NFL. After both put together strong years at new programs, Nix more so than Rattler, the possibility of reaching the league is once again attainable. Rattler probably needs one more year at South Carolina to really solidify that he has what it takes, but Nix could legitimately be a Day 2 selection for a team looking to add depth at quarterback.

Let’s start with Nix. He had a career completion percentage of 59.4 at Auburn, averaged 6.9 yards per attempt and accumulated 39 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in three years as the starter. At Oregon, Nix completed 71.5 percent of his passes for a career high 3,388 passing yards to go along with 42 total touchdowns and just 6 interceptions. He showcased his immense growth as a passer and his talents as a rusher, racking up 504 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. At this point, I think Nix will likely be one of the seven or eight passers selected in the 2023 draft, but we will have to see if he definitely leaves and, if so, how he fares in the pre draft process, which could include the Senior Bowl and the scouting combine.

For Rattler, he seemed poised to be the next great NFL quarterback after a stellar 2020 campaign. He threw for over 3,000 yards and amassed 28 touchdowns through the air with just 7 interceptions. Then he lost his job in 2021 to the aforementioned Williams and ended up at South Carolina. I will admit that I was ready to right off Rattler after a rocky start to his career in Columbia, but after leading the Gamecocks to seven wins in their final nine games, including impressive performances against Tennessee and Clemson to end the season, he is at least back on the radar. I think Rattler needs one more year to prove he can consistently play at a high level. He had some great games this year, but still tossed 11 interceptions, including four multi-interception outings.

I highlight both Rattler and Nix to point out that a change of scenery might be exactly what Uiagalelei needs. It worked great for Nix, who faced the same exact questions almost exactly one year ago. Landing at a school like UCLA, Purdue or hell, even Oregon, if Nix enters the draft.

The other example Nix set that Uiagalelei should follow would be working with a quarterback guru like Jordan Palmer. Nix spent the offseason working with Exos, putting in the work to improve his footwork, technique and accuracy. It paid major dividends this year and I think it is important that Uiagalelei does the same. Watching him play, he has a ton of arm talent, great size, impressive athleticism. However, his footwork is all over the place. His accuracy suffers big time as a result. Spending time with a quarterback specialist to fine tune those attributes will go a long way. He has already shown that he is willing to put in the offseason work as well, dropping 15 pounds heading into this season, which allowed him to move a lot better in the pocket and be more productive running the ball.

Uiagalelei’s future still very much seems like it will be in the NFL. He will have two years to prove he can progress as a passer and improve the technical side of his game. He is a 6’4″, 235-pound prospect with tons of experience playing in a Power 5 conference. He will undoubtedly land at another Power 5 school and be in position to start again.

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Five 2023 NFL Draft prospects with something to prove in Week 5

Each week, I like to highlight a few of the draft-eligible players I am most excited to watch this weekend. Sure, I am looking forward to seeing Drew Sanders against Alabama and what happens if Will Levis can take care of the ball against Ole Miss, but those guys are already getting first-round buzz.

What about the under-the-radar guys? Perhaps that is a bit of a misnomer. In fact, it was! I finally have a new name for the players I am highlighting in this column. Many of these players fans of college football have likely heard of. However, these are not the guys you will likely see in a first-round mock draft at this point and still have a lot to prove. So rather than talk about the biggest prospect in the draft, let’s discuss some players with something to prove.

Unfortunately, like every week, some of the games we want to watch are going to be at the same time, so break out the tablet or set your DVR if you want to watch all of the amazing action from this weekend.

If you missed out on Week 4 and want to get caught up on some stock watch for draft prospects, I wrote about my takeaways here.

Spencer Sanders, QB, Oklahoma State
Year: 5th-year senior
Opponent: at #16 Baylor (Saturday at 3:30 pm ET on FOX)

Sanders has definitely made a name for himself with his play to this point, but this is still a very deep quarterback class and he is nowhere near the conversation at the top of the draft. At least not yet. If Sanders has any hopes of pushing his stock into first-round territory, he needs to perform against Baylor. In three matchups against the Bears defense since Dave Aranda took over in Waco, Sanders has thrown nine interceptions. Seven of them came in two games last season. If he continues to struggle against Baylor’s defense, typically one of the best in the Big 12, it raises questions about how he will fare at the next level. This is a huge opportunity for Sanders to prove that he is making strides as a passer and deserves some NFL buzz.

Noah Daniels, CB, TCU
Year: 6th-year senior
Opponent: vs. #18 Oklahoma (Saturday at noon ET on ABC)

Daniels is a name that people have probably heard before, but I would argue he is one of the toughest evaluations in this entire draft. He is incredibly talented and plays like a top 50 player. Unfortunately, Saturday against Oklahoma will also be Daniels’ 12th game since 2018. He missed all of 2019 due to injury and was limited to a combined eight games over the past two seasons. Facing an Oklahoma offense that boasts one of the most potent passing attacks in the nation would only make it harder for scouts to ignore his apparent ability in favor of his injury history. Daniels needs to stay on the field and show he is capable of dominating the competition.

Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA
Year: 4th-year senior
Opponent: vs. #15 Washington (Friday at 10:30 pm ET on ESPN)
How can a former five-star running back possibly be under the radar? I finally found a new name for these players I want to highlight. Charbonnet is a familiar name to many who have followed Big Ten or Pac-12 football over the past five years. He transferred to UCLA from Michigan before the 2021 season and has excelled with the Bruins. UCLA is one of the quietest 4-0 teams in the country and now Carbonnet will look to stamp their credentials, and his own, against a Washington defense allowing just 89 yards per game and 2.6 yards per carry. This Huskies defense has only surrendered two rushing touchdowns through four games. If Charbonnet can perform against that stacked defensive front, he is going to be in the conversation for RB2 in this draft class, which is wide open behind Bijan Robinson.

Jacoby Windmon, EDGE, Michigan State
Year: 4th-year senior
Opponent: vs. Maryland (Saturday at 3:30 pm ET on FS1)

Talk about a coming out party. Entering the season, Windmon was a relatively unknown transfer from UNLV whose career-high in sacks to that point stood at 6.5 in a season. Fast forward to now, Windmon is drawing buzz everywhere, currently leading the nation in sacks with 5.5 quarterback takedowns through just four games. This is not a game that most would circle as a must-watch this weekend, but Windmon will get the opportunity to face Maryland offensive tackle Jaelyn Duncan. Duncan definitely did not impress against Michigan, but he is widely regarded as a top 50 prospect and one of the five best offensive tackles in this draft class. I haven’t seen Windmon get a ton of love yet nationally. If he turns in another stellar performance, this time against an NFL-caliber tackle, his name will be flying up big boards everywhere.

D.J. Uiagalelei, QB, Clemson
Year: 3rd-year junior
Opponent: vs. #10 NC State (Saturday at 7:30 pm ET on ABC)
As if you needed another reason to watch this top-10 showdown in the ACC. Uiagalelei has had one of the most interesting careers in recent memory. Thought to be the successor to Trevor Lawrence, he dazzled in his one start against Notre Dame in 2020. Instead of picking up where he left off, Uiagalelei had a terrible year in 2021, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. At the beginning of the season, there were fans and analysts alike questioning whether or not freshman phenom Cade Klubnik deserved to start instead. Uiagaleli has quieted that chatter so far with 10 touchdown passes and just one interception so far this season. Suddenly, it feels like he might be a post-hype sleeper. His physical gifts are off the charts, but he still needs to improve his mechanics and show he can perform consistently. No better opportunity to prove himself than against an NC State defense allowing just 4.9 yards per attempt passing this year, the fourth-best mark in the country. This is a massive test for the true junior quarterback.

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NFL Draft Daily: Wrapping up my early look at the 2023 quarterback class

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 328 days until the 2023 NFL Draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

I’m finally back to wrap up these quarterbacks. Turns out I needed a little break after the draft and sometimes life has its way of throwing other things your way.

It’s time for Part 3 of my watchlist, which includes 36 quarterbacks in total. Part 1 featured a lot of big names and Part 2 had a number of guys that could make things interesting with a big year. Part 3 of this loaded class has a couple of wild cards heading into this year that I think could make some noise. My final group also includes a few guys that have a lot to prove this year or likely candidates to return to school for another season. Let’s dive into these final 10 QBs.

Clayton Tune, Houston
I definitely did not pick the best game to watch for Tune. He threw four interceptions in the season opener against Texas Tech in 2021. As it turned out, it would be one of just two losses for Houston all season, in part due to Tune’s impressive play. He finished the year with over 3,500 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. He cannot afford to have meltdowns like he did against the Red Raiders, where he was way too careless with the ball. Decision making can be improved though.

Payton Thorne, Michigan State
This final group is definitely not among the favorites to be selected early in the draft. Thorne is no exception. Following an impressive 2021 season, he will be on the radar at least heading into the 2023 draft. He has good touch on his throws, but lacks elite arm strength. He is a solid athlete showing his ability to make plays on read options this past year. He definitely benefited from a lot of short passes and screens in the Michigan State offense. I would like to see him hit some more NFL throws more consistently this year across the middle and in rhythm with his receivers. Those throws are there on his 2021 film, but few and far between.

Hank Bachmeier, Boise State
There was a time that I was very excited for Bachmeier to be draft eligible. The excitement has dropped off some, but he put together a solid junior season and I think could be in the mix as a late-round selection. He has a strong arm and throws a nice deep ball. The ball placement is a bit spotty at times. He has struggled with injuries, but he finally put together a full season in 2021. He is a decent scrambler, but he doesn’t do it too often. A bit undersized as well, he has a lot of questions to answer, but I like what he could become.

Jaren Hall, BYU
Meet Hall, your typical fifth-year junior. COVID has really messed up eligibility for a long time to come. On first watch, my initial assessment of Hall is that he is incredibly mobile and can throw on the run, but he is much less effective playing from the pocket. His accuracy is inconsistent and he overthrew a number of receivers downfield in the game I watched. That being said, I could see him having a ton of success in an offense that moves the pocket and allows him to roll out. It plays to his strengths and helps minimize the impact of his smaller frame.

Dylan Hopkins, UAB
Here’s a name you probably haven’t heard too much. Hopkins led UAB to a strong season with 18 touchdowns in his first full season as the starter. We don’t have a huge sample size with him given that he only attempted 235 passes last year. For reference, that’s less than half the number of attempts Bryce Young had in 2021. What I have seen is a player with a solid arm and a pretty deep ball. He also uses his eyes well to freeze or hold defenders. My concerns with Hopkins come to his mobility. He is not very quick in escaping the pocket and does not look overly comfortable throwing on the run. Hopefully, UAB will let him cut it loose a bit more often in 2022.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA
From a name you don’t know to one you have likely heard of. Thompson-Robinson, aka DTR, arrived at UCLA with a ton of fanfare. He has not quite delivered on the hype, but he has developed into a solid player. A clear dual-threat option, he is a really fun player to watch in the open field. His accuracy is a bit inconsistent, with him missing high on a number of occasions down the field. The throwing motion is a bit elongated as well. The physical traits are enticing, but I think he would really need to work on his mechanics to have a shot at the next level. He will need to be a bit more polished to garner attention heading into his fifth season with the Bruins.

Jayden Daniels, LSU
One of the most interesting transfers of this entire offseason, Daniels leaves an Arizona State program under fire for an LSU program that has a bit of a checkered history in its own right. One thing is undeniable though, Daniels will have weapons to work with in Baton Rouge. Kayshon Boutte and Jaray Jenkins are proven commodities at the college level. The Tigers have a few up-and-comers as well. Daniels will need to bounce back after throwing as many touchdowns (10) as he did interceptions in 2021. He has a very compact and quick throwing motion, but his footwork is a mess. The accuracy is good, but not great. I think it could improve with better footwork actually. As a runner, he is one of the best, scrambling to pick up extra yards and very capable on designed runs. He will get a chance to prove himself in the SEC this season.

Cameron Ward, Washington State
Hat tip to my favorite subreddit NFL_Draft for putting this guy on my radar. A former FCS quarterback at Incarnate Word, Ward won the Jerry Rice award. He has a very quick release and looks very comfortable playing from the pocket. Now, he will have a chance to prove himself in a Power Five conference after transferring to Washington State. He will get some real tests at Camp Randall this September and then in Pac-12 play. I wouldn’t be surprised if he stayed another year, but he has the potential to be an NFL quarterback.

Cade McNamara, Michigan
I had an old friend from high school reach out to me to ask why McNamara wasn’t part of my first two entries. After all, McNamara became the first Michigan quarterback to beat Ohio State since Denard Robinson. Plus, the Wolverines did reach the College Football Playoffs. McNamara undoubtedly benefits from a run-heavy scheme, but he is still talented. He lacks elite arm strength, but he has a nice deep ball. His release is a bit of a concern. His side-arm style leads to a number of passes to be batted at the line of scrimmage. I don’t think he will be garnering first-round attention, but he could be a late-round draft pick come April.

D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson
I’m going to be completely honest. I forgot about Uiagalelei when I first started putting together my watch list. He went from the dazzling replacement to Trevor Lawrence to an afterthought in just one season. I still don’t know what happened to the guy who racked up 439 yards passing and three total touchdowns against Notre Dame in 2020. Looking at his 2021 tape, his accuracy is all over the place. His throwing motion is a bit elongated. As a runner, he has a bit of wiggle, but he is not a burner by any means. He doesn’t have as much power as you would expect for a player listed at 250 pounds either. There are still some special moments on film and his physical traits are great, but none of that is going to matter if he continues to complete 55 percent of his passes and throw only nine touchdowns to 10 interceptions.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube or wherever you get your podcasts.