Over the next few weeks, we’ll continue looking at prospects in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draftfrom a decidedly Cowboys point of view. Taking the Cowboys current personnel, draft position, scheme, and needs into consideration; defensive line, linebacker, defensive backs, as well as complementary offensive pieces at tight end and right tackle, we hope to profile the majority of the potential prospects that could realistically end up as Cowboys within the first two rounds. Once all of the “official visits” leak we’ll add prospects that are possibilities in the later rounds.
Today’s Prospect - (Reported pre-draft visitor)
#20 - Obi Melifonwu - Safety - Connecticut - 6-4, 224
Games Watched: Virginia, South Florida, Cincinnati, Houston
Pros: Imposing physical stature with perhaps the most impressive height/weight/speed combination for any prospect in this year’s draft. Fluid athlete considering his size. Sure tackler with good form who drives explosively through ball-carriers, didn’t see many missed tackles. Impressive range in deep coverage due to fantastic height/length. Excellent in run support when he is clean and doesn’t have to take on blockers. Good awareness when the ball is in the air. Used in a variety of ways, including as a traditional 2-deep safety, played single-high at times, covered in short/intermediate zones, also blitzed and covered in man out of the slot at times. Not just a workout warrior with extensive starting experience and eight career interceptions, including six in the last two years alone.
Cons: Average football instincts and play recognition, doesn’t always take the best angles in run support and coverage. Needs to get more physical at the point of attack when taking on blockers in the run game. Doesn’t show a natural feel or timing for blitzing, struggles to get around linemen once engaged. Can be fooled with misdirection due to a desire to aggressively attack downhill. Sticks to blockers way too often, needs to learn how to shed and/or elude in tight spaces.
Conclusion: Melifonwu projects best as a box safety/hybrid linebacker thanks to his size and ability to play the run, although as mentioned previously he must get more physical at the point of attack. With that said, he has enough range, speed and awareness to play in 2-deep looks, and even as a single-high at times if he can improve on his instincts and route recognition. He isn’t a guy you want in deep coverage all game long but he does have very good cover ability for a strong safety, which is his presumed NFL position.
He could be a seamless fit (and upgrade) in the role that Barry Church played, while providing even more versatility as far as matching up with TE’s and perhaps some bigger WR’s who aren’t the shifty, Cole Beasley types out of the slot. Due to concerns over his aggressiveness/physicality at the point of attack he isn’t a slam dunk at 28 but there isn’t much separating him from guys like Jabrill Peppers and Budda Baker in my opinion, and you could easily argue he has a higher ceiling than both.
In a lot of ways I feel like he gets undue criticism because of his workout numbers. It seems that many feel that he is nothing but a workout warrior because of his Combine performance and the fact that he doesn’t look like a lock top-15 pick on tape, but that’s unfair. He was very impressive at the Senior Bowl before the Combine, he has several years of starting experience, he’s produced at the college level, and his athleticism shows up in games. Just because he looks like a fringe first/early second-round type of prospect and has fantastic workout numbers doesn’t mean he’s a workout warrior. This isn’t a guy who looks amazing in shorts but bumbles around in games, he’s a bit raw in some areas (most players outside of the top 10-15 or so picks are) but he shows plenty of ability.
At the end of the day, if he does end up being the pick I feel like he would be a sizable upgrade over Barry Church at some point very early in his career, although perhaps not on Day 1.
I do not have access to coach’s film or anything of that nature, I just watch plenty of football (television broadcast version) and go off what I see out of a prospect.
Special thanks to DraftBreakdown for posting the videos that help provide a more in-depth look at this year’s prospects.