What scouts say about Illinois State's Christian Uphoff ahead of the NFL draft

Wes Huett
Journal Star

Washington native and former Illinois State football player Christian Uphoff is working his way up the NFL draft boards, giving the Peoria area a pair of likely draftees along with Peoria native Kendrick Green of Illinois.

Uphoff, a 6-foot-3, 213-pound safety, sparkled in his final college game at the Senior Bowl. He was voted his team's top safety over the course of the week, leading his squad to a 27-24 win. 

The Washington Community High School graduate is not playing for ISU this spring season, instead focusing on his stock in the upcoming draft. He is considered a mid- to late-round prospect, on the rise after his performance over the all-star week in Mobile, Alabama.

Let's take a look at what the scouting reports are saying ahead of the draft, scheduled for April 29-May 1.

Kendrick Green:What NFL experts are saying about the Illini lineman from Peoria

Christian Uphoff scouting reports

Washington native Christian Uphoff of Illinois State looks on during practice for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Uphoff was called an "intriguing prospect" because of his versatility on defense and in special teams, according to NFLmocks.com. He was fourth on ISU's team in 2019 with 70 tackles, 5 1/2 tackles for loss, seven broken-up passes and  two interceptions.

Uphoff was invited to the NFL Combine, which won't be held as usual this season in Indianapolis. Instead, schools around the nation will hold pro days where prospects will work out. Uphoff's is slated for March 17. 

NFL.com scouting analyst Lance Zierlein likes Uphoff's size, strength and versatility, as well, which he says teams should be able to use in multiple positions — first as a backup with the ability to develop into a starter. He's compared to longtime NFL safety Chris Conte.

"He's a plus athlete with above-average length and a playmaker's mindset," Zierlein writes. "He has the foot quickness and anticipation to handle man coverage and contest catches underneath or handle split safety duties, where his awareness and athleticism benefit him."

Expand The Box Score is high on Uphoff, calling him speedy, rangy with ability to play single-high safety, effective zone defense and man-to-man in the slot. They expect him not to last beyond the fourth round — with the ability to also contribute as a kick returner.

"Projects as a high-ceiling FS at the next level, who will likely take some time to acclimate to the speed of the game," Robert Simpson wrote. "May not be a day one contributor, but the tools are there for a coverage safety who can make plays all over the field."

Pro Football Focus lists Uphoff 103rd overall on the big board — the fourth-highest among FCS players. He's listed as the ninth-ranked safety, tops among non-Power Five players at the position.

Where is Christian Uphoff ranked? The top central Illinois high school football players of the last 20 years

Is Christian Uphoff being targeted by NFL teams?

National Team defensive back Christian Uphoff of Illinois State (FCS) (28) tackles running back Michael Carter of North Carolina (7) during the National Team practice for the Senior Bowl college football game in Mobile, Ala., Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021.

Windy City Gridiron calls Uphoff a "Day 3 sleeper" who should be on the Chicago Bears radar. The Athletic also has Uphoff included in their Bears mock draft.

"Christian Uphoff fits the big-bodied, small-school safety mold that Jeremy Chinn and Kyle Dugger fulfilled in last year’s draft," writes Jacob Infante. "His size is apparent in his physical style of play: he is a hard-hitting safety who closes in on ball-carriers with good closing speed and a willingness to lower the shoulder."

Uphoff is seen as a good fit for the Minnesota Vikings and their coach Mike Zimmer (an ISU alum), according to Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

"Uphoff is the type of unique athlete on whom the Vikings like to take chances," Krammer wrote. "(He) could be a late-round fit for a Vikings defense needing prospects with his kind of upside."

The Orange and Brown Report — the Cleveland Browns team site via 247Sports.com — likes Uphoff as a sixth-round flier for the Browns.

"(Uphoff) impressed a lot of the folks in attendance at the Senior Bowl, showing off better coverage skills than one would expect from a guy at his position," writes Stephen Thomas. "He shows more than enough to merit grabbing him anywhere on Day 3."

Falcons Wire likes Uphoff, too, also slotting him into a possible sixth-round position for the Atlanta Falcons.

"Uphoff has all the speed and intelligence to be a perfect deep safety for (new defensive coordinator Dean) Pees’ defense," writes Scott Carasik, "and his length will allow him to cover more ground than the average sized safety."

Wes Huett is Journal Star sports editor. Email him at whuett@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @WesHuett.