Obi Melifonwu 2017 NFL Draft Profile

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Overview
Position: Safety
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 217 pounds
School: Connecticut Huskies

Combine Performance Data
40-yard dash
: 4.40 seconds (best among safeties)
Bench press: 17 reps
Vertical jump: 44 inches (best at 2017 Combine)
Broad jump: 11 feet, 9 inches (best at 2017 Combine)

Obi Melifonwu 2017 NFL Draft Profile

Henry William Obiajulu Melifonwu’s pathway to possible first round pick in the NFL draft is a unique one. Born in London, England to Nigerian immigrants, he and his family moved to Massachusetts when he was three years old. In high school, he excelled on both sides of the football as a running back and defensive back. Rated as the eighth-best player in the state, Melifonwu committed to UConn.

After redshirting, the Grafton, MA native made an immediate impact for the Huskies. It stayed that way for the entirety of his time in Storrs. Melifonwu started in all but one of the 48 games he appeared in during his collegiate career. As a senior, he registered 73 solo tackles which ranked eighth nationally and led the AAC. He also added four interceptions, a total exceeded by only four players in the conference.

Melifonwu came onto the radar of scouts even before the Combine. But he probably remained a somewhat obscure prospect to the general NFL fanbase. It all changed when the cornerbacks and safeties stepped into Lucas Oil Stadium on the Combine’s final day. Melifonwu demonstrated freakish athleticism, perhaps no more evident than in his broad jump.

Strengths

  • big-bodied player with ideal size for the position.
  • athletic freak whose Combine measurables are off the chart.
  • closes down receivers well when flaring over the top in zone coverage.
  • play speed and ball awareness make him a ball-hawker in red zone pass situations.
  • takes good angles and contains quickly in run support.
  • exceptional tackler who rarely gives up yards after contact.
  • stayed healthy throughout his collegiate career.
  • regular starter all four years at UConn.

Weaknesses

  • overall instincts might need a bit of work.
  • despite elite athleticism, tape shows some fluidity issues in lateral movement.
  • less than optimum pursuit angles in pass situations at times.
  • tends to overly bite on play-action.
  • can get caught on an island downfield, leading to big pass plays.
  • wasn’t much of a threat in the backfield on safety blitzes.

NFL Comparison: Johnathan Cyprien

Teams With Need at Position: Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Bucs, Washington Redskins

Projection: possible late first rounder but could slip into the second

Bottom Line

Melifonwu made waves at the Combine, putting up monster numbers in the two prominent jump drills. Though he already figured to be a top safety prospect before the event, his exploits only served to augment his draft stock. But there are concerns. He isn’t the most instinctual player at the position at this year’s draft, a shortcoming elite deep threat wide receivers could feast on.

Still, he proved himself to be a high volume tackler in college and looks to replicate that work rate at the next level. His ability to create havoc near the line of scrimmage makes him a potential matchup nightmare for tight ends lining up out wide. Factor in his other attributes and it’s easy to see him vaulting into day one of the draft.

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