Four Undrafted Free Agents with a Chance to Stick with the Packers in 2021

The 2021 NFL Draft is over and so is the race to sign priority undrafted free agents. The Green Bay Packers have added nine players after the conclusion of the draft and they will battle in training camp to make the roster.

While the odds of any specific undrafted free agent making the team aren’t great, the Packers have done a great job of adding players after the draft. In 2020, for example, starting inside linebacker Krys Barnes made the team after going undrafted and he made an impact on the team.

Here are four undrafted free agents with the best chance to make the team in training camp this year:

1. S Christian Uphoff, Illinois

The Packers did not draft a safety which gives Uphoff a possible opening to make the roster. Uphoff has the size scouts love in a safety at 6’2” but needs to add some muscle to compete at the NFL level. He has good straight ahead speed and is a good tackler who has a nose for the ball in the box.

The reason Uphoff wasn’t drafted is that he struggles to change direction and that hurts him especially in deep coverage. He showed some potential in the Senior Bowl and with a little time and coaching, he could develop into a useful NFL player.

If Uphoff can prove his worth on special teams and shows some potential in the secondary, he may be able to make the roster or at least the practice squad.

2. DL/LB Carlo Kemp, Michigan

Kemp played defensive line in college but the Packers are listing him as a linebacker on their official Web site. Many scouts believe he would need to put on some more weight to his 6’3”, 286-pound frame to play all three downs along the d-line at the next level.

At Michigan, Kemp played several different positions and showed the ability to penetrate and get to the passer. He has good quickness of the snap of the ball and that helps make him an effective pass rusher.

He recorded five sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss during his college career and recovered one fumble.

If he can make the adjustment to linebacker and the NFL, he could serve as a designated pass rusher from the interior of the defensive line or a blitzer from the linebacker spot.

3. OL Jon Dietzen, Wisconsin

The Packers value versatility in their offensive linemen and Dietzen fits the bill. The 6’5”, 320-pound Wisconsin alum started at three different positions along the offensive line during his college career. He has great size and strength and grades out higher as a run blocker than as a pass blocker. He’s a heady player who has seen a lot of different defenses in his time with the Badgers.

Dietzen struggled with speed rushers in pass protection so he’ll need to improve his technique to thrive in the NFL. He also has a lengthy injury history which caused him to stay in college for six years. He will need to stay healthy to give himself a chance to make the Green Bay roster.

Another obstacle Dietzen will face is the fact that the Packers drafted three offensive linemen in 2020 and three more in 2021 so there will be a lot of competition for roster spots.

4. DL Jack Heflin, Iowa

Heflin has good size at 6’4” and 312 pounds and he plays fundamentally sound football. He has a good release off the snap and keeps his pad level low which helps him battle against blockers at the line of scrimmage.

After three strong seasons at Northern Illinois, Heflin transferred to Iowa in 2020 and recorded one sack and 3.5 tackles for loss in eight games with the Hawkeyes. His most productive season rushing the passer with Northern Illinois came in 2018 when he recorded six sacks.

Heflin has a good motor and reads plays well. He locates the ball carrier and moves well laterally to shed blocks. The big question is whether Heflin has the pure athleticism necessary to excel at the next level.

Defensive line is a definite area of need for the Packers and they added only one player there in the draft. With a strong training camp, Heflin has a chance to make the roster and add some depth along the defensive line. 

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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11 points

Comments (20)

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Turophile's picture

May 13, 2021 at 12:11 pm

Pigskin Paul was interviewed by DeepFriedDraft https://www.pscp.tv/w/1BRKjBvPrBwKw

He gave a shout-out to both Safety Christian Uphoff and DT Jack Heflin.

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Coldworld's picture

May 13, 2021 at 02:14 pm

Heflin strikes me as a less strong version of Lancaster (27 reps to 37) and similarly lacking in burst. I’d be happy to be corrected, but just seems like not a step up over our existing run clogger, though a little cheaper.

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Turophile's picture

May 13, 2021 at 04:53 pm

Did you check out the link ? It lasts 40 odd minutes, but the shout out to the undrafted FAs is near the end.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

May 13, 2021 at 12:33 pm

Good morning Gil,
I apologize for going off topic, but do you have any information regarding precautions regarding fans attending games at Lambeau in 2021. I live in California, so I am somewhat limited regarding Packers news. It appears that somewhere around 70 percent of the people intend to receive the COVID-19 vaccinations. Would the Packers require fans to be vaccinated prior to being admitted into the stadium? Thanks for any clarification you can provide. I did enjoy your article, as usual.

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Coldworld's picture

May 13, 2021 at 01:49 pm

I haven’t personal knowledge of Coy Cronk, but at least one scout thinks he is a real steal:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.si.com/nfl/packers/.amp/news/this-packe...

If the link doesn’t work, just search “Coy Cronk Steal”

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greengold's picture

May 13, 2021 at 01:49 pm

I do find it funny how Gutekunst came out with a statement saying it was going to be really hard for UDFAs to make this Packers roster this year, and then we look at the more limited number of players he brought in, and... some of these guys could stick.

I'm most excited about Uphoff and his chances to become a solid part of the team. Kind of like a smaller, faster Kamal Martin as a Safety at 6-2 209 with what he says is 4.4 speed. I've been a fan of this signing & shared a bunch of stuff - but I like what he said recently, "I think (the hard work) will pay off when I win a Super Bowl."

THAT's the kind of talk we want to hear from new players.

He'll take a while to develop on D, but I could easily see him become an instant contributor at KR and as a gunner on STs.

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Coldworld's picture

May 13, 2021 at 02:21 pm

I think this is the best summary of Uphoff and how he projects that I have seen. It’s from the NFL Draft Bible (I can’t link due to spam filter, so I will quote):

“ Entrenched on one of the more talented defensive units on the FCS level, Uphoff has been a playmaker on the back end and as a returner for the better part of his three seasons for the Redbirds. Uphoff is a long, good-looking athlete who has the type of frame that defensive coordinators fall in love with.

He is your ideal two-high safety who has barely begun to tap into his upside athletically. Uphoff is a loose mover who has some notable range on the back end, working hash to sideline with great efficiency. He is a willing tackler who has no problem mixing it up in the box.

Uphoff is a big projection who lacks the power profile to match up consistently near the line of scrimmage, especially with the increased level of competition on the horizon. He is a little high-cut, affecting quickness in his transitions, specifically unhinging and working vertically down the sideline.

A surprise Senior Bowl honoree, Uphoff has the profile that will have teams excited for what the future can bring. With his combination of size, growth potential and smoothness, Uphoff is a developmental piece on the back end whose patient investment could bring substantial long-term dividends.”

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Coldworld's picture

May 13, 2021 at 02:09 pm

I also want to give a shout out for the WR, Gaither. I think he could be surprisingly ready for a small school player. By all accounts great attitude. That’s very nice, but I think he may have the chance to help at back of the roster. I can’t post a link due to spam rules after posting one above, but here’s why in the words of Tony Pauline and PFN:

“ positives: Three-year starter who had his 2018 season cut short by injury. An underrated receiver who was very productive at the college level. Quickly releases off the line of scrimmage, immediately gets to top speed, and uses his hands to separate from defenders. Sells routes, extends his hands to offer the quarterback a target, and consistently makes the reception away from his frame.

Settles into the open spot of the defense and adjusts to grab the errant throw. Quickly gets in and out of breaks and displays good footwork running routes. Possesses soft hands and is effective after the catch. Sneaky fast and shows the ability to run away from opponents in the open field.

Negatives: Plays to one speed and does not show a second gear. Must improve his blocking. Occasionally lets passes get inside him, which results in drops.

Analysis: Gaither put together a terrific college career and has the size, pass-catching skills, and play speed to develop into a fifth receiver/return specialist at the next level.”

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greengold's picture

May 13, 2021 at 04:13 pm

COLDWORLD! You MADE ME DO IT!!!!!!! Thanks, bud!

I like Bailey Gaither. 6-1 182 4.45 - there's a lot to like right there. Then you see his averages on receptions in that really great 15-20 ypc range. That is solid. Over 2000 yds on 135 receptions for his career. Also some limited work out of the backfield for about 8 y/att. Solid experience as a KR & PR as well, with some good numbers.

This player brings some "gadget" to the Packers offense.

Onto the Bailey Gaither Highlights... WOW!!!! Yeah, Coldworld, I see what you're talking about! THIS GUY IS LEGIT. Sign him up!!!

What I really like, and I've watched a lot of highlights, is A LOT OF HIGHLIGHTS. That means a player has quite a lot to offer - without replaying the same play 3-5 times. These are just one offs, and he's got a long reel of them... For a WR, this is especially good, because you can see the many subtitles & nuances that you look for in great WRs. Gaither has the quicks for sure. He plays fast. He's got a pretty full route tree that he is comfortable with. Plays with good balance, and can get separation in single man coverage while also able to find spots in zone. Unafraid over the middle. He has a nose for the end zone as well.

I like that he comes back for a ball when he needs to, is able to sky for the high catch and dig for those in the dirt. He doesn't break stride when he catches the ball. Hands catcher for sure.

Not the biggest guy, but not small. Fights for the ball. Able to muscle defenders at the LOS. He gets good separation by running crisp routes, not just with speed alone, which he has for go routes. Really tough over the middle. Contested catch winner? YES. Not the fastest or most elusive after the catch, but he gets his YAC.

Gaither can and does run right by a lot of guys. He could be great on teams too, with the 2 blocked punts I saw.

There is nothing to not like about this player. VERY SOLID UDFA signing. Pure slot/gadget WR. I seriously was HOPING we would land two of those. Never hurts to have a backup. Can't imagine what LaFleur would do with both Bailey Gaither and Amari Rodgers on the field at the same time, but I WANNA SEE THAT!

So funny seeing this after all the recent discussions on WR R1 or R2. This is a UDFA who is right there in terms of talent. San Jose State University. That's great scouting. I bet he makes this 53.

Gaither is TOUGH AF. I love this signing!!!! If you want to feel good about our WRs, look up Bailey Gaither SJSU highlights.

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Swisch's picture

May 13, 2021 at 04:21 pm

Yeah, but is Bailey Gather good enough to make us forget the name Jake Kumerow?
***
:-) Excuse me, but I just couldn't resist. No disrespect to either Bailey or Jake, nor even to Aaron Rodgers. All in good fun.

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greengold's picture

May 13, 2021 at 04:31 pm

WHO???????????????????????????????????????

Not even close... I'm taking a leap here, but, watch him turn out to be a perfect mix of Jordy and Cobb. He looks like Jordy, but 2" shorter. He's got it. This is a great signing and an awesome bit of scouting by Gutekunst and his staff.

From San Jose State University, who has not had a WR drafted from their school since James Jones by the Packers in R3 2007.

He's got the goods, and now I totally owe Coldworld a beverage of his choice and a burger at Kroll's...

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Coldworld's picture

May 13, 2021 at 05:36 pm

I’d forgotten that Jones came from there! He is a small school prospect that I actually think could be a credible contender to help this year on O. That’s not common, and it is as depth. Special teams would be a bonus.

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Leatherhead's picture

May 13, 2021 at 03:03 pm

Did anybody check with Aaron Rodgers to see if he was OK with these personnel moves?

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greengold's picture

May 13, 2021 at 03:09 pm

I didn't see a sign-off on Bortles, nor any mention in the Phone Log...

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LeotisHarris's picture

May 13, 2021 at 06:35 pm

Damn, gg, a 0.5 thumb down from the Phone Log advocates. Such a sensitive group, you know?

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greengold's picture

May 13, 2021 at 07:14 pm

I usually get a full thumbs down on anything I say... today’s a good day.

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Swisch's picture

May 13, 2021 at 04:23 pm

Are you basically asking if everything is Jake with Aaron Rodgers?

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dobber's picture

May 14, 2021 at 07:43 am

As someone who follows the Badgers pretty closely, I have not been a fan of the UW OL the last couple years. They've been sub-par compared to their normal standards. I thought Van Lanen was a bit of a reach. He won't play T in the NFL, and maybe he'll be a mauler at G, but a 6th round pick is really just a preferred UDFA, anyway.

IMO Dietzen was the most talented player on that Badger OL this season, but he's got injury issues. He's hung it up once already...we'll see if he really wants it.

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greengold's picture

May 14, 2021 at 04:46 pm

Man, I was looking at the list of attendees for the 2021 Rookie Minicamp, and forgot all about ILB/S Ray Wilborn and S Innis Gaines... If you like player highlights, check both out. WOW.

FYI, Wilborn was a futures contract signing on January 8th...

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Stroh's picture

May 15, 2021 at 11:14 pm

My money is on Dietzen. When he was healthy and not playing injured he was probably the best OL they had AND the most versatile.

I don't know enough about the others, but Dietzen is a baller!

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