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Christian Uphoff, S, Illinois State – NFL Draft Player Profile

Can Illinois State safety Christian Uphoff be just the 18th Redbird since 1944 to be selected to the NFL as he heads to the 2021 NFL Draft?

Christian Uphoff, S, Illinois State - NFL Draft Player Profile
National Team defensive back Christian Uphoff of Illinois State (FCS) (29) walks off the field after the NCAA college football Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. Rusty Costanza, AP

Only 17 Illinois State Redbirds have been drafted to the NFL since 1944. After an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, has Illinois State safety Christian Uphoff put himself in a position to be the 18th heading into the 2021 NFL Draft?

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Christian Uphoff NFL Draft Player Profile

  • Position: Safety
  • School: Illinois State
  • Current Year: Redshirt-Senior
  • Height: 6’2 1/2″
  • Weight: 213 pounds

Tony Pauline’s Christian Uphoff Scouting Report

Positives: Nice-sized safety prospect with a large upside. Instinctive, quick to read and diagnose, and possesses a closing burst. Crashes upfield defending the run, stays with assignments, and works hard getting off blocks. Plays with good speed, moves well laterally, and possesses range. Fires to the action with a terrific closing burst and possesses solid ball skills.

Negatives: Shows stiffness in his game. Must improve his tackling and become more secure at the point.

Analysis: Uphoff was a consistent small-school safety who showed flashes of next-level ability during Senior Bowl practices. He possesses the size, speed, and ball skills to play at the next level. Uphoff is a potential late-round choice who could make a roster as a ninth defensive back.

Christian Uphoff Player Profile

From an unranked high school recruit to a player of the week at the Senior Bowl, it’s been quite the journey for the Illinois State safety. Although 247 Sports did not rank him, Uphoff will be remembered as one of the best players to come out of Washington High School. A four-year player, he left with the third most interceptions in program history and the fourth-highest punt return average.

After securing All-Conference honors as a junior, the versatile playmaker enjoyed an outstanding senior season. Washington went undefeated in 2015, finishing with a conference championship. Thus, Uphoff secured All-Conference honors for the second consecutive season. In addition to 40 tackles and 5 interceptions as a defensive back, he secured 1,293 all-purpose yards on offense.

Without a ranking or Division I offer, Uphoff stayed close to home to play for Illinois State.

Uphoff’s college football career at Illinois State

Having been so impactful in high school, Uphoff saw a gradual transition at the college level. He redshirted in 2016 and didn’t line up at safety for the Redbirds until two years later. However, his high school special teams experience came to the forefront in 2017. He garnered national attention with a 100-yard kickoff return against South Dakota State. The play flashed the athletic ability that makes him an intriguing NFL Draft prospect.

He averaged 41 yards per return as a redshirt freshman adding 470 return yards in 2018. Although, the most critical development that year was his emergence at safety. He played in 11 games, racking up impressive defensive statistics.

He demonstrated coverage ability with 6 pass breakups and secured his first career interception. Furthermore, he displayed his ability to come down and make an impact at the line of scrimmage. Uphoff totaled 18 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 forced fumble.

It paved the way for a breakout season in 2019. Uphoff finished fourth on the team with 70 tackles after starting in all 15 games. He converted 5.5 of those into tackles for loss, including 3.5 in a standout regular season performance against Youngstown State. Uphoff also added 2 interceptions and 7 pass breakups to his resume. Moreover, he continued to be a threat on special teams, averaging 29.5 yards per kickoff.

Due to the postponement of the 2020 FCS season until the spring, Uphoff declared for the 2021 NFL Draft. In the process, he earned an invite to the Senior Bowl. A significant opportunity, the Illinois State safety impressed enough to earn practice player of the week honors as voted by the players he faced in practices.

Christian Uphoff’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft

His performance at the Senior Bowl will attract attention from various NFL franchises. PFN’s Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline gives Uphoff a seventh-round grade as his 247th overall prospect. His intriguing athletic profile, combined with his special teams ability, may just be enough for him to hear his name called in Cleveland.

Some teams with depth need at the safety position include the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, and Baltimore Ravens.

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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.

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