CBS 2017 Mock Draft: Steelers Take S Obi Melifonwu In First Round

All aboard the Obi Melifonwu train.

CBS Sports’ Rob Rang just released his newest mock draft to kick off this Monday and he has the Pittsburgh Steelers taking the UConn safety with the 30th overall pick. Here’s his full explanation.

“Two years ago, it was former Husky Byron Jones who wowed scouts at the combine with his sheer athleticism, earning a first-round pick by Dallas. Melifonwu was one of this year’s brightest stars in Indianapolis, producing a 4.40-second 40-yard dash, 44-inch vertical and 11-9 broad jump at 6-4, 224 pounds. Better yet, Melifonwu’s athleticism translates onto the field and the Steelers could use his range in the deep patrol.”

Melifonwu blew up the Combine to vault himself into the first round conversation and should be considered a late first or early second selection. He was also the selection in my latest mock draft. In year one, he’ll be able to get on the field as a dime defender, an “answer” to defending spread sets and the league’s best tight ends, who have always given a team like Pittsburgh loads of problems.

The Steelers have tried to use a dime defense for parts of the last two seasons but never enjoyed regular success. Melifonwu would allow them to do that. He’d also be the eventual heir to Mike Mitchell’s free safety spot in 2-3 years.

He is scheduled to visit the Steelers as part of their 30 visits before this year’s draft so the interest is obvious, making this selection even stronger. In 47 career starts for the Huskies, he recorded 351 tackles, 11 TFL, 8 INTs, and two forced fumbles.

Check out the scouting report I did on him right before he blew up the Combine. And tell us if you’d be content with taking him over an EDGE rusher in the first round, a generally unpopular choice with Steelers’ Nation.

2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: UConn S Obi Melifonwu

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.
  • Steeldog22

    I am fine with taking him first. He will give us a lot of options in the secondary. I think EDge will be a better value in round 2.

  • falconsaftey43

    I really think he might be the pick, and I’d love it. Though he may be gone by then. I have a hard time saying the Edge guy available at 30 is that much better than those likely available at 62, so I’m ok with waiting. Obi is one of the “special” players in this draft.

  • Spencer Krick

    Love it, could be the perfect puzzle piece to fit into this defense.

  • Steelers12

    For the longest i wanted an edge in the first but now i want this guy, he is an more athletic kam chancellor

  • Danielsteelstrong81

    Yes pls

  • Rye Stye

    What seems clear to me is that within 2 years we are going to have to release or trade one or more of Bell, Brown, Ben, Heyward, Mitchell or Green. We just pay the 3 Bs too much. Most likely targets are Green and Mitchell with Ben retiring after playing 1 or 2 more seasons. As a result, targets in this draft should be S, TE and QB.

  • Danielsteelstrong81

    Trade Mitch and green

  • Alex Kozora

    I’m not sure how you reach those conclusions. If anyone goes, and you’re right, it’d be those last two, it’d be because of performance issues. Not cap casualties.

  • Ed Smith

    Totally agree with this guy. Think modern day Mel Blount (size, athleticism vs peers – not saying he’ll be a HOF’er). Go for Edge guy (Rivers) in Rd2! Thinking Engram as one of the 3rds – he potentially fills either a TE spot or a big receiver so get versatility with one draft pick. CB with other 3rd and double dip OLB in 4th or go ILB. Alex – who do you see as good value OLB or ILB Rd4?

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I could definitely live with that then follow up with rivers in the second and we’re in for a great draft

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Think it comes down to whether the Steelers feel there will be talent in the 2nd round at Edge to pick BPA at 30.

    In the Fanspeak mocks I’ve been doing, I’ve been selecting Obi in the first and Rivers has been there in the second, but who knows..

    To me, Reddick and Obi would be super athletic additions that add playmaker capability with flexibility at need positions.

    But – the need for a Legit Edge rusher supersedes all.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Me too I really wanted riddick (and he’s a Steelers fan) but his combine took him out of our range

  • Boots

    There are only a few guys I’d be OK with taking before an edge guy, assuming that there’s an edge guy worth taking that high, but he’d be one.

  • Jon Crissinger

    I like Obi, but it just depends on the edge guys available. I’d much rather have Rivers and Marcus Williams at 1-2 vs like Obi and Jordan Willis. Williams has some elite ball skills

  • Darth Blount 47

    Chugga – Chugga – Chugga – Chugga – Chugga – Chugga – Chugga…
    (Yes, that’s 7 Chugga’s 😉


  • Brian K

    How could you not be ok with it? Dude is a beast. And if he could be that player that could come in on dime and dominate than even better. I want an edge guy but you have to be prepared to take bpa, especially in case like this.

  • Jon Crissinger

    After Engram ran a 4.42 I don’t think he even makes it to our 2nd round pick. Also don’t think Rivers will be in round 2, but that’d be awesome if he was.

  • PaeperCup

    I like this pick, a guy like Obi somewhat masks our hole at ILB too.

    Notes on this mock,

    No QB taken until #12, Trubisky. Mahomes at 13.
    Chidobe Awuzie taken #14 overall, that’s the highest I’ve seen him go.

    I LOVE what the Titans got in round 1. TE Howard and WR Ross. This finally gives Mariota some weapons.

    Browns got Garrett and Trubisky
    Ravens got Barnett
    Bengals got Taco Charlton at #9…that’s WAY too high.

  • Ni mo

    Rivers is not around 1guy

  • Shane Mitchell

    I would like the pick and would pencil him in as the starting SS immediately, and would draft another safety to play the FS position in the future.

  • Ni mo

    Reddick would be gone his stock rose after the combine

  • StrengthOfVictory

    The Steelers need playmakers. Skilled position players who will make a different on the field. I really don’t like the idea of committing to a position (EDGE, for instance) in a certain round, rather than looking at the players available. If Obi is the best player available, he’d be a huge contributor toward making this defense better.

  • Ni mo

    Qb class is weak they will take one next year

  • Ni mo


  • Ni mo

    Qb class is weak I’ll wait until next year

  • Jon Crissinger

    Why not? The writers on steelers depot seem to disagree with you. He’s a polished pass rusher, good character, great measurables. And he produced, even up against quality competition.

  • Andrew

    I think Rivers does fall just due to this edge class. He looks talented sure, but his small school status makes him less desirable than some of the big school guys. He’s a mid 2nd round choice that should be in our range at the end of the second round. I also wouldn’t be opposed to trading up a few spots for him if we feel like we need to

  • Shane Mitchell


  • RickM

    Let’s say that their top pick for OLB is still available at 30, but so is Obi. And they view both positions (OLB and Safety/Hybrid) as equal needs, and both players as equal in ability. How do you personally feel the depth is at the two positions? Which one will they be able to better wait on until the end of the 2nd round?

  • Jon Crissinger

    I don’t. He was great as a small school player, better measurables than the bigger school guys, dominated in senior bowl practices. He’s got better numbers than Khalil Mack had, both production wise and in the combine. Stronger and faster than him. Definitely not saying he’s better than Khalil Mack, but they are both small school guys

  • Phil Brenneman II

    On Paper I liked Williams better but with limited tape on both I think I give Melifonwu an edge. Didn’t see enough tape of Williams yet though.

  • Steelers12

    im not sure, if he makes it pass the Giants i think he will be there at 30

  • Andrew

    Difference between those two classes is number of pass rushers. 2014 was pretty dry in terms of pass rushers while this class is full of them, especially in the range Rivers is in. He is no guarantee to fall that fall, but right now, I wouldn’t be that surprised if he did.

  • AndyR34

    Hm-m-m…I think Packers would take him just before our pick.

  • Steel City Slim

    I’m starting to think that this will be the best value we can get at pick 30. Seems like all of the pass rushers available at that point are guys that should go in round 2. With the injury to Takk McKinley a lot of the edge rushers that may have been coveted by the Steelers will be gone by then, and then we’ll be left with some guys who we could probably trade back and get in the early 2nd round.

  • Steelers12

    i see the packers taking Taco Charelton

  • Steelers12

    they could take Cook or McCaffery if they still available

  • AndyR34

    Really great question! And I don’t really have an answer, but I think it might go like this…do you think that Obi offers something unique (for I don’t think any LB except Reddick does) and the OLB’s are all somewhat similar, then maybe you take Obi. If you think that the OLB is unique (and I think Reddick is the only one who is) and Obi isn’t then you take the OLB. I think Reddick is unique cause he will apparently be able to play either ILB or OLB for us, which can give us many disguise opportunities. I think Obi is also unique for obvious reasons. So…who do I take? Still a mystery. 😄

  • VinHuddle

    Are ya on the Obi Express? I remembered a previous comment but I can’t think of a Strangers on a Train reference lol.

  • Rocksolid20

    Green may not even be able to play !

  • popsiclesticks

    Same size, but this guy is not a fraction of the hitter Chancellor is. He’s a tough comparison – I see a more athletic George Iloka. Which would still be a great player if he pans out. His range is incredible, dude just strides across the field.

  • ThatGuy

    I’d take Obi, personally.

  • Steelers12

    Ok you are correct he is not the hitter chancellor is but thats why i say an athletic version of him,he will definitely help transform our defense.

  • Big Joe

    I do think it’s a viable option. Charles Harris, Zay Jones and Obiwan are ones I have ID’d along with a couple of CB options.

  • Big Joe

    Weighing things as you have framed them Rick, I’d say that a quality pass rush in front seven helps the secondary out more and our depth there isn’t great. I’d pick the OLB and wait to get my S/Hybrid later on.

  • Sdale

    Based on your criteria, I would say OLB because I feel our depth there is more lacking. I also think, overall, that edge (under your criteria) would provide more impact. However, the one scenario that I would want the secondary player is against Brady. I don’t think you get to him with just a pass rush because he gets the ball out too quickly. You HAVE to have guys that can cover for more than the 2.4 seconds (on average) it takes for him to get the ball out. Even a good rush can’t get there unless you can cover.

  • Sdale

    I can’t disagree with as many good edge guys in this draft, but even if he’s not, he’s probably not going to be available by our pick at the end of 2, and he might have one of the highest upsides.

  • TroymanianDevil

    Give me Obi. ( or the hybrid safety your choice)
    I think you can get almost as good production out of an EDGE at the 62nd pick. But the drop off in DBs seems to be much higher. You see pass rushers taken in the 3rd round turn out great all the time. But DBs in those later rounds seem to not do as well. There are plenty that do well so not saying it can’t happen. Just the percentage is higher for EDGE guys in later rounds

  • Rye Stye

    Right now we pay our guys on the D side of the ball pennies except for Heyward and Mitchell. Tuitt, Hargrave, Shazier, Dupree, Burns, Davis are all on their draft salaries. These guys are going to have to be paid over the next few years and we can’t do that if we are paying Ben, Antonio, Bell, DeCastro, Pouncey, Gilbert, and Green big bucks. Alejandro will need to be paid too. Something will have to give when you pay basically the highest level in the league at RB, QB and WR. It only works now because we pay our D close to the smallest amount in the league.

  • Nolrog

    Edge rusher is still a much higher priority. If they go secondary, that means there was a run on edge rushers in the first, which I don’t see happening given the depth (more likely a good one will be there when they pick, since teams will use their 1st on positions that aren’t as deep.)

  • SfSteeler

    pennies because were drafting D heavy lately…

    so, this/next year Tuitt/Shaz will get paid $8-$10M/yr, which is a) what we have currently available for one of them and b) what the cap will probably jump next year like it tends to and that pays the other one…and then Dupree in 19′, but Mitchells contract will end and that can help pay Bud…

    the mystery is when Burns, Davis, and Hargraves come for a check all in the same year…

    see, it aint that hard to play CFO…


  • RickM

    Thanks guys. Good arguments presented for both.

  • Dan

    I would definitely be on board with this pick.

  • Donte Williams

    why would we trade anyone if ben retires that frees up 20 million in cap space

  • Donte Williams

    decasto just signed a 5yr or 6yr deal last year brown is on the books for 5 years Puncey is on the books for 4 more i think and so is gilbert and the cap will continue to grow. Tuitt will get done this year as will Villa and Shaz is next year what your talking about not enough to sign the defense. we should be good come last years rookie deals are up that is 4 years from now lets worry about building a championship caliber team

  • Donte Williams

    so start him over Davis?

  • Donte Williams

    edge cause after Obi you have Williams King Thompson is all i can think of Edge you have harris, Rivers, Willis, Kaspangosoa I know i messed his name all up, Boham, Tim Williams, Tak McKinely, Smoot and others I would take Obi 1 Kanobi then take Rivers in the second and Lewis in the 3rd along with either a back or TE Ashland Shaheen

  • Darth Blount 47

    I’ve been on the Obi Express for a while now. Secretly, a month or so ago, I was really hoping we’d steal him in the 2nd rd. But now, after that unreal Combine performance, although he may slip into the 2nd, no way he’s there at 62.

    I will simply admit to one thing though, picking him at 30 makes the draft potentially odd if the Steelers aren’t focused. I sort of have this vision that we pick Obi, and pardon the pun, but that sort of sends us off the rails for the next few picks.

    I really hope not, as I’d come right back with OLB, CB, OLB, then RB, then CB. That would be how I’d approach the draft, without knowing right now who those picks would be, based on how the draft was going. But that would be my plan. 5 out of the first 6 picks would be Defense. And I’d double-dip twice.

  • Shane Mitchell

    Yes because I dont think Davis is a SS, he is a cover-2 safety best played in the deep half of the field or move him over to compete against Mitchell for the FS position. Doesnt make sense to draft Obi and play him at FS in the future just because of Sean Davis. Obi has all-pro potential at SS, Sean Davis does not.

  • Ni mo

    Tarell Basham

  • MC

    If there is no obvious blue chip Edge then I would be happy with this pick even though we are set at safety, I also have no problem with them letting Mitchell walk in a couple years for this guy to start.
    Would much rather Obi over Peppers.

  • Jon Crissinger

    What about him?

  • VinHuddle

    I’m ALL for dbl dipping twice at those same positions. I ran across Obi I’d say about a month before the college season ended. Some site had an article “Guys you haven’t heard of yet but will” kind of story and Obi was mentioned. “Beyond Freakishly Athletic” got my attention.
    Like you, I thought this guy might be a real steal in the 2 or 3rd Rd. After THAT combine performance…with the 30th is their only chance imo.

  • Michael Conrad

    We are not set at Safety. Mitchell is not that good and Davis needs to tackle better. I like this guy and think he could be a star. I think the depth at edge and OLB and CB lets you take him in the first and get three more good picks before the fourth round.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Agreed. He’s somewhat of a strange looking dude, neck like a giraffe. Maybe that’s why he moves better than expected at his size, as he’s really a 6’2″ guy with that crazy neck.

  • Aeronius D. McCoy

    If the FO feels he’s a substantially better player than whichever edge rushers are left on the board, sure, take him. But if this happens, I hope they like an edge rusher in the 2nd, or are willing to trade up in the 2nd to get one.

  • LucasY59

    I think he is a great option for the 1st pick, and the depth/parity of the late 1st/2nd rd pass rushers is close enough that they could wait to pick OLB in the 2nd and get a comparable talent to what they would get in rd 1

    and a guy like Obi is a once in a draft kind of guy, they pass/miss out on him, they wont find anything close in later rds, he is a potentially elite talent (which makes him a 1st rd pick, and they might have to get lucky for him to even be available at pick #30, but since he only started gaining a lot of hype after his combine performance there is a realistic chance he is still available when the Steelers are on the clock

    The only player (that has a realistic chance of being available) that I would pick over him is Reddick (but even that would be a tough decision)

    like I said above, if it comes to them only having OLB options left I would want the Steelers to try and trade out of the pick, and try and gain an extra top 100 pick, they could get the player they were targeting with pick #30 and also have an extra early pick which in this draft is valuable because of how much talent there is this yr

    (its almost like they are trying to make up for the horrible talent in the 2013 draft by having so much in this one (coincedence that its the yr after most of those players are leaving the team that drafted them …if they havent been cut earlier) most of the 1st rd picks that yr would not be close to being 1st day picks in this yrs draft)

  • LucasY59

    Steelers should do the same if other teams are passing on edge rushers, get an elite talent like Melifonwu and then get a talented OLB in the 2nd (because of the depth at that position)

  • LucasY59

    Obi adds depth to ILB/Dime as well, so I do think he fills a need, I also think Mitchell is a player that should be upgraded (if they want the D to get to the next level) and the depth for an impact S in this draft is not as deep as OLB

    they can get a good OLB at pick #62, but pick #30 is the only chance to get a high quality Safety

  • LucasY59

    the Steelers use their FS in similar ways to a SS (Clark and Mitchell play in the box just as much as they play deep centerfield) I think the positions are interchangeable, but if they want to play Obi at SS they can move Davis to FS (I thought of him as more of that kind of player when they drafted him, but since Mike was the starter there they put Sean at SS)

    I think Melfonwu starts out as a Dime player early and will get on the field enough in that role to be worth the draft pick (especially if VW is the starter at ILB, they will want to rotate a guy that can cover in a lot of the plays)

    they should let Davis get some more experience (before making him learn a new position again, and this yr he will be able to learn more about what the other players are doing on D, so that will help him move over (if that is what the Steelers want) and take the Starting spot from Mitchell) Mike could be a cap casualty next yr or be the depth/Dime guy rotating in (but hopefully they have a LB hybrid to play that role by the 2018 draft/season) so most likely MM is too expensive and they can just move on from him (which is a good thing IMO)

  • LucasY59

    Trubisky pick at #12 is probably the correct pick (the clowns are desperate for a QB, but none of this yrs draft prospects are worth taking earlier, and even #12 is a bit of the reach, but since they have the #1 pick (and wont be wasting it on a QB) they can make the pick at 12 (would be even smarter to wait until the 1st pick of the 2nd rd, but QBs are overdrafted and they could miss out on the guy they want if they did so, teams would be trading into the end of the 1st to get QBs if there were still some available at the end of day one)

    Awuzie is getting some hype (I think he and Moreau are still 2nd rd picks, but the injury to Sydney Jones opens up the possiblity that guys like Tre White or Adoree Jackson as well as the 2 I already mentioned could sneak into the 1st)

    Howard and Ross are good picks for the Titans and I would be glad if they are not going to teams in the AFC north (I have seen mocks with Howard going #12 to cleveLOLand and Ross going to the ratbirds or bungles) …hopefully the bungles go with Taco and Barnett goes to the ratbirds (I think the Steelers OTs would be able to handle either of those players)

  • LucasY59

    I was in the secret Obi Club as well, but he blew our cover when he blew up the combine, I think the Hype is growing late enough that he is still a strong possibility to be available at #30 (but Reddick mightve moved up to the top 25 range) so its OBI or bust in the 1st for me (trade out if he’s gone)

  • LucasY59

    the problem with Williams is he is a centerfield only type of player, he doesnt offer the versatility of Melifonwu (Dime LB capability, as well as solid S prospect) I do like Marcus, but like Obi much more (and think Williams will go in the top 1/2 of the 2nd rd, so not much chance to get him later)

    I think Rivers could be a possibility to still be available in the 2nd, so my ideal draft is 1st pick Melifonwu 2nd pick Rivers

  • LucasY59

    I agree, but think the combination of lots of other edge rushers and small school background make it a possibility for him to be available at #62 (the top 50 talent is so good this yr that guys like Derek should be top 50 but end up going a bit later)

  • LucasY59

    Mitchells contract is up in 2 yrs, the cap increases every yr and if Ben retires it opens a ton of cap space, Omar Khan is one of the best in the business at structuring contracts so I HIGHLY doubt he makes deals that he cant afford in the future

  • Applebite

    Been mocking Obi with the 1st pick for 3-4 weeks now. Why? Because while DBs are deep, Edge is just as deep, if not deeper. But you’re not going to find THE perfect fit at edge like you will early on at DB, sitting at #30. Therefore…

    He’s the right man for the job in the Steelers secondary. There are others that are very good at safety as well. but come on, man. You do yourself a favor and take Obi @ #30.

    Now, the word of caution is the fact that the Bengals are professionals at jocking picks early on. You know where this is going. Because ‘Burgh Envy. Cincy has it really bad.

  • Roy Bogle

    I think they should take him…..Been saying it for weeks!!!! He’s the best value for the team , at that spot! I’ve done a 100 mock drafts so far and for what our team needs he checks all the boxes and would be a good starting point for how to approach the draft. There’s better value at edge rusher and corner in the next couple rounds…..But he is a day one starter and automatically upgrades our secondary….And can actually play cover lb’r in the sub packages ,he does not miss tackles, and is big and fast enough to cover any of the TE’s we face ….Take him and then go from there….Peppers is only other one that can do some of the same things, and from the spot we pick, it’s the best way to go IMO! I did one this morning and here it is…..I know this one would never happen….But wouldn’t it be great??-30: R1P30
    62: R2P30
    94: R3P30
    105: R3P41
    135: R4P28
    173: R5P29
    213: R6P29
    248: R7P30

  • Roy Bogle

    30: R1P30
    62: R2P30
    94: R3P30
    105: R3P41
    135: R4P28
    173: R5P29
    213: R6P29
    248: R7P30

  • Steeler83

    I love the 6 first selections ! (I don’t know anything about the 2 others ^^ )

  • Pghomer

    Those draft engines are USELESS if they allow that kind of draft…

  • Alan Tman

    I always view the draft by what will be left. Alex you said yourself many 1st round talent edge rushers will be pushed to round two. IMO This is the best draft in years. If I’m the Steelers I would package some receivers, and get some extra draft picks. Then you could pick up Robert Davis or Michael Rector at the back end of the draft. I take Cam Chancellor 2.0 and move Davis to FS.

  • Aj Gentile

    I don’t know whose board you used but you might want to wait until it is updated

  • Jon Crissinger

    I’d be ecstatic if he’s there in the second. Of course if they go edge in the first, I’m not sure they’d be willing to go back to back on edge and take him at 62… All this reminds me is that I hate they moved the draft back

  • Jon Crissinger

    See I think you put Williams as the single high and you can run cover 3 underneath or let Davis and Mitchell rotate down. I’d rather have them play down and have Williams deep than Obi play down with Mitchell/Davis over top.

  • LucasY59

    I doubt they go back to back edge unless its Reddick in the 1st (who is a hybrid player, most likely to play ILB) and then a more traditional OLB in the 2nd (If Rivers isnt available @62 a similar talent, Willis or Bowser should be, and are the other options I am most interested in)

  • woodsworld58

    Take him in Rd1, and package our extra 3rd pick and move up in Rd 2, and take Rivers.

  • LucasY59

    yeah they could make it work with Williams or even a guy like Baker, but I definitely think Obi would be the better of the two no matter where he plays (the problem IMO is MM and the sooner they can replace him the better)

  • MC

    I don’t think Davis is going anywhere soon. Once he settled into his true position he played great (for a rookie) but yeah I was adamant about the missed tackles early in the season. Mitchell has a couple decent years left but he’s no star, its just usually my opinion that you use 1st round picks for your higher needs and I rank Edge and CB above FS in terms of that.

  • Roy Bogle

    just that much talent in this years draft, at positions we need……..used a bunch of different board rankings….walter football, bleacher report, NFL networks. some of the names mite be slightly different but as a whole u can get quality players in the first four rounds at the very least…..ive posted alot of mocks to show how deep it is and ive been pretty happy with them all… it will be hard for the steelers to mess it up, so im very excityed for this draft, cant wait!

  • Roy Bogle

    P. Brown can stretch the seem….. and Cutrer has potentil as slot and he can tackle