GREEN BAY, Wis. – With the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility for athletes who played through the COVID-impacted 2020 season, this was the weakest NFL Draft class in memory. While the literal draft class itself wasn’t greatly impacted, that reality hit home in undrafted free agency.
“It was a very, very competitive year in terms of the amount of money that was spent just because so many teams needed to get numbers,” one scout said this week. “Now, there’s some good ones. Obviously, there’s some good undrafted players, but the overall numbers were down so much with all the guys going back with COVID. That created a whole different set of obstacles.”
Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst was proactive in that regard. During the offseason, teams can carry 90 players on their roster. Gutekunst took a 72-man roster into the draft. After nine draft picks, the roster was at 81. He signed only seven undrafted free agents to bring the total to 88. For context, the Packers signed 15 in 2020, 11 in 2019, 14 in 2018, 15 in 2017 and 19 in 2016.
Five tryout players – not the infinite number from past years – will compete at next weekend’s rookie camp in hopes of landing one of the remaining two spots on the roster. Or, Gutekunst could stick with 88 and add a veteran quarterback or linebacker, which he mentioned as possibilities after the draft.
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With that as a backdrop, here are area scouts’ opinions on the rest of the Packers’ undrafted free agents, with links to individual stories on each.
Indiana OL Coy Cronk: A scout said he might be the best player in undrafted free agency.
Wisconsin OL Jon Dietzen: “He’s a camp body. I’d be shocked if he makes the roster. I know that he had a medical retirement in 2019 and decided to come back and play. Good for him signing somewhere.”
San Diego State OL Jacob Capra: “I don’t see him as a great fit for what you guys do [outside zone running game] but I like him. You know, you’ve got to have a bigger picture in mind sometimes. He’s played up and down the line and he’s got some toughness. That’s valuable when you’re picking a practice squad. And that buys him some time to develop.”
San Jose State WR Bailey Gaither: “He’s a speed guy. Even after the Achilles, he still ran by guys. The problem is he’s not that fast for our league, so that’s where the lack of physicality is a problem. He was mid-4.4s at pro day. That’s not going to scare too many corners. I’m not comparing the two, but Valdes [Marquez Valdes-Scantling] is fast but he’s more than just fast. This guy is fast but he’s just fast.”
Michigan OLB Carlo Kemp: “He’s going to end up taking snaps at every spot on the D-line. He was down inside – there-tech, nose – for Michigan. I’m sure you’ve seen the lineage – he’s a Pagano. Great kid, high-character kid. He is what he is. He’s not going to be better. He’s hit his ceiling but he’s going to give you everything he has.”
Iowa DT Jack Heflin: “He’s a lot like Carlo. Everything you want but he’s at his ceiling. Maybe he carves out a role, practice squad. He’s going to give you a lot of tough, good, hard reps but there’s just not much there to keep going up with.”
Illinois State S Christian Uphoff: “Good developmental box safety. The kid thought he was going to be Jeremy Chinn but didn’t quite take that final step that Jeremy did. He’s a height/weight/speed guy that’s going to find a way. If he can figure it out on special teams, he’s got a chance to make the roster.”
Uphoff was the only Senior Bowl player that the Packers signed. Said Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy: “I was very surprised Christian didn’t get picked. I thought he was going to test a little better [4.63 40]. It’s unfortunate, he worked out in 39-degree weather in a pretty steady rain, so less-than-ideal conditions, to say the least. He’s a big safety that can run, he’s physical, he’s going to be an immediate special teams guy. For an undrafted free agent, I think that he’s a make-it guy in the league. He’s going to make somebody’s club. There’s just not a lot of guys his size that will run and hit and can play on special teams. That was a heck of an undrafted free agent signing. I thought he would go in the middle half of Day 3.