As Senior Bowl week rolls on, one of the biggest names to keep an eye on is RS Junior cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu out of Syracuse. Does that name sound familiar? It should.
Ifeatu is the younger brother of Obi Melifonwu, a former second-round pick by the Oakland Raiders in the 2017 NFL Draft. While Obi’s career hasn’t lived up to expectations, we must remember to scout the player, not the name, jersey, number, or helmet. Melifonwu is a special talent, and the hype should start to rise after this week in Mobile.
Name: Ifeatu Melifonwu
Class: RS Junior
Long, physical, and extremely athletic are the three traits that describe Ifeatu Melifonwu the best. Possessing over 32” arms, a wingspan of almost 81”, Melifonwu looks the part as a press-man cover that can excel in zone as well with his athleticism and length. For a bigger corner, Ifeatu is extremely fluid in his transitions, showcases impressive long speed, and his explosiveness pops when playing the football in the air and driving downhill against the run. Speaking of the run, Melifonwu loves to get involved in run defense, and is physical when taking on wide receivers in the running game. Shows little to no tightness in his hips when flipping on inside-breaking routes, or turning and running vertically. Crowds throwing windows with excellent length, and freaky wingspan allows him to make plays on the ball even when not in ideal coverage positioning. Has some versatility in the backend, as some teams view him as a interchangeable safety with the ability to play both on the boundary and in the nickel. Competitive at the line of scrimmage and at the top of routes, leaving wide receivers little room for separation coming out of breaks. Frame will allow him to bulk up if need be, making his ceiling one of the highest in this class.
Won’t wow you with his instincts or anticipation when in zone. Can at times get off-balance and a bit too wide with his feet off the line, allowing receivers to win with quick releases off the ball. Still a tad raw in man coverage, but his experience playing both man and zone at Syracuse is only going to help him in the NFL. While it’s not a weakness, some scouts, and a lot of fans, are going to ding him because of who his brother is, which is unfortunate, because Ifeatu is a really talented defensive back.
While Ifeatu Melifonwu isn’t viewed as a franchise-changing player, he is going to have a very successful pro career, for a very long time. With his size, length, athletic traits, and willingness against the run, Melifonwu can fit into just about any scheme in the National Football League, but will likely find most success in a cover 1-3 heavy scheme where he can showoff his athleticism and length in zone coverage. While Melifonwu still has some developing to do in his press-man technique, there’s zero reason to believe that that area of his game can’t improve and he can’t turn into a teams CB1 in due time. When grading/evaluating Melifonwu, it’s really hard to come up with things he doesn’t do extremely well, and that’s exactly why he ended up cracking my first round grades. His physical and athletic traits, paired with his very impressive tape should have Melifonwu’s name more of a household one over the next few months.
Don’t sleep on Ifeatu Melinfonwu. Dude is loooong, athletic, and aggressive.— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) January 14, 2021
6’3” 200lbs pic.twitter.com/LEt9aswMYu
Melifonwu one hell of a force player and tackler... Fights off perimeter blocks like rag dolls and will use those long limbs to wrangle ball carriers. Throws body around.— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) January 26, 2021
Size, length, physicality - good skillset on Ifeatu Melifonwu 6’2 205lbs with 80” wingspan pic.twitter.com/3eWuEobZJk