Green Bay Packers: UDFA Jack Heflin Making Strong Roster Push

Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Jack Heflin (90) participates in training camp at Ray Nitschke Field, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinGpg Packerstrainingcamp 07052021 0009
Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Jack Heflin (90) participates in training camp at Ray Nitschke Field, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinGpg Packerstrainingcamp 07052021 0009 /

Ryan Grant, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, John Kuhn, and Krys Barnes. Those are just a few of some recent undrafted rookies (UDFA) who have found success with the Green Bay Packers. In fact, current undrafted rookie Christian Uphoff told reporters on Monday that the biggest reason that he chose Green Bay was that so many past UDFAs had worked their way onto the Green Bay Packers’ 53-man roster.

Uphoff is one name to keep our eyes on as the final preseason game approaches, but it’s Jack Heflin from Iowa who is perhaps making the strongest roster push.

The 6’3″ – 304 pound Heflin is an experienced college player who spent his first three seasons at Northern Illinois before transferring and playing his final year with the Hawkeyes. Over his career, which spanned 1,928 snaps, Heflin recorded 78 pressures, 10 sacks, 91 tackles, with 21 of them coming for a loss. During Heflin’s 2019 season with the Huskies, his overall grade among interior defensive linemen ranked sixth, and his run defense grade ranked ninth.

Throughout the training camp practices this summer, we’ve heard Heflin’s name here and there, granted, it’s not easy to see everything that is taking place, but where he has really stood out is in the preseason, where it matters most.

Against the Houston Texans, in 40 snaps, Heflin would record four total tackles along with three stops–or plays that result in a loss for the offense, according to PFF ($$). This included excellent recognition and hustle on a screen-play that Heflin halted before it got going.

"“Out here,” Heflin said via Packers News, “I’m not the fastest guy. I’m not the most athletic, twitchiest guy. So my technique has to be on point.”"

Then this past week against the New York Jets, Heflin was more productive, logging two pressures, four tackles, and one stop in 34 defensive snaps. His overall grade on the defensive side of the ball was the second-best on the team that week as well, and his eight total tackles are tied for the most on the team among interior defenders with TJ Slaton.

"“Jack is a great kid,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry via “Jack was an undrafted kid that we brought in here, and as a coach, when you look at those undrafted guys, you’re just looking for daily improvement. He’s (Heflin) a kid that’s been here and works unbelievably hard every single day and it’s cool to see him at least from the production sheet really show up. He played well against Houston and it’s great to see that Jack is making improvements from Week 1 to Week 2.”"

Coming into training camp, this seemed like an interior defensive line group that was pretty well established with Kenny Clark, Kinglsey Keke, Dean Lowry, and TJ Slaton as roster locks, and the assumption — at least on my part — that Tyler Lancaster was going to be the front-runner for that final spot. However, with Heflin’s play, he very well could be challenging Lancaster for that fifth roster spot.

When comparing Heflin to Lancaster, there really isn’t that much of a difference in what they can do and what the expectations should be for each player.

Both are better run defenders than pass-rushers, they won’t necessarily fill the stat sheets all the time, but they do the dirty work, and in no way should anyone expect Heflin to be a game-changer if he were to make the final roster.

In fact, when defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery was asked about Heflin, he also made the comparison to Tyler Lancaster:

"“Jack kind of reminds me of a guy like Tyler Lancaster, who’s extremely smart, plays really, really hard, buys into the fundamentals, and is a dirty-work guy that plays with a good motor,” said Montgomery via “Again, from Week 1 to Week 2 has made a huge jump from what he’s putting on film.”"

If Heflin can fill a similar rotational role as Lancaster and the Green Bay Packers believe that he can perform at a similar level, if not higher, then it makes sense to go with the younger and cheaper Jack Heflin. According to Over the Cap, Lancaster comes with a $1.25 million cap hit in 2021 and cap savings for the Green Bay Packers of $1.047 million if they cut him.

Heflin, on the other hand, has a cap figure of only $662,333, thus saving Green Bay roughly $600,000 in cap space if they choose Heflin over Lancaster. That’s not a huge amount by any means, and money should not be the determining factor in who wins this battle, but it is certainly noteworthy–especially if the two are playing at a similar level and fill a similar role.

Although Heflin has impressed during these first two preseason games, Montgomery would also add that he’s “not where we need him to be” but also that “he is getting better.”

That’s important to remember because, for a Green Bay Packers team that is clearly all-in on the 2021 season, this could be a situation where they choose the player they know in Lancaster, rather than the relative unknown in Heflin–that is unless they feel that Heflin has really outperformed Lancaster.

At this point, from the outside looking in at least, I’m not sure that we know where these two stand in the interior defensive line pecking order, especially since Lancaster has missed time with an injury.

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For Heflin, he will have one more preseason game to show that he deserves a roster spot, and from there, it will be up to the coaches to make the final decision. But regardless of which player they choose, Heflin has done an excellent job of putting himself in the conversation by doing what he does best, and that’s hustle.

"“That’s all I can do. Just hustle,” said Heflin via Packers News."