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
– 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
– 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
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