Christian Uphoff Is Intriguing as an UDFA

After going undrafted, the Packers snatched up Illinois State safety Christian Uphoff. 

The Green Bay Packers signed seven undrafted free agents after selecting nine players in the 2021 NFL Draft. One that stands out is Illinois State safety Christian Uphoff.

Uphoff spent four years in college (redshirted in 2016) and started all 15 games in 2019. Unfortunately, Uphoff didn’t have a 2020 season after the Missouri Valley Conference postponed their season to the spring. However, Uphoff still received an invite to the 2021 Senior Bowl down in Mobile despite missing his final season.

In a week’s practice at the Senior Bowl, Uphoff made a profound impact. Quarterbacks and wide receivers named him the top safety on the National Team, according to executive director Jim Nagy.

Uphoff’s 2019 season is what got his name out there and on the radar of Senior Bowl officials. After totaling 70 tackles, two interceptions, and seven pass breakups, Uphoff became the first player in school history to get invited to the Senior Bowl. In 2018, he was named an honorable mention to the All-Missouri Valley Football Conference as a kick returner. Uphoff returned 18 kicks for 470 yards and a 26.1 average as a sophomore.

According to NFL.com, Uphoff was projected to be a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft. He’s described as a “Versatile safety prospect with the size, play strength and coverage ability to be deployed in a variety of positions.”

This summer, you can expect Uphoff to compete behind safeties Darnell Savage, Adrian Amos, Vernon Scott, Will Redmond, and Henry Black. The Packers lost former safety Raven Greene to free agency after he was signed this week by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Due to his positional versatility and special-teams value, Uphoff is a name to monitor once training camp begins. Standing at 6-2, 210 pounds, he will come packaged in an NFL-ready body. His athleticism is also something that flashes on tape as he consistently flies around the field.

Uphoff’s flexibility could help him get on the field. Greene once played the dime linebacker role for Green Bay’s defense, but that position is now wide open. Uphoff moves fluidly in coverage and is comfortable lining up against tight ends, but doesn’t have much experience playing in center field. As a tackler, he is a heat-seeking missile when charging downhill.

One thing Uphoff will need to work on is his consistency. Whether it be his angles or ability to wrap up, both are areas where he can see improvement. However, Uphoff should get an opportunity to compete at kick returner early on after the Packers struggled to generate much on kickoff returns last season.

Uphoff spoke to Bob McGinn of The Athletic and was none too pleased about not hearing his name called last weekend. A hamstring injury affected his pro-day results, causing him to run in the 4.6s. Uphoff was disappointed with his outing and believes a 4.4 is a more accurate representation of his speed. After signing with Green Bay, the overlooked UDFA is hungry for an opportunity and ready to showcase his true speed.

“It’s going to give me more motivation to come in there and kick somebody’s ass,” Uphoff said. “I’m telling you, I’m fast. My hamstring is 100 percent now. I can’t wait to get there and show these guys.”

Now fully healthy, it’s up to Uphoff to show he belongs on an NFL roster.

 

 

Brandon Carwile is a Packers writer who also enjoys watching and breaking down film. Follow him on Twitter @PackerScribe.

15 points

Comments (35)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
greengold's picture

May 07, 2021 at 12:56 pm

Christian Uphoff patterned his game after his friend and former Missouri Valley Football Conference S Jeremy Chinn, who was taken in R3 last year by Carolina. Chinn & Uphoff are about the same size & speed. Chinn, who played right across town at Southern Illinois, came with more production #s and Senior season tape than did Uphoff, who lost out on his last year to shine when COVID shut the season down.

Does Uphoff fill a need? Yes.
Does Uphoff have gifts that DC Joe Barry/Jerry Gray & ST Coach Maurice Drayton can get the most out of? Yes.

A Safety having the size of an ILB with 4.4 speed, plus power & tackling ability is huge. Especially in this new defense. If he is anything like Chinn, the Packers stole him, because Chinn's production with the Panthers as a rookie last year was huge. I really do think Uphoff could deliver in a similar fashion. Uphoff's experience as a KR and as a gunner on coverage STs is huge.

Should be a fun player to watch.

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jannes bjornson's picture

May 07, 2021 at 01:36 pm

Who does he beat out Scott or Black?

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OnWisconsinGoPack's picture

May 07, 2021 at 02:03 pm

Might align more as a LB as oppose to Safety.

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dobber's picture

May 07, 2021 at 02:30 pm

He lists anywhere from 205-215 lbs, dependiing on the source. On the Illinois State roster from 2019 he lists as 6'3", 195 lbs. There's hope that he can add a little weight (or actually play around 210+) to take some of the pounding IF the Packers want him to play more of a front 7 role. With a little luck, it doesn't diminish his quicks.

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Coldworld's picture

May 07, 2021 at 06:16 pm

Packers have him at 209.

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greengold's picture

May 07, 2021 at 05:46 pm

Right? If you think about it, Isaiah McDuffy aligns more as a Strong Safety??? Maybe?

Point being we just loaded up on a lot of “football players” who offer skills at multiple positions.

Our STs might actually be for reals this season.

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Coldworld's picture

May 07, 2021 at 06:58 pm

Definitely think there was an attempt. Of course, STs generally look better with 90 on the roster.

Going to be interesting what mix of players are kept for the Barry backfield.

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dblbogey's picture

May 07, 2021 at 09:37 pm

Good special teams? I just felt a tingle up my leg.

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NorCalPacker685's picture

May 07, 2021 at 03:47 pm

I Will NOT make plays Redmond

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MarkinMadison's picture

May 07, 2021 at 03:00 pm

Interesting comments. So does he fill the "star" role in this defense that everyone keeps talking about?

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CoachDino's picture

May 07, 2021 at 03:08 pm

thanks for the info!! Good stuff

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Coldworld's picture

May 07, 2021 at 05:38 pm

I like Uphoff, but he isn’t really linebacker size at 209 (as the Packers list him) He’s a little lighter than Amos and about that more than the rest of the safeties other than Savage and Redmond (Scott, Black, Gaines). I don’t see him being an ILB in disguise.

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MarkinMadison's picture

May 07, 2021 at 08:40 pm

https://www.si.com/nfl/broncos/news/denver-broncos-top-secret-role-cb-pa...

What do you make of this? Surtain's measurements are similar to Uphoff's.

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greengold's picture

May 09, 2021 at 06:50 am

Good article. Kind of points to the benefits of bigger, longer DBs who have more success covering TEs than the likes of a 5-11 197 Raven Greene, or a 240 lb ILB. Thanks for sharing that.

Given our QB situation, a possible trade including Surtain II 6-2 208 4.42 would do some things for our D, now that you mention it.

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Pro-LifeMatters's picture

May 08, 2021 at 05:00 am

Newsflash: does he have the size of an inside linebacker? No.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

May 07, 2021 at 12:49 pm

Looks like a very nice UDFA pickup. I was initially unimpressed by the 40 time, but it sounds like it was just a mistake to run. Being elected top Safety by your competition at the Sr Bowl is no small feat.

15 points
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greengold's picture

May 07, 2021 at 12:59 pm

Yeah, Jeremy, his Pro Day was F'd. Pulled a hammy 3 weeks prior. Couldn't even run on it two weeks later. Then had his Pro Day out doors in a cold, driving rain, on grass....

What could possibly go wrong? Pretty funny. Glad he made his way to the Packers.

7 points
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CoachDino's picture

May 07, 2021 at 03:10 pm

I'm with you, when your peers give you props it becomes more than just a scouting evaluation to me as far as value/credibility.

7 points
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Coldworld's picture

May 07, 2021 at 05:40 pm

I got the impression he felt that he had to run due to lack of tape last year.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

May 07, 2021 at 07:24 pm

That makes sense.

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mnbadger's picture

May 07, 2021 at 01:04 pm

Thanks for the football reporting. And a great story of hope for improvement going forward. GPG!& FAS! (Blank Adam Scheffter)

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Thegravedigger's picture

May 08, 2021 at 12:35 am

He admitted he had no source. Piece of shit man.

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dobber's picture

May 07, 2021 at 02:23 pm

Finding UDFA lottery tickets who have a legit chance at making a difference is a real boost to teams in general, but especially teams picking at the bottom of the order. With the Packers bringing in such a small number of UDFAs this year, the odds of finding a winner go down significantly. There's always churn at the bottom of the roster, and always a place for a guy like this if he shows he can play.

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flackcatcher's picture

May 07, 2021 at 02:56 pm

Gute and his guys grind the video like no one else in the league. UDFA know they have a better chance to showcase their skills, and because it's Green Bay, the odds of them getting a second look go way up when they get signed. And as you say, this is an odd year with the small number of UDFA in camp. That's interesting in itself.

4 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

May 07, 2021 at 02:44 pm

I read he is a great tackler. He is taller and just slightly lighter than Notre Dame ILB phenom JOK.

Seems like a nice potential fit at hybrid.

6 points
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Coldworld's picture

May 07, 2021 at 06:19 pm

Same height, 6’2” I believe

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CoachDino's picture

May 07, 2021 at 04:04 pm

With raven Greene gone, I do hope the best for him just could never stay healthy, it sounds like he could slip right in there.

My hope is that the roster improves to the point where the DBs are much more flexible in what assignments they can handle. Whatever one's view on Pettine, I thought he was fine, It became obvious by what personel was on the field exactly what defense they were going to run. I saw very little positional flexibility from that roster. How can you have your best CB on their best WR if your slot CB can't play outside and your #2 CB can't play inside? That's what I also took away from Barry's press conference. Was you needed the right players.

Sure a CB will most likely be better at one than the other but if they are at least competent you can work with it.

Savage, Amos and Uphof being able to play multiple Safety roles and even some slot coverage is valuable.

Be great if Ja, Stokes and Shemar can be flexible as well. that's flexibility of 6 DBs with some Safeties having CB ability as well. With flexibility comes the ability to disguise. that's a whole new level for the packers Defense and IMO, from what I see and read, wasa major issue in the past.

10 points
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NickPerry's picture

May 08, 2021 at 05:37 am

Excellent comment Dino, couldn't agree more. With Uphof, Shemar, and Stokes added in the Packers have more versatility. Uphof could be a real steal once he adjusts to the speed of the NFL.

3 points
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Alberta_Packer's picture

May 07, 2021 at 07:28 pm

I'm a little miffed why he ended up as a UDFA at all? Even with his slow 40 time - did it cause him drop that far? Then again, his 40 came with an explanation, which I thought was plausible. Plus he is a bonafide KR - which usually means that they will be one of the faster players on the team. In short, I'm willing to accept that he is a 4.4 safety - his film certainly shows that he is capable of playing fast. Considering his other positive attributes, plus his Senior Bowl performance - C.U. could be one of the best Packers signings in recent history. Still, what am I/We missing? He almost seems to good to be true.

4 points
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greengold's picture

May 07, 2021 at 09:14 pm

I was wondering same, Alberta. The explanation was the 40 time at his Pro Day was so off putting to busy scouts, they wouldn’t give him the time of day. Then, what may have really kept him completely out of the draft was that the small Conference cancelled the season entirely, so he had ZERO Senior tape.

1. Hamstring
2. 4.6 40 time
3. No Senior tape

There were a lot of good players that didn’t get drafted. Weird too with being voted best Safety on National team at Senior Bowl. However, Yosh Nijman crushed the Combine and went undrafted because of leg surgery he had. Both high enough positives, yet UDFA because the negatives loomed as disqualifiers.

5 points
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Alberta_Packer's picture

May 07, 2021 at 10:36 pm

OK so there are some questions, unknowns and blank spaces. Still he seems to have more upside than many drafted players. And if he put on another 10 lbs - maybe a very good hybrid safety-linebacker. As for his "slowness" - apparently he crushed it in the cone drill. So at least we know he's quick.

2 points
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Coldworld's picture

May 07, 2021 at 11:20 pm

Small school, missed out on a season last year. Really was the senior bowl that got him some attention, but then the poor pro day that is discussed above. Together surprisingly dropped him out. I think Packers has him signed within No time flat after the draft. I’m sure they had him in the phone through the 7th and sold on him being their safety pick this year. Probably gambled on him being left and having less suitors than Hill and so took Hill.

2 points
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greengold's picture

May 08, 2021 at 07:43 am

Yeah, I forget where the question of whether Brian Gutekunst was a gambler or not came up, but the poker player reveals himself with that move.

Illinois State, Northern Illinois, etc. are all in the Packers’ back yard. The Packers scouts get to know these guys, unlike some other teams.

He’s not Chinn, but he’s pretty close. I wanted us to take Divine Deablo. (He and Alim McNeill were probably my two biggest draft crushes for our D besides ILB Jabril Cox). Nearly identical build, speed, hybrid offerings from a top program at VT. Christian Uphoff was voted better than Deablo Senior Bowl week by the QBs & WRs. I really, really thought we needed that kind of profile of player added to our defense.

Tall, long, with speed & ability to range, tackle, cover TEs in the middle. Either a hybrid S or ILB. Waiting him out till UDFA was a gambler’s move. This system brought in by LaFleur & Joe Barry calls for that kind of player. Kamal Martin, last year’s R5, should reap huge benefits here.

Deablo was selected with pick #80 in R3. The Raiders have already come out to announce his position change from S to ILB at 6-3 223. I was thinking Uphoff might make that kind of transition, without a position change announcement. We’ll just see it on the field.

Looking at the Raiders, they gave ILB Cory Littleton $17.5M per, and drafted Deablo R3. Gutekunst drafts Martin R5 and signs Uphoff UDFA. Nearly identical players. THAT’s VALUE.

Prior to draft I had Uphoff in my notes, but the word was lacks speed, and so I didn’t think much of him. Now, after understanding more and seeing his highlights, he could be a real gem. I love that he looks a bit, in profile, like Allen Lazard, but on the other side of the ball, with more speed. Best way to describe Uphoff if you haven’t seen him. Fun to watch.

He’s a UDFA who will have to show he belongs, but there’s big upside to him on both D & STs.

0 points
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nostradanus's picture

May 07, 2021 at 08:37 pm

If you watch his highlights dude is big and physical. Looks like his frame could easily handle 10 pounds.

Get the lad a few plates O’ deep fried curds!

6 points
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PatrickGB's picture

May 08, 2021 at 12:02 pm

I agree that he looks big and tough. However, I think that he just might be best at his current weight. Of course time in the weight room can help just about anybody. But if he just gets heavier just to weigh more then it just might be counterproductive. Fit the scheme to the players rather than the players to the scheme.

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