2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: UConn S Obi Melifonwu

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

Obi Melifonwu/S UConn – 6’3 217

The Good

– Unique size for the position, tall lanky frame
– Reliable wrap up tackler against the run, fills the alley well and embraces playing in the box
– Takes good pursuit angles and has vision to work through the trash, zone turn in deep half puts him on track to the ball
– Good football IQ against the run and in zone coverage, diagnoses quickly and rallies to the football
– Has lower body explosion to close quickly in coverage and chasing backs in the run game
– Flashes ability to track the ball in coverage and shows good hands, ability to attack the football
– Versatile, used all over the defense, capable of playing deep half, in the box, blitzing off the edge, or over #2 in single high looks
– Excellent starting experience and proven to be a durable player

The Bad

– Appears to lack great straight line speed and may struggle as true single high safety who has to cover a lot of ground, good angles help mask the issue
– Tall in pedal and a bit tight-hipped in his zone turn
– Has to consistently come to balance as a tackler, isn’t always shoulders over toes and can lose some of his power
– Needs to consistently play physical and to size in coverage, mainly contesting the ball in the air


– 47 career starts, started as a redshirt freshmen
– 2016: 118 tackles 4 INTs 2.5 TFL
– Career: 351 tackles 11 TFL 8 INTs 2 FF
– Long and triple jumper on track team in high school

Tape Breakdown

Melifonwu is certainly one guy who looks good getting off the bus and drew oohs and ahhs during weigh-ins at the Senior Bowl. His play backs up how he looks and his build is certainly unique, drawing some pretty obvious comparisons to George Iloka. The play is fairly similar too and comparison justified.

Melifonwu plays the run really well. He’s not a monster hitter as a strong safety but a steady, reliable tackler, whose technique only needs cleaned up a little bit. Does a great job coming down to fill the alley against the run. Like here.

And he has the vision to work through traffic to make tackles too out on the perimeter. One of my favorite plays of his I watched.

The most spectacular though was this interception against USF. Playing the deep half, tracking this throw, and making a sensational grab over his shoulder. He flashes enough coverage skills that you can play him in space, probably Cover 2 and less single high (which is fine as a strong safety, won’t do it often in Pittsburgh), and feel fine about it.

He will miss the occasional tackle, which really isn’t a big deal when you’re making 118 of them. It’s similar to Sean Davis last year. But his technique could probably use some work, like here, where he isn’t shoulders over toes and able to drive through to maximize the power on his tackle. Catching the runner more than going after him.

Predictably, because of his height, he is a little tight-hipped in his turn and tall in his pedal, having trouble sinking his hips and exploding in his zone turn (though again, he takes good angles to the ball to compensate).

His versatility is a plus and similar to Jabrill Peppers, who we just covered the other day. But I’m more comfortable with Melifonwu’s ability to play in space in coverage, even if he’s a less explosive and straight line athlete than Peppers.

Need for a safety can be debated and it’ll probably require one of those third round picks to get a guy like him. He could function as that dime safety his rookie year, not a lot of snaps, but you’re finding ways to get him on the field. He may not hold up in man coverage against wide receivers but in zone or man against some bigger tight ends, he makes a lot of sense.

You know I’m not crazy about taking a safety but with a guy like him, you could sell me on it.

Projection: Day Two

Games Watched: vs USF (2015), vs Virginia, vs Cincinnati, at USF, Senior Bowl

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan LeggettSamaje Perine
Corn ElderBucky HodgesJames ConnerCooper KuppStanley Williams
Fred RossJamaal WilliamsGeorge KittleEjuan PriceChris Wormley
Jeremy McNicholsJoe MathisDerek BarnettAmba Etta-TawoGareon Conley
Taco Charlton Elijah McGuireRyan SwitzerTanoh KpassagnonTre’Davious White
Brian HillMatthew DayesDonnel PumphreyJosh ReynoldsNazair Jones
De’Veon SmithDavis Webb

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Steelers12

    i hope he is there for us in 2nd or 3rd round but i doubt it

  • falconsaftey43

    He’s my favorite safety. great versatility, good speed, great angles, shows the IQ, reliable tackler. Can matchup well on TEs and big WRs in man.

  • Alex Kozora

    He jumped 11’9″ and 44 inches today. Won’t even make it to the Steelers first pick.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    I thought this guy would remain a bit of a secret for the 3rd round. Steelers love picking Safeties even if they are just ST guys at first, with potential to start later. Forget it.

  • falconsaftey43

    and ran 4.40. what a freak.

  • T3xassteelers

    4.40?!?!?! Top 20 pick now.

  • taztroy43

    Wow! No chance at 2….reminds me of the colts S last year!

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Alex –

    I know you’re not excited about drafting a safety in the 1st round but:

    Jamal Adams
    Malik Hooker
    Jabril Peppers
    Obi Melinfonwu

    90% sure one of those guys will be there at 1.30.

    Mike Mitchell will be 30 years old this season. And we have NOBODY behind him. I don’t see why you won’t put safety in the 1st round conversation?

  • Darth Blount 47

    Well… I mean…. Where do I sign???????????????????????

    Can we trade up to 6 with the Jets to get him??????

    Hold on, I’m calling Mike Maccagnan now…

    Who wants to be the one to break the news to Mike Mitchell that he needs to pack?

  • Alex Kozora

    Davis showed he can play pretty quickly. I’m confident there’s at least another two years in Mitchell. Not something that I feel compelled to address right now.

    If someone falls? Maybe. But I want guys I know I can get on the field a lot right away. Win now mentality. There is the possibility of a guy like that – especially Obi – playing that dime role, but you have to find the right fit.

    I actually had Peppers in my “other considered” for my last mock in the first round, though after watching his tape, I’ve soured on the idea. But it’s not fair to say I won’t consider it.

  • CuldesacBill

    Marcus Williams is another guy we need to look at

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I guess I just see an elite, sub package. “cover” safety as a guy who can get on the field over 65% of the snaps this year.

    And if Mitchell gets hurt (which is very likely considering his age and past going tears) we would need a starter, not just a mid round developmental guy.

  • LucasY59

    and Budda Baker,

    6 safeties that are very good and should be taken in the top 50 picks (last yr there was only 2 in the top 50, Davis was the 3rd Safety picked at #58)

  • Steelers12

    Budda might fall because of 40 time, i think some people will overreact to fast 40 times RIP Al Davis

  • LucasY59

    this guy and Kpassagnon are guys I really like (and knew would blow up at the combine) now instead of possible 2nd and 3rd rd picks the Steelers might not have a shot even if they use the 1st and 2nd pick

    Obi is exactly what this D needs, he can tackle (missed tackles dont happen much with him, which would be such a great change from thinking that it will take at least 2 players to make a stop every play) takes good angles and can cover a lot of space, he has size to match up with TEs, even if he was just a Dime sub package player that is a big need for the D and he would get 65% of the snaps on D right away (until he takes a starting spot away from Mitchell)

    he was a long shot to make it to the Steelers 2nd pick (so I had been thinking about scenarios where they would take him in the 1st, and now Im not even sure he makes it to #30) if Reddick and Lawson are already gone, and the Steelers follow thier trend of not taking small school players (non power 5 conference) in the 1st (which eliminates Rivers) so that takes away the top 3 candidates, guys like Williams, McKinley and Harris did not look elite (so I would not be happy if they took any of those 3) so that leaves guys like Peppers or Melifonwu, and I wouldve taken Obi over Jabrill even before the combine, so that makes Obi a realistic option for the 1st pick IMO

  • LucasY59

    he could drop because of size, but he isnt that much smaller than Peppers,

    his 4.45 forty is good (tiny bit better than Peppers…)

    I hope he makes it to the Steelers 2nd pick because Im gonna be really disappointed if all of my personal favorite candidates for the 2nd pick go before the Steelers at #62

  • Steelers12

    Peppers is more put together than Budda but i like Baker man this draft is so deep i i wish we had more draft picks

  • LucasY59

    me too, so jealous of the clowns, 5 picks in the top 65!!!

  • Steelers12

    they usually would find a way to mess it up but i think Hue Jackson will have them in the right direction, once they find a QB they will be trouble

  • LucasY59

    unless they continue to mess it up by trying to find a QB, and blow at least two or three of those picks

  • Steelers12

    i honestly believe those days are over as long as the owner stay out the way

  • Steeler-Drew

    Agree. They need a true centerfielder. My money is on by the end of next year many will be calling for his replacement. I just don’t see two good years coming from Mitchell. I’m not even counting on one good year. The time to act is now if there is a quality Safety who is too good to pass up.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    The “good ” news with all these guys blowing up the combine is that they can’t all make it into the first round. The bad news?, it’s going to be a long wait till the 30th pick and some really good players are likely to go in 25-29 😩

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    He’s really short as well.

  • Alex Kozora

    I’m comfortable with Golden/Dangerfield in the short term. But like I said, I’m not opposed to the idea, but it should be someone like him who can thrive in the box. And there aren’t a lot of guys who fit the mold.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Yeah, it seems like whenever we wait on a certain position (until the year we need him) we end up reaching for lesser talent, and we sometimes telegraph our plans to every other team out there so they just swoop right in front of us. (Bears took Fuller right before us.) (Jets jumped us for Revis.) (Ravens jumped us for Maxx Williams, even though that was a blessing) (Bengals too WJ3 last year.)

    The funny thing is, I actually think we need a coverage safety this year to match up with the Patriots… Obi vs Gronk?… I could live with that. You can’t just throw it up to him when you have a 6’4″ kid with a 44″ vertical glued to his hip.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I do like Obi but not yet sure I have a comfortable round to take him.

  • Applebite

    So many fitting emojis for this one…

    But not to fear, lots of good safeties in this draft. There’s also Marcus Mayes, Josh Jones, Justin Evans, Jadar Johnson, John Johnson (BC), and another forgotten player that will be available later, Tony Conners (Ole Miss). This might be the best draft ever for Safeties…I forgot to even mention Jenkins and the CB from Michigan…

  • Applebite

    To be honest, after this combine, the Steelers won’t have a chance to get him in the 2nd rd…He’s a lock for mid 1st to early 2nd.

  • Ask Questions Later

    Not too sure about that.

    Bud Dupree was not supposed to last as long as he did. I would give up him if I were you. 🙂

  • Ask Questions Later

    He will not be taken that high. I assure you.

    Way too many options for the Jets to consider at 6. Way. Too. Many.

    Obi will last that long. Heck, given the amount of performances from just the past two days, Obi’s chances of lasting until 30 are very possible how I see it.

  • Steeler-Drew

    Everything the Steelers plan or do should be predicated on beating New England. But yet we are still talking about how important it is to find an OLB who can drop into coverage. It leads me to believe they won’t have much of a change in philosophy. Part of me doesn’t want to see them resign Timmons because I don’t want to see him on the field on third down. If we see Timmons try to cover Edelman in a zone coverage next year they will have leaned nothing. We went through the same thing when Farrior could no longer cover.

    As for Mitchell, he plays more like a SS. They need a FS with good speed, instincts, and ball skills. Mitchell possesses none of those qualities. This will be interesting draft. Will they take the approach of just trying to outscore the Patriots by loading up on offense. Or will they try to improve the defense with secondary players with ball skills who can play press coverage and get players who can after the QB who may be deficient in other areas.

  • taztroy43

    Would not mind him in the 1st….i know the steelers will find a way for this freak to be on the field!

  • Gizmosteel

    I say grab him if you can. Mitchell is out of position far too often. I’d like him replaced now, not 2 years from now.

  • ND_Steel

    He was burned on that pick…ball was severely underthrown and to the inside. Looks like a freak athlete, tweeter Safety/LB. Would be an intriguing pick…